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Arriving at Amsterdam’s port on a rainy day, I saw Inspire, a Tauck riverboat, tied off behind another boat, beckoning me from a distance. During a brief lull in the downpour, our group schlepped the checked luggage and carry-on bags from our transfer toward the uncovered gangway, only to be rescued by our ship’s hotel director. The saturated skies began to open again, but a caravan of crew members quickly emerged to shuttle our possessions and guide us indoors. As first impressions go, Tauck made a fine one in this moment, and the exceptional staff only continued to delight us thereafter.
Inspire welcomes guests with vibrant Tauck branding, but somewhat unique from my previous river cruises, the vessel is actually operated by cruise management company Scylla. This means the ship’s hardware is similar to other lines, including Riviera River Cruises. However, the cabins are customized, as are activities, dining and entertainment — all overseen by a primary Tauck cruise director and three Tauck directors. In this case, both Tauck and Scylla have partnered together to craft a wonderful trip.
To begin with, my Category 7 suite was truly outstanding. It featured two French balconies; separate living and sleeping spaces (as well as plush mattresses and linens); a bathroom with dual sink basins and a sizable shower (with a bonus foldout seat); and a walk-in closet that would be considered massive even on an ocean cruise ship.
Dining choices onboard were also stellar. While room service is available for breakfast — a rarity on most river cruises — I generally preferred to eat at Arthur’s, the riverboat’s alternative restaurant at the boat’s stern. Scheduled meals are very good in the Compass Rose main dining room, but after a day’s worth of touring, the option to grab hearty and comforting menu items — such as cheeseburgers and savory flatbreads — a la minute is a refreshing change of pace.
And that’s just the start. Not only does the main restaurant serve a Chef’s Signature Dinner, but buffets in the atrium and Panorama Lounge also may include everything from an oyster bar to a chocolate extravaganza and cherries jubilee station. Best of all, pretty much everything is complimentary on a Tauck river cruise, including shore excursions; all alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages; crew and guide gratuities; and more.
With roots in escorted touring, Tauck naturally pays particular attention to destination exploration and regional enrichment. Onshore trips feature comfortable custom motorcoaches and carefully chosen local guides.
For those seeking structure, daytrips are very well organized. Be sure to let clients know that daily briefings are occasionally given in transit instead of on the ship, so if they happen to forego a tour, they might not know the detailed agenda beyond what is printed in the daily schedule. I recommend downloading Tauck’s mobile app, which gives further port details for clients who prefer to explore on their own.
Back onboard, regional delights may include an impromptu German language lesson; a live performance by an Alsatian band; or audio commentary while traversing the scenic Lorelei — part of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On our trip, Tauck definitely proved to be a luxurious alternative to other river cruise lines, and I would be thrilled to return. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tauck river cruises are currently suspended through Oct. 31.
The DetailsTauck www.tauck.com