‘What makes Tauck trips so great’

By David Anderson
This item appears on page 28 of the October 2019 issue.

Old Town Hall in Bamberg, northern Bavaria, Germany. Photos by David Anderson

My wife and I took a wonderful cruise-tour, “Amsterdam to Budapest by Riverboat,” and I want to share some of the things that made it such a great trip.

Our cruise aboard the ms Esprit, June 2-17, 2019, was with Tauck (Wilton, CT; 800/788-7885, www.tauck.com), and, excluding trip insurance and international airfare, it cost $22,680 for the two of us.

I know that makes the trip expensive, but in my view many of the things provided by Tauck made the journey worth it, including great food, great local tours and a very high level of service.

All gratuities were included, covering local guides, all ship personnel and even the tour director. The bar was open most of the day, and, in addition to coffee, tea and soft drinks, it offered an amazing range of refreshments, from single-malt Scotch to French champagne, all at no extra cost.

Each day, the bar steward chose a red and a white wine for lunch and dinner. An array of other wines was available for the asking.

Germany’s white wines are great, but we felt some of the reds were a bit “thin.” When my wife asked if they had a fruity Malbec (we had just enjoyed one from Argentina the week before), it took the waiter only two minutes to get a great Malbec, which we shared with our tablemates.

Multilevel castle near Rüdesheim, Germany.

Most afternoons and evenings, there was a variety of lectures, performances, etc. For example, in Regensburg, three men who had been members of the Regensburg Boys’ Choir as children performed a thrilling program, ranging from local folk songs to African-American spirituals.

And when we were docked in Bratislava, a man who taught economics at the local university gave a lecture about the recent history of Slovakia. Both knowledgeable and passionate about his country, he was also one of the tour guides in Bratislava.

There were always five or six local guides for every place we visited, so each group never had more than 15 people. And at most stops there was a “leisure” group that walked a bit slower, although on several tours the “camera bugs” joined this group so they could have more time to take pictures. Just another example of what makes Tauck trips so great!

Perhaps the best extra activity was our dinner in Vienna. Tauck has exclusive use of an urban townhouse that was built around the time of the American Revolution. When we arrived, we were shown into a wood-paneled entry hall for some champagne and a bit of Mozart and Beethoven performed by a quartet from the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.

Then we went to the ballroom for a couple of duets performed by members of the Vienna State Opera and three short dance pieces by two members of the Vienna State Ballet plus, of course, a fine multicourse dinner.

But I think you can judge a tour company best when you see what they do when something goes wrong. On June 5, a boat ran into a lock near Nuremberg. It was going to take five or six days to repair the lock, so the river would be closed to boat traffic for almost a week.

With only a few hours’ notice, our tour director rearranged our stops for the next couple of days. Our all-day tour of Nuremberg was moved to the next day, and we all packed our suitcases and got on the bus to Nuremberg, where we had a city tour and visited the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds.

Vineyard and medieval tower along the Rhine.

Late in the afternoon, we were taken to the ms Treasures, another Tauck boat, which was downriver from the broken lock. Our luggage was on board in a cabin with the same number as before! Of course, the passengers from that boat had been switched to the Esprit. (Each boat had 75 passengers.)

Two weeks after our cruise, I received an email from Tauck giving my wife and me each a $500 voucher for future travel, this for the inconvenience of moving from one boat to another.

On many Tauck tours, you’re offered what they call a “Gift of Time”: the company pays for a hotel room for one night either just before or just after your tour. Since we had been to Amsterdam previously, we chose to take this extra day in Budapest.

We stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest, just two blocks from the river. (Rack rates at this hotel begin at $600 per night.)

It was very hot in Budapest (over 90°F), so we cut our walking a bit short in the afternoon, but we still enjoyed the extra time to get to know this marvelous city.

To summarize, Tauck offers great, all-inclusive tours that should meet the expectations of the most discerning traveler.

Meadville, PA

View of Rüdesheim from above the town.

Prince-Bishops Residenz in Würzburg, Germany.

Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary.

Cologne Cathedral.