If you are looking for a vacation out of the ordinary, then consider holiday river Cruising during the last four weeks before Christmas! My wife and I had the privilege of experiencing a seven-night cruise in mid-December on MS Joy by Tauck River Cruises. We sailed from Wien (Vienna), cruising along the Danube River north to Nuremberg, Germany. Every stop was more breathtaking and charming than the last, with Melk, Salzburg, Linz, Passau and Regensburg all delighting our senses.

Budapest by nightBefore we began our holiday river cruising experience, we decided to spend two nights in Budapest, staying one night each at the Ritz-Carlton Budapest and the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus, two hotels located side by side in the heart of the city where you could step outside and visit the local Christmas markets.  Both are lovely hotels, with outstanding staff and service.  And as with everything, it’s all about location. For a view of the Danube, you will really love the Four Seasons Budapest.

MS Joy by Tauck River Cruises

Tauck River Cruises along DanubeThe ship we cruised on was just six months old, with hardware comparable to the competition. The bar and sitting areas are located on the top deck (forward) with a dining room below. We stayed in a mid-deck cabin with french balcony (approx. 220 sq. ft.).  Staterooms are generous in size with large bathrooms (shower only), comfortable beds and bedding. The room also came with flat screen TV, iPod docking station, safe, mini-fridge (stocked with Perrier, sodas) and plenty of storage for belongings. There was a small table and two chairs to sit and look out at the scenery.

 Staff

Staff of Tauck River CruisesThis is where you notice a difference on Tauck River Cruises from other river cruise lines.  The staff to guest ratio was 42 staff members to our 100 on board (the ship can take up to 130), offering exceptional service and a clear desire to give guests everything they need to be comfortable. There was turn down service and usually some small gift left on your bed (keepsake) each night. Most river cruises have one cruise director, but on Tauck there are four.  Yes, four!  One is typically from North America and three are regional to the sailing, each offering something a little different. Plus, they always accompany guests during excursions, with one on each coach. In addition, there was a local guide assigned to say 10-15 guests each with a headset to listen should you find yourself in the back.

Shore Excursions

lunch in private castle in ViennaIncluded was a daily shore excursion averaging from four hours to all day long with time at each Christmas Market.  Each tour was carefully thought out. In Vienna we had lunch in a palace with a short performance of local choir singing some of the favourite carols (award winning too). Often there was a surprise on each excursion, such as a coupon for a local drink (hot mulled wine including the mug) that you can pick up in the Christmas Market.  Note that on Tauck River Cruises everything is included, so there’s no tipping and no need to book extra excursions. Often the tour included a delightful local lunch ashore in a palace or monastery.  The excursions were very well done and always exceeded our expectations.

Food

beef plateTauck Cruises is perfect for “foodies”!  Breakfast and lunch was semi-buffet style with plenty of quality selection.  You can order eggs prepared and brought to your table and sides such as fruit, cheese and bread available at the buffet.  Lunch was mostly buffet but there’s also the option of ordering and having it delivered to the table if you prefer.

The ship also offered a more relaxed setting at the back of the ship in a space called Arthur’s with a set menu from 11:00AM to 11:00 PM.  A good selection of wines, beers and premium drinks were available all day long.  Dinner was a la carte and the menu changed each day.  Overall, the food was excellent with plenty of options for all taste buds. The gala dinner was a real treat with Chateaubriand paired with Chateauneuf du Pape red wine.

Overall Impression

Holiday River Cruising on Tauck continues to deliver an amazing river cruising experience, just like they have been doing on land for some 90 years.  English is the main language spoken on board.  The cruises are a little pricier than their competition but you will see the value quickly once your tour begins.  Never do you need take out your wallet unless you feel the need for a little shopping therapy. When you’re ready to discuss holiday river cruising during the holiday season, be sure to get in touch!

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