Founded in 1925 by Arthur Tauck, Sr., Tauck has been operating land tours around the United States and the world for nearly a century. It launched its first river cruise ship on the waterways of Europe in 2006 and today boasts a fleet of nine luxurious European riverboats. Unlike other companies in these pages, Tauck doesn’t directly own its ships; instead, it has worked with Switzerland-based Scylla A.G. to construct and staff its ships but that’s not a bad thing. Scylla handles all those pesky little details relating to the technical operation of its river cruise fleet, while Tauck ensures that the ship is staffed to the rafters with crews who provide some of the best service on the waterways of Europe.
Lofted Lower Decks: For its newest class of vessels, Tauck created lofted lower-deck staterooms with high ceilings and a raised seating area that are a welcome departure from their smaller, darker, porthole-windowed predecessors.
Unique On-Shore Outings: Tauck usually hosts at least one or two unusual outings shore-side during each cruise, so passengers might find themselves having a candlelit dinner in an ancient chateaux or being treated to a surprise musical performance in a museum.
Superb Service: Taking a river cruise with Tauck is not necessarily going to be easy on the wallet, but you can expect that every single detail will be arranged to a tee.
Complete Inclusivity: Unless you buy something in the gift, shop, you won’t spend another dime on your vacation. Tauck guides famously even provide guests with Euro coins on tours so they won’t have to pay to use Europe’s ubiquitous pay-per-use toilets.
Family-Friendly: One of the few river cruise lines to actually encourage multi-generational family travel, Tauck accommodates guests of all ages through specially designed sailings known as Tauck Bridges voyages.
High Cost of Admission: The Mercedes-Benz of river cruising, Tauck’s inclusivity and special experiences come with a commensurate cost.
Older Demographic: Even by river cruise standards, the average age on a Tauck cruise skews well north of 60. The exception to this are the family-friendly Tauck Bridges sailings that generally take place during school holidays.
Small Fleet: As of 2016, Tauck’s fleet consisted of nine vessels, which means the company only sails on the most traditional river routes in Europe (Danube, Rhine, Rhone and Seine), and space is limited.
The Tauck model seems to be, Yes, we’re expensive, but we’ll make it worth it. In other words, if you’re willing to pay to play, Tauck will absolutely deliver on a luxury river cruise experience.
Tauck is truly a full-service river cruise and land operator at the highest end of the river cruising spectrum (where it shares company with Uniworld and Scenic). Nothing is skimped on, from the food and wine to the tours and included extras. This is the river cruise experience for those who don’t want to worry about a thing. A Tauck river cruise would also make for a great special occasion trip, like an anniversary or family reunion, because of the high level of service.
Tauck’s secret weapon? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the company has 90 years of experience in guided tours. And it shows in how meticulously it executes on the daily land excursions. Tauck’s operations team must search far and wide, scouring the European countryside for the awesome venues it contracts with for on-shore events, from candle-lit wine caves to ancient castles and mansions.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourself traveler, there may be a bit too much hand holding in the Tauck experience for you. But if you like the idea of disconnecting and relaxing, only needing to know where to be, at what time and in what attire, safe in the knowledge that whatever awaits will not disappoint, Tauck is certainly an option to look into.
Your fellow guests are well-travelled, well-educated, and well-off. Tauck tends to draw from a primarily American passenger base, but English-speaking international guests are welcome as well.
Tauck sticks to Europe for its river cruises, but it’s itineraries are diverse and varied. Special theme cruises are frequently offered, with options centered around music, cuisine, and Europe’s famous Christmas Markets.
Tauck’s riverboats have one main dining room and a more casual alternative dining venue at the aft of its vessels. Meals in the dining room are open seating, with breakfast and lunch being extremely gourmet buffets.
But Tauck is also committed to getting its passengers off the ships for one or two meals during each sailing. And when it does, the venue tends to be something more unique than a typical tourist-trap restaurant. Tauck will often find settings, such as a historic mansion or castle, in which to host these surprise seatings.
Of note, Tauck’s prices include most alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on board, save for premium and top-shelf alcohol.
Whether on or off the ship, you can expect the quality of food to compete with the other high-end
River cruise lines and is often among the several wow factors of the cruise. Here too, Tauck does not skimp and your taste buds will not be disappointed (your waistline, now that’s a different story).
Tauck is very much about getting its passengers off the ship to experience more of the destinations it sails to and through. Which means there often isn’t much time spent on board. When there is, a relevant presentation might be given about the language, culture or cuisine of the region.
Ashore there will be at least one or two tours offered each day, and they will be well executed. Because of its long-standing tour operating business, Tauck has an extensive rolodex of local tour guides throughout Europe who are vetted by and contracted directly with Tauck, so you can expect the local guides for the daily tours to be of a really good quality (they will have excellent English skills, loads of experience and insights), as opposed to the catch-as-catch-can guides that some of the other river cruise lines rely on.
Tauck likes to surprise its guests with lagniappes. The word is taken from the French spoken in Louisiana and it means something given as a little bonus or extra. The company tries to incorporate at least one lagniappe into all of its tours and river cruises. So don’t be surprised (or do) when some little souvenir or token of appreciation shows up randomly.
Daily excursions usually consist of either one half-day tour, two half-day tours before and after lunch, or a full-day excursion. So you can expect a mix of being on the move as well as some time to relax on board during morning or afternoon sailings. Either way, Tauck will always have something in store for its passengers and it likely won’t just be the same stereotypical landmark all river cruise lines will stop at on a given route. Tauck is very good at pushing the touring envelope and adding unique and unexpected sights and experiences to its itineraries. Our most memorable Tauck moment (of many) was when the line arranged for the In Flanders Fields museum in Ieper, Belgium, to open after-hours. Guests were invited to explore the museum on their own, without any crowds, before a multi-course dinner taken right within the museum itself, which is situated in the historic Cloth Hall that was badly damaged during World War I and meticulously rebuilt.
Here’s where Tauck really shines. You might not expect a luxury product to cater to kids or multi-generational families, but that’s exactly what Tauck offers with its specially designated Tauck Bridges itineraries. Scheduled during school holidays, these sailings offer special family-friendly adventures ashore that can include scavenger hunts in the Louvre and group bicycle rides along the Danube, all of which have a major bent on history, culture, and education. If Tauck pampers couples, it pulls out all the stops for families.
Again, Tauck is all about providing that balance of on- and off-ship experiences, and that goes for entertainment as well. Like other river cruise lines, Tauck will bring local talent onto the vessels for various live performance on board (we’re particular fans of the crew talent show), but also treats its guests to concerts and live shows onshore.
A high-end product means high-touch service. Not only does Tauck celebrate customer’s special events such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries (as do most river cruise lines in fact, sometimes it’s comical how many birthday and anniversary celebrations there will be on a single sailing, regardless of the river cruise line), but the company will often throw in additional gifts, such as local souvenirs, for guests to bring home with them. The company is very tuned in to both the little and big things that make travelers feel special, and that’s a level of service it takes a truly experienced company to provide. Gratuities are included in Tauck’s prices. Tauck also has a Tauck Director and three Tauck Cruise Directors as opposed to just one cruise director, which is standard on other river cruise lines on board all its river departures to assist passengers at all times. A Tauck Director is what Tauck calls its tour directors. On its river cruise ships, this person serves as an additional point of contact and resource and will be with the groups both on and off the ship (whereas cruise directors usually stay on). They add another level of customer service and of simply helping everything to go smoothly.
The Tauck fleet is made up of nine ships: Emerald(2006, substantially rebuilt 2017); Esprit (2015); Grace (2016); Inspire (2014); Joy (2016); Sapphire (2008, substantially rebuilt 2017); Savor (2014); Swiss Jewel (2009); Treasures (2011).