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Review - Amsterdam Budapest 6-20 September 2011


Ozjohnno

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I've posted this review in the cruise review section but with the format changes I've lost confidence in this board so I'll re-post it here.

 

After 5 days in Paris pre-cruise, we landed in Amsterdam on an overcast, rainy day but the weather got better as the holiday went on. Our Tauck representative was in Arrivals waiting for us and within minutes he had us aboard a Tauck coach which we would find out later would be one of three Tauck coaches that followed the boat to the Austrian border and on our way to the MS Treasures. On arrival at the dock we were met with umbrellas and escorted aboard. It only took a few minutes for our paperwork to be completed and we were shown our cabin – 209 – on Ruby deck. Now I have to admit that before we booked our cruise the only thing that worried us was the size of the cabin – 150sq ft. Our fears were misplaced. The cabin is so well designed that its size became irrelevant. There is a huge amount of storage space and the bags fit nicely under the bed. The bathroom is beautifully appointed with the most modern equipment but to be fair it is only a one person at a time bathroom.

During our first meeting with the Tauck staff on board it was explained to everyone that Tauck is a Tour company and not a river boat company. The ship is owned and crewed by Scylla. They have some 17 boats cruising the rivers of Europe and 4 of those have been designed to accommodate the wishes of Tauck. There were only 4 Tauck staff on board our cruise director, Steve and 3 Tour Directors, Nicole, Glorija and Jeremy. The big advantage of having one tour director for every 30 or so passengers would become very apparent in the days to come. We discovered that there were 106 passengers, a little under the maximum capacity of 118, made up of 88 from the U.S. 2 from Bermuda, 4 from NZ, 6 from Canada and 6 of us from Australia.

From our first outing to our last you could go out with the guides or if you preferred, as some did, you could stay onboard the boat as it relocated from time to time. Having 3 tour directors as well as a cruise director must give Tauck a huge edge over those companies that don’t. We never felt left out of any activity nor could we possibly get lost as our TD’s appeared to be everywhere with anything you needed. Tauck employ the finest local guides at every port of call on the rivers. They all spoke perfect English, had a wealth of knowledge yet communicated to us in a light and warm manner. The “voxes” we used were light and easy to use and it enabled us to stop for a photo opportunity and still listen to your guide.

There were excursions everyday, sometimes two and if we needed a coach to take us up a mountain to see a castle or cathedral the Tauck coaches would be waiting for us. We got to know the 3 drivers very well and it was sad to see them leave us after we crossed the border into Austria. It is very difficult to single out any particular excursion as being the best because they were all professionally handled but the night at the Palais Pallavicini for our dinner and concert was simply amazing. This is Taucks signature evening on the cruise and I believe it’s what makes Tauck stand apart from its competitors.

We’re not foodies but we never had a meal onboard that was not to our liking. The choices at all meals were extensive so you’d have to be pretty picky not to find something you liked. Breakfast and lunch were primarily buffet style but at breakfast there was the egg station where you could have your eggs as you desired and at lunch there was always a chef’s suggestion on the menu. Dinner was always a la carte and the choices varied every evening. If you wanted lighter fare or an intimate dinner there was the Lido at the stern of the boat. We and a couple of our new found friends ate one evening in the Lido and it was like having a private dinner on a yacht. In all we rated the food as top class. On one occasion we were to all eat in town and Tauck gave us each 20 euros for our lunch. That was a huge surprise.

Now we do know a bit about wine and we were delighted to find that we were served different wines every night. We were eager to taste the differences from the wines we have in Australia and although I can say I didn’t fall in love with every wine we drank we did find significant differences in all the local wines and came home very happy for the experience. Tauck’s choices were excellent.

At the end of the cruise we’d made many new friends and it was sad to say goodbye but Tauck took us to the Hotel and the next morning ensured we got to the airport. This type of service will be hard to match in the future.

There are a number of companies that claim to be all inclusive but do they do this? They included a free night’s accommodation at the 5 star Le Meridien in Budapest because we were first time travellers. You received 2 free nights if you were a frequent Tauck traveller. Tauck includes all gratuities for everyone. They include all transfers whether you booked your air with them or not. You can drink all the non-alcoholic drinks you like all day every day – absolutely free. They even have a fridge in your cabin that they stock with your drink requirements and re-stock it every day. You can drink all the beer you want at lunch and dinner and all the wine you want at dinner. In fact if you didn’t want a pre-dinner drink then your bill at the end of the trip would have been zero. If you feel like a snack in the afternoons they will provide you with your choice of freshly baked pretzels or a plate of cheeses and fruit or a plate of sweet cakes or even a big bowl of ice cream – all included and delivered to you anywhere on the boat. Tauck provided us regularly with what they call a “Tauck lagniappe” (a Tauck surprise). We had many surprises over the course of our trip my favourite being a Gondola ride over the vineyards and country side of Rudesheim. Another was a wine tasting in a cellar in Rothenberg. Now on this occasion a couple of people became claustrophobic in the cellar and had to leave and to their surprise one of our ever present TD’s appeared to give them each 5 euros so that they could enjoy a glass of wine upstairs and much more. The one incident that will always stick in my mind as the ultimate in all inclusive was after an organ recital in Passau a lot needed to go to the toilet. In Europe most public toilets require a 50cent coin. Instead of having to find one in your pocket or purse a lovely Tauck TD was standing there giving out 50cent coins. Now that’s all inclusive service.

We found Tauck to be the most professional company we’ve ever travelled with and the staff on board Treasures was faultless. It may take us 3 or 4 years to save up enough to visit Europe again and if we do we’ll certainly go with Tauck again. They are simply the best.

 

 

I'll be happy to answer anyones questions on this trip. That is provided that people can navigate the site to find it.

 

Rod

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Hi Rod,

 

I am so happy that you had an enjoyable time on your Tauck Riverboat cruise. Isn't it amazing to have everything except airfare included? I bought a map of the rivers as a keepsake and when I paid my bill is was ONLY 7 Euros for the whole 12 days. We took AMA's Russian Riverboat in September and we were allowed one small bottle of water a day. We couldn't buy water on the boat, so everyone was filling their water bottles at the large bottled water dispenser on one of the floors. If you didn't get to it fast, it was empty and not replaced. One of my friends wanted some orange juice after breakfast was served and the price was $6.00 US. We are going back to Tauck in 2012 and doing the Bucharest to Budapest sailing on the Danube. Looking forward to being with them again. I missed the fridge being filled every day with free soft drinks and water.

 

Sheila

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Hi Rod

 

We're doing a Tauck Christmas markets cruise which finishes in Vienna. We've booked our own accommodation for 1 night at the end of the cruise. I'm interested that you say Tauck provided you with free accommodation as first time travellers with them. We are also first time travellers with Tauck but haven't been offered accommodation. How did you arrange the accommodation? Many thanks for your advice. And, thanks for your review of the trip - I've been following your posts and waiting for your review.

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Hi Rod

 

We're doing a Tauck Christmas markets cruise which finishes in Vienna. We've booked our own accommodation for 1 night at the end of the cruise. I'm interested that you say Tauck provided you with free accommodation as first time travellers with them. We are also first time travellers with Tauck but haven't been offered accommodation. How did you arrange the accommodation? Many thanks for your advice. And, thanks for your review of the trip - I've been following your posts and waiting for your review.

 

For us it was quite a fight. Tauck's "Gift of Time Offer" was available to all first time cruisers BUT and it's a BIG BUT we Australians have to deal with Taucks agents in Australia Travel the World who are a bunch of unethical charlatans. An Australian couple on our cruise missed out on their FOC accommodation thanks to TTW. I've written to Taucks head office about this asking them to change agents in Australia. As Sheila says do as we did and have your TA push hard for this. If you run into the TTW brick wall send Tauck head office an email. They need to know how their agent treats Australian clients. If you would like a more detailed explanation please drop me an email at rodmky@optusnet.com.au

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  • 1 month later...
The public toilets outside of the cathedral are free of charge so no 50 cents needed

 

Let me re-assure you. The toilets my wife and others used, to the left of the Cathedral upon exiting DID have a 50 cent charge and our Tauck Director DID give all those who wanted to go the 50 cents required. I only post the truth as it happened to us on our holiday. If you found free toilets then good on you mate.

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We were in Paris with AMA waterways at the end of our river cruise in September and did use the restrooms down the stairs to the left after you exit the Cathedral. There was 45 min wait to get into the Ladies. That particular day, they were allowing folks in for free, however, there is normally a 50 cent charge. The Free sign was taped over the sign with the charge but the attendant still had a plate out so folks could drop their coins into it if they wanted to.

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Rod - I do agree that it is the small things - such as 50 cents for the washrooms that make a world of difference...

 

We had an an "interesting" WR encounter in Basel --> and our guide was a hoot. We had a "mature" guide (I am guessing 65 - 70 yo) during our walking tour of Basel on our Uniworld cruise last year. The weather was awful --> ++ rain, wind etc. Very damp. She took us into a municipal building to show us the architecture, and also to get us out of the rain. While we were in there, someone asked about a washroom. There apparently is a public washroom outside - but our guide asked if we could wait a minute, and went over to try to open a couple of doors down the hallway. When one opened, she came over and suggested we be quick - as the door was to the staff washroom, and it is often locked. We all took advantage of the "free" washroom - as she stood guard - like a mother hen - on the outside of the door.

 

Well - someone must have ratted us out - as it wasn't long before someone who worked there came over and engaged the guide in an animated conversation. I didn't understand much - but enough to know that this person was thoroughly ticked at us using the washroom. The guide made sure she kept the employee engaged in conversation long enough to ensure that we all were able to use the washroom. She then offered her registration number to the employee (as they all have a "license" if they are a tour guide) and then led us off down the hallway. When we asked about the conversation, she said that the woman was upset that "tourists" were using the bathroom. The guides response to her was that we, as tourists, didn't ask for much other than bathroom facilities - and the building was a municipal building - so they (ie: the employees) should show a more gracious face to those of us coming to see the city - and perhaps boost with economy with our purchases. We asked about her giving her registration number - and she said that the woman threatened to report her to the governing body for tour guides - and our guide said go ahead. She would make no apologies for trying to make us, as tourists, feel welcome. She commented that she would be retiring this year - so if they wanted to "punish her", she would retire a bit earlier. She also said that she was a friend of the head municipal custodian - and was going to make sure that he knew how inhospitable the municipal employee was to guests in the city.

 

Not your average tour experience!!!

 

Fran

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