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Tauck River Cruise on Rhone


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We took our first river cruise in August with Tauck on the "French Waterways" tour and absolutely loved it! Tauck was first class all the way from the pick up at the airport in Paris to the drop off to the airport in Lyon! We went as a group of 8 with the age span of 55 yrs. to 78 yrs. old and felt like it met all our excursion needs from bike trips to gentle walking tours. My husband and I like to feel like we make the most of sightseeing in every tour we have ever taken, so we would take excursions for the more active, but our family that were slightly older took the more easy gentle tours. We all felt satisfied that Tauck covered all points of interest in their excursions in each port stop and more.

 

We landed in Paris and hit the ground running to make the most of our short stay there. We wanted to visit some places we had not seen in our previous trip to Paris. The hotel Intercontinental Paris Le Grand was absolutely beautiful with an ideal location! The welcome dinner at Fouquet's was delicious and the wine pairings were amazing.

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After two days catching up on most of what Paris offers, we were taken by our Tauck guides to meet the train to Lyon. The Tauck guides were Anne, Lydia, and Matteiu and they were wonderful, caring, and very knowledgeable people. We have been on many trips with several different tour companies and Tauck is the best so far in making sure all our needs were taken care of! Anne was with our group on the train and she made sure we had all the right comforts for our two hour 1st class train trip.

 

The Tauck bus meet us at the train station and within 15 minutes we were being welcomed by the Swiss Emerald staff with cool cloths and cool drinks! Loved the way the Captain and his staff met us at the front of the ship. We were taken by escort to our rooms and our luggage was waiting for us to be unpacked. The rooms were extremely nice(cat.4)with a great French balcony and plenty of storage. Loved the beds and bedding! The room fridge was stocked with any beverage we wanted and we were told by our steward that snacks were available whenever we wanted. Loved the cheese plates, cookies, fruits, ice creams, etc. that were available all the time at any location you wanted to be served.

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I am doing this review in stages, as I have not had any luck posting long reviews without somehow losing them. Back to the first day on the boat! After unpacking and dressing up a little-we went to the welcome aboard reception and dinner. Wonderful meal and wait staff in the main dining room! We ended up with the same table and wait staff all week as we had asked for a fixed table for eight and great staff arranged this for us. It is open seating in the dining room, so if you like you can sit anywhere you want and with anyone you want. Breakfast and lunch we chose to sit with other travelers and met many great people(very well traveled people)! Seemed that many of the people we met had been on several Tauck trips before. Food was very good and we had no complaints at any meals on the boat. The wine pairings, beers, and mixed drinks were available at all times(all inclusive). When they say Tauck is all inclusive-they really mean all inclusive!

 

The second day in Lyon was started off with a wonderful breakfast and a tour of Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Fourviere. Loved this tour and the beautiful view of Lyon from the top of an ancient Roman ruin. Breath taking! We were taken on a walking tour and then to a tasting at the Les Halles de Lyon which is a fantastic indoor market. The wine, cheeses, meats, sweets were amazing!

 

After lunch back on the boat, we were taken by coach to the wine region of Beaujolais for a winery tour and a visit to an old nunnery. The scenery was so beautiful and I really wished we had booked a post trip stay in Lyon! I would definitely love to revisit Lyon again.

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Our 3rd day on the cruise was in Viviers was really a fun excursion day! We were divided into color groups(the colored poker chip system that I understand river cruises typically use)according to type excursion you want to participate with. Our group started out with a game of petanque at Vivier's local petanque club. This game was so fun and everyone enjoyed playing with the local champs and then sharing a cold beer or drink with these nice people. Loved this experience so much! We were then taken on a walking tour of this quaint town visiting the 12th century Cathedral of Notre Dame de Rhone and the Maison des Chevaliers a home of a salt merchant in the 1500's. Then it was back to the Swiss Emerald to head to Arles. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery on top deck(I believe this was the day we had an ice cream social on the deck)as we cruised to Arles. We tried to spend a little time each day up on the top deck enjoying cocktails and snacks. The bar staff on this cruise was the greatest!

 

Day 4 was spent in Arles and a walking tour of this town started with a visit to an arena where they hold bullfights and events. I beleieve that the local guide told us that this arena was only a couple hundred years younger than the Colosseum in Rome. I was amazed at the great shape it was in compared to the state the Colosseum is in! This city was just beautiful and I can see where it did inspire Vincent van Gogh during his stay here. We were there on a Saturday and the local market day is on Saturdays. We loved exploring on our own-this market with it's delicious roasted chickens and meats, spices and herbs, pasteries and breads, flowers and plants, cheeses and wines, anything you could ever want or need! The smells were mouth watering! We headed back to the boat to sail on to Avignon. I really enjoyed the way Tauck would have every day lounge speakers on different topics from "Smelly Cheeses" to scarf tying tips and interesting port info.

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Hope your trip is great too! I will finish my review as soon as I can get the time to sit at my computer. Can not seem to get my thoughts together-lol!

 

That's my problem as well. We're just back from the French Escapade cruise from Paris to Monte Carlo and getting my brain to function on writing a review is not easy this time. Guess I'm still suffering from post-holiday depression .:)

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Day 5 was spent in Avignon. We had arrived at Avignon the night before with the boat traveling up to the beautiful lighted bridge with a champagne toast up on deck with live music playing. Very impressive and beautiful way to welcome us to Avignon!

 

As this was Sunday, the walking tour of the city was unusually quiet and very little people congestion! We took a great tour of the Palais des Papes which even though it is empty is very amazing. Our guide concluded her tour with an acapella hymn sung by her in the beautiful chapel. It brought us all to tears! Wonderful experience!

 

We toured Avignon on our own and then back for lunch on the boat. We left the boat for a late afternoon tour of Pont du Gard(a famous Roman aqueduct over the River Gardon). We loved this park area with locals having picnics and enjoying the beaches that line this amazing aqueduct. We saw people swimming and even saw a bride on a photo shoot! We enjoyed a special included dinner on a beautiful terrace at the base of this aqueduct. Delicious food, wine, entertainment, and at sunset the Pont du Gard was amazingly lit up with colored lights.

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Day 6 was spent in the Luberon region of Provence. We took a coach trip to the village of Roussillon and we found this to be one of our favorite excursions. The beautiful million dollar terraced houses were gorgeous! The village sits on a hilltop with views of the mountains that were breath taking. We took a tour of the ochre quarry and then walked around the town. Stopped for lavender ice cream cone(yummy)and many photos later we headed back to the coach for the trip back to the boat for lunch. The afternoon was spent relaxing on top deck of boat while we cruised to Chateauneuf-du-Pape for a wonderful tour and wine tasting. Beautiful winery on a cliff with views to die for. We enjoyed the views on a vine covered terrace while we did a wine tasting and then toured the cellars. Another great excursion!

 

Day 7 was spent in Tournon-sur-Rhone! We woke up to a beautiful view of this city(sunrise)! We had a walking tour through this quaint city and then took a tour of Valhrona Chocolates. Yummy tour with all the chocolate tasting you could ever want!

 

After lunch on the boat, we traveled to Valence to experience a cooking class and wine pairing. Loved this so much! We cooked a brunch poached egg atop tomato chuntney, with vinegar foam. Delicious! Then back to the boat for our final night aboard the Swiss Emerald.

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Our final dinner started with a farewell reception with wonderful appetizers and cocktails! Dinner was next with a farewell dessert of baked Alaska! This was a perfect dinner to end our first river cruise and hopefully not our last river cruise. After dinner, we returned to our room to pack and detailed instructions on disembarkment were in our stateroom waiting for us.

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The morning we were to leave the Swiss Emerald was pretty relaxed as we had a 9:00 shuttle pick up for the airport in Lyon. We had one last wonderful breakfast in the dining room and then left the boat to board the coach to the airport. Checkin at the airport was painless!

 

Tauck exceeded all our expectations and more for our first trip with them! They took excellent care of us and went beyond to make sure we were happy and comfortable with our whole trip! I would gladly recommend Tauck to everyone and would be glad to answer any questions about this trip! I look forward to taking another tour with them in the near future! Please excuse any typos as I am not computer savy and I hope anyone who has read this review enjoyed it!

Edited by cruiserfromalabama
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I am very much appreciating these reports as my husband and I are thinking of maybe doing a first trip with Tauck. We've been long-time ocean cruisers on Regent and back in the day did lots of solo traveling in Europe, Asia and Down Under.

 

My hesitancies about these tours are:

 

--the much smaller beds and staterooms. We do tend to spend a fair amount of time in our cabin, esp. my husband, who is in his mid 80's.

--the oft-repeated statement that on land trips Tauck travelers are given only standard rooms. I.e. the group stays in very nice hotels-- but only in lowest (or lower) category rooms.

--having to get up and about very early; almost never a chance to "sleep in."

--having such close contact with people pretty much all the time. E.g. how much chance is there for folks to have a table for two, which we usually (not always) prefer?

 

I've looked at the various France tours for next summer and many seem interesting. E.g. I think the one that includes about half hotels stays, half (maybe a little more than half) on the Emerald may be a good choice for us so that we can get a feel for how Tauck does each kind. I'm afraid that an all-river cruise may feel too claustrophobic.

 

Again, thanks for the reviews, and I'm glad that these Tauck tours are so much enjoyed. I'm hoping that people will speak to some of my concerns. (I'd queried on another Tauck post, but didn't receive many replies.)

 

I'm wondering: For France, is there one tour that seems to be the "best," or are they all about the same in quality and interest? (Obviously it much depends on each person's interests.)

 

Also: I'm hoping that I haven't done wrong in jumping in on OP's comments. If this is a no-no, presumably the moderator will remove my post.

 

Thank you!

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Poss-We traveled with a group of 4 couples with ages of 78yrs being oldest and 55yrs being the youngest. That being said-I can honestly say that everyone felt that Tauck supplied the needs of us all extremely well! One couple always has a king sized bed and at the hotel in Paris they asked for one and they got it! A beautiful room with a wonderful view of the city. We were fine with a queen sized bed and while our room did not have an amazing view-we were pleased with the size and luxury of the room we got. I felt if we had pushed for a better view(which we did not), we would have been given a better choice. The room was large and comfortable and I did not feel that we were given the cheapest room in the hotel. Everyone in our group was satisfied and we were a group of well seasoned travelers that are used to very nice hotels!

 

As for the excursions being early-most did start at 9:00a.m., but two of the couples we traveled with opted not to take some of these! Most days there were morning excursions and afternoon excursions with different locations and types. No felt pressured to take any excursion they did not want to take. The ports of this cruise were always at a location where you could walk the towns visited on your own if you chose not to take an excursion. Freedom to come and go is a lot different from ocean cruises and other tours we have taken in the past. Yes, excursions are covered with Tauck, but it is your choice to use these options or not!

 

My favorite thing about Tauck is the fact that travel can be stressful to places that you have never been before due to unfamiliar cities, languages, money, etc. and with Tauck none of these issues were a problem. All needs were taken care of by the Tauck staff. An example-one little single widow fell as she was leaving the airport in her hometown and a Tauck guide took her to get it medically checked out while in Lyon.

One couple wanted to visit a casino in Lyon-taken care of by staff locating transportation and directions to get there! Little things like that mean a lot to us!

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I forgot to address the dining issue! We saw several couple dining alone at tables for 4/don't think I saw tables for two though. We needed a table for eight and I went to request this as soon as we boarded the boat and it was no problem at all. We sat at the same table every night and had the most wonderful wait staff! At breakfast and lunch my husband and I dined alone at a table for 4 and enjoyed it so much. We have traveled by ourselves many times on tours and large cruise ships and have always managed to dine alone if that is what we wanted to do at the time. Although this boat holds 110 passengers and is not a huge boat-we never felt crowded! We always found places on the sundeck, bar, and bistro areas to sit alone and enjoy the solitude! The people on this cruise were all very well educated and well traveled people who seemed to respect everyones space. Friendly, but not overly loud and obnoxious like big ships passengers can be. Totally different way to travel-very relaxing and laid back!

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Can you give me information on the hairdryer provided? I have extremely thick hair and usually bring my own, but a few hotels have ones that work well for me. (I prefer my own on Seabourn cruises, but others find the provided hairdryers are ok.) I'd rather not bring unnecessary items, but I don't want to spend the entire trip drying my hair!

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As to the question about hair dryers-I always bring my own because of my thick hair! I have found that hotel and cruise ships dryers are ok and will dry your hair, but tend to take longer than my own dryer does. The other couples we traveled with did use the supplied dryers on the boat and had no problems with them. I did like that Swiss Emerald had two 110volt plugs at the desk where I would put on my makeup and fix my hair.

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I am very much appreciating these reports as my husband and I are thinking of maybe doing a first trip with Tauck. We've been long-time ocean cruisers on Regent and back in the day did lots of solo traveling in Europe, Asia and Down Under.

 

My hesitancies about these tours are:

 

--the much smaller beds and staterooms. We do tend to spend a fair amount of time in our cabin, esp. my husband, who is in his mid 80's.

--the oft-repeated statement that on land trips Tauck travelers are given only standard rooms. I.e. the group stays in very nice hotels-- but only in lowest (or lower) category rooms.

--having to get up and about very early; almost never a chance to "sleep in."

--having such close contact with people pretty much all the time. E.g. how much chance is there for folks to have a table for two, which we usually (not always) prefer?

 

I've looked at the various France tours for next summer and many seem interesting. E.g. I think the one that includes about half hotels stays, half (maybe a little more than half) on the Emerald may be a good choice for us so that we can get a feel for how Tauck does each kind. I'm afraid that an all-river cruise may feel too claustrophobic.

 

Again, thanks for the reviews, and I'm glad that these Tauck tours are so much enjoyed. I'm hoping that people will speak to some of my concerns. (I'd queried on another Tauck post, but didn't receive many replies.)

 

I'm wondering: For France, is there one tour that seems to be the "best," or are they all about the same in quality and interest? (Obviously it much depends on each person's interests.)

 

Also: I'm hoping that I haven't done wrong in jumping in on OP's comments. If this is a no-no, presumably the moderator will remove my post.

 

Thank you!

 

I would be asking Tauck if you can pay extra and be upgraded to a better hotel room? I am sure that would be possible.

Edited by Stratheden
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I appreciate the responses and want to say again that it's awfully nice of OP to spend time writing a review and answering questions.

 

Stratheden: In fact, i did telephone Tauck yesterday and was emphatically told that paying extra for an upgraded room was absolutely not an option. Curious, since onboard ship, one can pay extra and get "better" suites. (I do understand the difference though.)

 

What I wish is that I could get feedback from people who've sailed mainly the luxury cruise lines (especially Regent); that would give me the best sense of things. I haven't managed to connect with anyone in that category and my luxury cruise TA tells me that most of their clients don't do river cruises. I'm sure there are people who do both. Perhaps I should start a post and specifically ask that question.

 

Thanks once more.

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Tauck placed us in the Paris Intercontinental Grand Hotel for our French Waterways cruise and if our room was a ,standard, room I cannot imagine what a upgraded room would look like. I have never been in a larger hotel room anywhere.

As far as cabin size yes the standard cabins are small (very small actually compared to any on a ocean cruise ship). However I did get a peek into one of the suites on the Swiss Emerald and They are substantial. If size is a issue for you then a suite may be worth the extra dollars for you.

As far as Tauck taking care of you they certainly do. one passenger fell ill in Lyon and one of our guides accompanied him to the hospital in order to translate with the hospital staff. I also heard a couple of conversations between our guides and Air France en Francais assisting passengers with rebooking flights due to the strike.

Let me also say that the food was superb. The best I have ever had on a cruise ship. Not only did it taste wonderfully but the presentations were beautiful.

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We have cruised with Regent and Seabourn and I would certainly compare Tauck very favorably with these two. Actually I felt of the three the food on the Swiss Emerald was the best of the group.

 

I agree with you whole heartedly about the food on the Swiss Emerald. I was very impressed with the quality and presentation of all meals.

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