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A Review of Tauck's French Escapade 25th August 2014


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I'm still having a brain fade with the "all new" cruise review section so until I work it out I'll post my review here.

 

 

We recently returned home from our 40th Anniversary adventure that included Tauck’s French Escapade from Paris to Monte Carlo. Everyone knows I’m a big Tauck fan and I found this cruise package to be up to their usual high standard but I have to say the trip really fizzled at the end in Monte Carlo. More on that later. This was our first “Package Cruise” and I have to admit that I wouldn’t do anything similar in the future. If we can afford to venture out again it would be on a river cruise only deal.

 

This adventure starts in Paris and Tauck put you up in the very opulent InterContinental Hotel le Grand where we were treated like royalty. The accommodation and meals were first class. Tauck’s three TD’s seemed to be everywhere and were always available to answer questions and point you to the right bus. Our time in Paris with all its included sightseeing was highlighted by our welcome dinner at Fouquet’s brasserie. Then it was off to Lyon via the very fast, high speed train. We travelled first class in airline type seats and Tauck even supplied us with chocolates on the journey.

 

Then came the part we really wanted to do and that’s river cruise. Our boat the Scylla crewed Swiss Emerald has just undergone a re-fit and looked and felt brand new. The partnership between Tauck and Scylla is perfect with these vessels specifically built for Tauck. This cruise was fully booked yet with only 118 passengers aboard you’d never know. There is always room to sit and talk and this lack of crowding is one of the main reasons I prefer Tauck over other all-inclusive companies that pack 169 people into a similar area. This cruise covered both the Saone and Rhone rivers with history and grandeur at every stop. Whilst some itineraries, Tauck included, are specifically designed for either wine tasting, food tasting or history cruises this one gave us something of everything.

 

On the Saone our first stop was at Chalon-sur-Saone and we had the first of our Tauck surprises. On our local walk through town in groups of around 20 Tauck included stops at a bakery where we were all given bags of the bakers various products to sample and at the end of the tour a stop at a local chocolate shop where we had a brief history of chocolate and then more samples than the average person could eat. By the time we got back on board the baker had joined us to show us how to make Croissant – more eating and best of all I now know how to tell the difference between a machine made one and one made by hand. That afternoon we went and sampled the wines at Chateau Chamirey and Chateau Rully. There would be an abundance of food and wine tasting still to come.

 

There was the history of the Chateau de Cormatin, the medieval houses of Macon, the Cluny Abbey and the Haras Equestrian Centre, an outstanding lunch in the gardens of Chateau de la Barge all that before we reached Lyon on a mad Sunday. Why mad I hear you ask well there will probably be others here that can comment as well but on Sunday 31st August 2014 it seemed that every boat on the Rhone stopped at Lyon on that day. The parking area around the Basillca Notre Dame de Fourviere was packed. It seems that Viking, Avalon,AMA, Uniworld, GCT, CrosiEurope and Tauck picked this morning to hit Lyon. Travelling is fun and you never know who you’ll run into and sure enough we came across a couple from our home town of Mackay. We spent a coffee checking out each others choice of cruise line and I’m happy to say Tauck came out in front. Even though it was Sunday with all those boats docked in town you’d never know with most of the shops open for your business.

 

The cruise down the Rhone gives you the opportunity to see Roman history almost everywhere but particularly in Vienne and Arles where the examples are magnificent. There’s the history of Avignon and the French Popes own vineyard the Chateauneuf du Pape where I tasted some of the best reds I’d drunk in all of France and even a Roman influence here as the cellars are part of the Roman system. AND then there’s Viviers the little village that time seems to have forgotten with its narrow streets and well preserved medieval houses. I’m very glad I got to see and explore Viviers even if I found I’m a lousy Petanque player.

 

The highlight of this trip came almost at the end where you get to see a working bull and horse ranch in the Camargue. A Tauck exclusive. We were treated to an outstanding lunch and then a demonstration, a training exhibition really, of the art of bull fighting where the bull is never hurt and wins many of the competitions and thus the prize money. After the final dinner on board we left for Nice and our last stop Monte Carlo and this IMO was where the trip fizzled out.

 

WE said farewell to our crew and were bussed to Nice where we had quite a few hours to explore this great city then it was off to Monte Carlo and the 5 star Fairmont Hotel. I quickly found that Monte Carlo is not for me. Not only is it full of very rich pretentious people of all ages it is very, very hilly and getting around on foot is very difficult. Our hotel the Fairmont was of similar ilk. It had a 400,000 Euro Ferrari on display in the lobby but it treats tour group people as if they all have leprosy. We didn’t eat with the regular clientele instead we were herded into our own room for eating. The breakfasts were deplorable with the only egg choice powdered scrambled eggs and the pastries on offer looked and tasted like leftovers. Even the Tauck farewell dinner which is usually of high class was very poor. I’m sure I’m not the only one who informed Tauck of these problems. I’m sure it would have been better to stay in Nice with a day trip to Monte Carlo.

 

You are on a high, or at least I am, when I’m cruising on the rivers and leaving the boat is always a let down but to me leaving the boat to continue a tour was an anti-climax. I’m most likely in the minority here and my feelings should not deter anyone from considering this otherwise outstanding cruise. Tauck are truly all-inclusive from the Moet anytime you want it to having snacks delivered to your cabin. I realise others have their favourite river cruise companies but I’m afraid you’ll never convince me that you get more from your cruise than I got from mine.

 

As always I’m ready to answer any and all questions you may have.

 

 

Rod

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Thanks Rod for this review. As usual you have my mouth watering for a Tauck river cruise. We have this itinerary booked on AMA for next year, and I hope it will live up to your experience.

 

Sorry that the end in Monte Carlo was such a disappointment -- I first went there many decades ago as a callow college student, and they wouldn't even let me into the Casino [they must have figured out that I didn't intend to drop any money at the baccarat tables, I just wanted to meet James Bond...]. On our Oceania cruise Marseilles call three years ago, we immediately got on the bus for Nice and had a very nice day -- so your feedback to Tauck is right on, IMO. Even Marseilles would be a better end point, with a good TGV connection back to Paris.

Edited by Host Jazzbeau
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I think Tauck will get the message about the Fairmont Monte Carlo as I was not the only one disappointed in that part of the trip. Cruising the South of France is truly wonderful and I'm sure you to will have a great trip. The further south you go the more body the reds have (reminding me of home) and the food style changes with every town, or so it seemed.

 

I was hoping that someone/anyone from one of the many boats that visited Lyon on that Sunday could give their impression of the tourist invasion. It certainly was a "different day" on the trip.

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Somewhat of the same experience at breakfast in the Grand Intercontinental in Paris for the French Waterways cruise. The morning we arrived our room was not ready and we were given a coupon for free breakfast inthe hotel dining room which was just lovely. The two following mornings we were told to go to a separate room which they obviously use for small parties. This room was not nearly as attractive as the main dining room and service for coffee and juice was spotty. We obtained our food at the same buffet in the main dining room and carried it back to the room reserved for us but the same elegant feeling was missing.

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  • 6 months later...

Thanks, Rod, for posting such a detailed review. I am booked on this same itinerary on April 25, I appreciate your observations.

 

I took advantage of the "Gift of Time" free night in Paris prior to the tour. I've been to Paris a few times already, so I was wondering if the Tauck tour of the city allowed for some spots to get off and continue independently.

 

Did they give you a night tour of Paris on the bus after the welcome dinner?

 

Your comments on the Monte Carlo Fairmont sound familiar... I remember reading many similar comments on this board when I was doing some research on my trip, months ago. This is really sad...

 

Anyway, thanks for all your posts.

 

Sergio

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Thanks, Rod, for posting such a detailed review. I am booked on this same itinerary on April 25, I appreciate your observations.

 

I took advantage of the "Gift of Time" free night in Paris prior to the tour. I've been to Paris a few times already, so I was wondering if the Tauck tour of the city allowed for some spots to get off and continue independently.

 

Did they give you a night tour of Paris on the bus after the welcome dinner?

 

Your comments on the Monte Carlo Fairmont sound familiar... I remember reading many similar comments on this board when I was doing some research on my trip, months ago. This is really sad...

 

Anyway, thanks for all your posts.

 

Sergio

 

Sergio - You will have numerous opportunities to get off the bus if you so wish and there was quite a deal of free time allocated. After the dinner we did do a night tour of Paris and it was outstanding. As for the Fairmont I do hope Tauck has encouraged them to lift their game.

 

If you have any Aussies on your trip then starting on the 25th April could add something special as that's the day we honour the ANZAC's that landed on Gallipolli on that day in 1915. This year is the 100th Anniversary.

 

I'm sure you'll have a great trip with Tauck.

 

Rod

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Sergio - You will have numerous opportunities to get off the bus if you so wish and there was quite a deal of free time allocated. After the dinner we did do a night tour of Paris and it was outstanding. As for the Fairmont I do hope Tauck has encouraged them to lift their game.

 

If you have any Aussies on your trip then starting on the 25th April could add something special as that's the day we honour the ANZAC's that landed on Gallipolli on that day in 1915. This year is the 100th Anniversary.

 

I'm sure you'll have a great trip with Tauck.

 

Rod

Thanks, Rod. I still haven't decided what exactly to do in Paris on my free time (aside from ice cream at Berthillon - :) ). It's such a great city!

 

My trip doesn't actually start on the 25th, but that's the day I arrive in Paris for my free night. We will have our group dinner the next evening.

 

I've traveled with Aussies before, and they always make the trips enjoyable, warm, and memorable.

 

Thanks again!

 

Sergio

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