2017 Tauck river cruise Sept 16- Oct 5
We began our journey on April 25, 2016, when we booked a long-time dream of a European River cruise. It seemed forever in the distance. We used Bonnie Buchanan at Cruise one. This is the fourth time we have used Bonnie to book our cruises and she is always wonderful. The cost of the cruise was $18,170. We booked our own air on American Airlines at a cost of $3638.12. Steve used points to pay for the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam and the Hilton Budapest and the Conrad hotel in London. All excursions were included in the cruise at no additional cost… as was all liquor and transfers from the airports.
The reality finally came true, when we boarded the first leg of our flight for Dallas at 11:30 on September 16. We left Dallas at 4 pm for the 9.5-hour flight to Amsterdam. Immigration was very crowded and it took an hour to get through. We looked for our driver where Tauck told us to find him but we could not find our driver. We did find a tauck representative who did not have our name on his list. He made a phone call and a few minutes a later our driver found us. He said we came in the wrong gate... well I can't answer that other than to say we took the exit immigration told us to take.
He helped us with our bags and drove us to the Waldorf. We were greeted by the bellmen. We checked in but our room was not ready so we walked to the Van Gogh museum where we had pre-purchased tickets on line. The museum is lovely… but we were so very tired…I am not sure we were able to really appreciate the artwork we saw. While there we received a text that our room was ready. We walked back to the Waldorf and reception took us to room 204…which had a beautiful view of the garden. The room was beautiful. The bathroom was simply luxurious. The luggage was already in the room. We decided to take a nap and then afterward went to happy hour. We went to dinner at the Goldfinch Brasserie. We got the three-course dinner with the wine pairing. We had sturgeon Shrimp, Japanese ribs, and sweet waldorf salad. The meal and service were excellent. We came back to the room and took a hot bath and went to bed.
September 18 2017 On Monday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel. We had eggs benedict. Then we walked to the red-light district and then to the Anne Frank House where we had pre-purchased tickets online. We walked back to the Waldorf and gathered our bags. The waldorf arranged for a taxi for 50 euros. The driver called the ship to find out where it was docked. We arrived at 3:00 p.m. in the pouring rain. No one... not one single person greeted us on the dock. Even the driver commented how unusual it was for no one to be there to assist us. So, we walked to the gangway and poor Steve struggled with two large bags, the backpack and the camera bag…while I had my purse and another bag. I got to the door and asked the young man to help my husband. He just stood there so I handed him my bag and went back down the gangway to help Steve. I went to the desk and checked in…which consisted of telling her our name. They checked no passport…no paper work…nothing. They told us which room... 211 and two men did help us bring the luggage to the room... thank God …because steve was furious. This is the smallest room we have ever had on a cruise. We booked a room with a king bed and a French balcony. There was a small desk and two chairs. You could not walk between the desk and the bed if someone was sitting in the chair. We unpacked and I went to the desk to ask for more hangers. They did give us more. We went to the bar and got a glass of wine and ate some nachos. We went to the desk to ask how to hook to the internet. They said to bring all of our devices to them. So, we did. We hooked to the internet which was excruciatingly slow…but at least we did have connections. When we arrived, there were very few passengers on board but at 4:00 they all seemed to arrive. There is nothing fancy about this ship. If this is a premier river cruise line I would hate to see a cheaper one.
For dinner, we had Dutch salad and Dutch soup and perch and Dutch apple pie for dinner. We retired to our room…exhausted and disappointed.
September 19 2017 On Tuesday, we had the breakfast buffet on the ship, then went to the Rijksmuseum. We then had a private luncheon cruise on a canal boat. We had Avocado salad, chicken fillet and Dutch apple pie. It was very lovely. We then had a 2-hour bus ride to catch up to our ship in Nijmengen. We had dinner and went to the lounge.
September 20 2017 On Wednesday, we got to sleep in and then went to breakfast at 9. We docked about 11:30 in Cologne Germany. We toured the beautiful church and the roman museum. Almost all of the city was destroyed by bombs…but they did not destroy the church. We had a formal cocktail hour and then a beautiful formal dinner. We had lobster and I had extra foie gras.
September 21 2017 On Thursday, we traveled the Rhine and saw many beautiful castles and vineyards on our way to Rudesheim Germany. We had a very lovely lunch at a place called rudesheimer Schloss. We had Riesling, salad, German potato soup, wiener Schnitzler, apple strudel and rudescheim cafe...with brandy. We toured the Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkaninett...and rode on a cable car to the top of the mountain to see the niederwald monument and then back down again. When we got on board, I decided to talk to Carlos the cruise director about the glitch in our arrival and transport from the airport and the fact that no one helped us with our luggage upon our arrival to the ship. He said so the driver went to the wrong gate….and did you expect people to stand in the rain to help you on board? I regretted speaking to him…because he sealed the dissatisfaction and disappointment. You simply cannot undo that kind of impression. All we wanted was an apology and a promise that it would be addressed. We felt that because we did not stay in the Tauck recommended hotel…we were punished. Had we stayed in the “right” hotel…we would have arrived on the bus with the rest of the group and everything would have been properly taken care of. Point taken…. lesson learned…Tauck lost a customer.
Friday September 22 2017 We traveled from the Rhine to the Main River overnight…we went through many locks all night…and have continued to go through locks today and we went up on deck to watch how the process works. A glass blower Hans Ittig came aboard from the town of Wertheim…which we go by but do not stop at…and he gave a glass blowing demonstration and had items to sell. I bought a masterpiece horse head, a ship in a bottle, engraved shot glasses and an ornament. We took pictures of the room. Autumn is falling in Germany…and the hills are beginning to have many colors.
Saturday September 23 Today we went to Würzburg and then took a bus to Rothenberg. We visited St. Jacob’s church. We had lunch at Ratsstube Restaurant bakery. I had a ham and cheese croissant and steve had quiche. Then we went to a wine tasting at Staatliche Hofkeller in the cellar of the Wurzburg Residenz. Following dinner was disco night in the lounge.
Sunday Sept 24 2017 We arrived in Bamberg Germany We toured the city and the church. We did a beer tasting and sausage tasting. We came back to the ship and had a concert by the oompah oompah oompah band.
September 25 2016 Monday We toured Nurnberg. We went to the documentation Center, Zeppelin Field, and the Court house. We went to the City Center. We had lunch at Bratwursthausle Tucher Weizen.
September 26 2017 Tuesday We cruised into Regensburg. For the first time, we went DOWN in the locks instead of up. We have crossed the continental divide and are now on the Danube river. We toured parts of the town then went to the Thurn and Taxix palace. Then we sampled beer and brats at Hacker-Pschott Brauhaus am Schloss. We had veal at the Bistro for dinner and then were entertained by the Regensburg Spitzwegquartett.
September 27 2017 We had our last stop in Germany…Passau. We went to St. Stephens church to hear a concert on the 17,986-pipe organ. We had lunch…wiener schnitzel… at am paulusbogen. We bought a beautiful cuckoo clock and a stein which will be shipped to our home. The clock was about $1000 euro.
September 28 2017 Thursday We went to Melk Austria to visit the magnificent Benedictine Abby. Then we cruised the beautiful Wachau Valley. We docked in Vienna about 6 pm. We had dinner onboard then went to ride the Vienna Prater…a very large Ferris wheel. There was a large shopping facility nearby. While shopping for ornaments, one fell off and broke. The clerk…came running over…picked it up and took it to the checkout. When I took all the things I was purchasing to the checkout…she informed me I was also paying for the broken ornament. Steve took me by the arm…and walked me to the door. She stopped us and said it was ok…she would not charge us. I bought an ornament, a spoon, a shot glass and a postcard. Smart lady…. because I could have purchased those things at the next place. Unfortunately, it was not a good first impression of Vienna.
September 29 2017 Friday. This was the day I had waited for! This was the event that made the difference for me which river cruise line I chose for this vacation. Tauck, was the only line that offered this special event. We began the day by touring the Schonbrunn Palace. Then we had lunch in the city at Mozart café…apple strudel and coffee.…and tonight a very special dinner in the Palais Pallavicini. We were greeted by gentlemen in tuxedos who offered us Champaign. A 3-piece orchestra played beautiful music. Then after the bell ringing to announce dinner, we were taken to the beautiful dining room. We were served a salad, soup, and veal and ice cream for dessert. While we ate, we were entertained by a 7-piece orchestra…two opera singers and two ballet dancers. It was a magical enchanting evening….one I will never forget. Tauck got this very right.
September 30 2017 today we docked in Bratislava Slovakia. We did a walking tour of the city, visited the palace, and had coffee and a treat at zylinder café and restaurant.
October 1 2017 Sunday Today arrived in Budapest Hungary. We took a city tour. We went to the castle district which is where the Hilton Budapest is. That afternoon, we went to the zoo. The zoo was small and old and dirty and smelly. The facilities were actually quite horrific and would never pass American standards. After dinner, we took a small boat ride to see all the lights at night. This is our last night on the ship. Carlos explained how the disembarkment process would work.
October 2 2017 Monday Tauck arranged for a taxi to transport us to the hotel. It was 20 euro. We arrived at the Hilton Budapest. The bellman took our luggage. We checked in and room 382 was ready. The view from our room was amazing. The room was beautiful and the service was wonderful. We had breakfast and then walked around and did some shopping. We had dinner at pest Buda restaurant. We had goulash soup, duck liver and beef goulash with risotto. We retired for the evening but did not sleep well waiting for the 4:00 alarm to begin our journey to London.
October 3 2017 As promised…the tauck driver was waiting in the lobby at 4:45 to take us to the airport. We flew to London with no glitches. Immigration was a long process but then we collected our bags and took a taxi to the Conrad. Cost for the Taxi was 72 pounds…. which is about $108. Our room was not ready, so we stored the bags and took a taxi to the London eye which I had prebooked on line. We then walked around and looked at a few things then walked back to the hotel and had lunch…fish and chips! The hotel location is very close to Buckingham palace, big ben, etc. We retired early because we got up at 4 am.
Wednesday October 4 2017. Today we walked to Buckingham palace to watch the changing of the guard. I had no idea it was an hour process! We shopped in the Queens gallery. We went to the Churchill museum. We had lunch at Clarence Whitehall. Steve had Hampshire beef casserole with peas, onions and red wine jus. I had the sausage with mashed potatoes. Both were amazing! We walked to the guard museum and watched the horses. We had stood for two hours waiting for the changing of the guards and our dogs were really barking.
Thursday October 5 2017 Today we had breakfast. Then took a taxi back to the airport for the long flight home.
This has truly been a trip of a lifetime. We met many wonderful people on the ship and formed friendships that will last a lifetime. In addition to Carlos…there were three ladies, Julia, Cindi and Patricia…that assisted him. These ladies were amazing. Their knowledge, their willingness to help in any way…was absolutely unbeatable. The wait staff on the ship was simply wonderful…especially kuskus…the bartender. I don’t think he could have done anything more than his very best to make everyone happy. The local guides were professional and knowledgeable…the bus drivers were simply AMAZING. I could never do what they do…driving those big buses in such small crowded places!
We went through 68 locks…sometimes the ride was bumpy…but it was amazing to see how innovative the human mind can be.
We saw beautiful Castles and Churches…ate in lovely restaurants…heard amazing music…and experienced places we could only dream of seeing. The beautiful fall colors along the rivers only enhanced the trip. We saw quaint little villages nestled in the hills and mountains along the way to the beautiful cities. People waved as we passed by…and never once did we feel unwelcome or afraid. The beautiful people of Europe always spoke English and treated us with respect and gratitude for our visit.
We witnessed the damages of war…and the resilience of people…who pick themselves up and continue on…proving that hope never dies. There is always the promise of a new day.
From Amsterdam to Budapest to London…even though we speak different languages and live in different countries…people are people…. with the same hopes and dreams for a brighter tomorrow.
Thank you, Europe, for being a gracious host to a couple of kids from the Midwest who never ever dreamed a trip like this would be possible.
Thank you, Clayton, our beautiful grandson for house sitting for us and to Ginny for watching our dog.
Thank you, Steve, for once again making my dreams come true.