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Cruising the Rivers of France Tauck Style
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    Cruising the Rivers of France Tauck style


           Having been several years since we had taken a riverboat cruise with Tauck, with found memories of previous trips, we were most anxious to sign up for Tauck's 14-day adventure that started with  two nights in Monte Carlo, followed by a 10-day cruise from Arles to Lyon and climaxing in an additional two days and nights in Paris.            

.         Upon arrival at Nice airport, we were met by Tauck representatives and  transported   along the picturesque coast of  southern France  to Monte Carlo for a two night stay at the glamorous Fairmont Hotel. From our suite we could look out at the mega-yachts that anchor in the harbor and watch the amazing fleet of cars -- Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris-- that park in front of the opulent Grand Casino and Hotel de Paris. That evening, we were on our own to dine and try our luck at the casinos. The casino in the Fairmont was more to our taste than the European-style Grand Casino in the square.

          `After breakfast, our Tauck guide conducted an orientation tour before leaving us time to explore the colorful streets and shops. Other than breakfast, meals were not included during  the first two days.

          On day three, we were bused to Nice. After a guided walking tour, we were again left on our own to explore the charms of Nice. We strolled along the palm-lined promenade with its fashionable shops, sidewalk bistros and beach clubs set along the sea.

           Following lunch on our own (we had quiche Lorraine  and a croque monsieur), the bus transported the group to Arles, where our riverboat, ms Emerald,  awaited our arrival.  After being greeted  with a welcome glass of champagne, we were escorted to our stateroom. Our luggage had already arrived, so we proceeded to unpack and settle in.

          Our ship was reconfigured in early 2017 reducing the total number of cabins from 59 to 49 so as to enlarge the original 30 150 square-foot cabins to 20  at 225 square feet. Overall capacity dropped from 118 passengers to 98. We had one of the 225 square-foot cabins on the middle deck.  On the deck above us were fourteen 300 square-foot suites. The  cruise-only brochure cost of our cruise in June and August ranged from  $6,590 to $9,040 per person depending upon your cabin category. Lower promotional  prices are sometimes available.

          Our stateroom, and 70% of the others,  had  a French balcony ( floor to ceiling windows with a  door that opens to a small balcony which you can step out on to view the scenery without any sitting area). We had a queen bed that could be separated into two twins (better to separate beds than to toss a spouse overboard) with satin bed linens, puffy white duvets, and hypoallergenic, 90% down-filled pillows, terry cloth robes, a hair dryer, an electronic safe,  mini-bars stocked with complimentary water and soft drinks, bathrooms with glass showers and Molton Brown bath products, flat-screen TVs, in-room movies and Wi-Fi, a writing desk/vanity,  three closets with adjustable shelving and 110-volt and 22-volt outlets. The larger suites had other perks including walk-in closets, spacious marble bathrooms and larger sitting areas.

          Before dinner each evening, at cocktail hour, our knowledgeable tour directors gave orientation talks preparing us for the following day's excursions, as well as background information covering the places we would be visiting. On Tauck cruises  all excursions, meals ashore and tips are included in the price, and there are unlimited  complimentary beverages aboard ship, including regional wines, beer, premium spirits, soft drinks, bottled water and specialty coffees.

          Dinner reservations for the Compass Rose dining room could be made for groups of seven to 12 people wishing to be seated together; otherwise there was open seating and reservations were not required. We found dinner time an excellent opportunity to get to know other passengers. Each evening's menu included appetizers, soups, salads, a meat, fish, fowl and vegetarian selection for a main course, several desserts and a cheese selection.

          After dinner, we made our way to the Panorama Lounge  where a talented piano player entertained throughout the evening. Some couples got up to dance, others just enjoyed their after-dinner coffee or cordials. Several evenings, local dancers, singers and musicians were brought aboard, and on others, movies and audience participation games were featured.

          The next morning we hit the fitness center before breakfast and were delighted to find several treadmills‚Ķ‚Ķ.

Breakfast was served buffet style with a wide selection of fresh fruits, juices, cereals, pastries, egg dishes, breakfast meats, pancakes, waffles and specialty dishes from the kitchen.

          After breakfast, we were divided into groups, each with its own knowledgeable tour guide, for an exploration of Arles. Here we found the amazingly well-reserved Roman Amphitheater constructed in 46 B.C seating 26,000 spectators, and, presently a venue for bull-fights, concerts and operas. Nearby was the Theater Antique, a semi-circular theater dating back to the first century B.C. Outside the city were the excavated baths of Constantine built along the Rhone River during the fourth century, and Alyscans, site of a vast Roman Medieval cemetery, the subject matter of paintings by Van Gogh and Gauguin. In the  afternoon we joined an excursion to the Camargue region, famous for its black bulls and white horses. The highlight was an owner hosted Provencal lunch  at a private ranch where  we were entertained by cowboys dodging the feisty little black bulls that were raised there.

          That evening was the Captain's welcome cocktail party with champagne and delicious hors d'oeuvres. Both the captain and hotel director introduced themselves and presented a run-down of what we could expect on the cruise.

          Our second stop was Avignon, a city that sprang to prominence when it became the papal residence during the 14th      and 15th centuries. Our walking tour concentrated on exploration of the Papal Palace and the three miles of 14th century ramparts which completely encase the city.  Another attraction was the ruins of  the Bridge of St. Benezet which was destroyed by wars and became the  subject of the children's song, "Sur le Pont". After the tour, we wondered along the Place de L'Horage, in the heart of the old town with its ancient bell tower, city hall and numerous cafes and boutiques. That evening, guests dressed up for  a royal treat at the Duche D'Uzes. The visit incuded a guided tour, a cocktail reception and a gala dinner in this 12th century duke's castle with its myriad of influences from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the 17th century and modern times.

          The following day, while docked in Avignon, we were offered a morning tour to  Saint Remy de Provence whose picturesque setting is immortalized  in more than 150 of van Gogh's paintings. After lunch, we attended a wine tasting of Rhone wines at one of the select  vineyard that is permitted to produce Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines.

          We docked in Tain l'Hermitage the next morning. We were offered a choice  of a guided walking tour of Vienne with its impressive Roman ruins or a guided bicycle tour along the river with a stop at Saint Vallier for a caf√© and croissant.

          After breakfast the following morning we were driven to Cluny for a visit to Cluny Abbey Benedictine monastery. This was followed by a dressage  demonstration with a skilled horse and rider at  the Haras National equestrian center. Lunch was served at Chateau Pruzilly set in the heart of the Beaujolais and Burgundy wine regions.

          We woke up the next morning in Chalon-Sur-Saone where for our first tour we sampled local culinary offerings at a bakery, an artisan chocolate boutique and a mustard shop. That afternoon we selected a wine tasting with the owners of a private vineyard on a grand family estate in Rully. In the alternative, a walking  tour of Beaune was offered featuring a visit to the Hospices of Beaune, founded in 1443 as a hospital for the poor.

           At Tournus, our next stop, the morning excursion  was a drive through the landscapes of southern Burgundy to the 17th Century Chateau de Cormatin with its towers, turrets and drawbridge. We toured its famous guilded rooms and  garden before returning to the ship for lunch and an afternoon cruise to Lyon.

          Our final day on the ship was spent in Lyon,  the second largest city in France, known as the gastronomic paradise and gourmet heaven,  the location of many of the very best restaurants in France. We passed on the morning bus tour. We set out on our own strolling through one of the lovely parks and through the cobbled streets of old Lyon with its numerous shops, boutiques, restaurants  and bistros. We visited the Musee des Beaux-Arts, France's second-largest fine arts museum with its outstanding collection of 19th- and 20th-century  paintings, and the old Roman Theater, the oldest in France, built in 19 a.d.

          A must stop when touring Lyon is a visit to Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, the most famous indoor food market in France, if not the world. Here we found  over 60 stalls selling countless gourmet delights including some of the best cheese we ever sampled. (Yes they will let you sample before you buy). Although there are several restaurants at the market, we chose to select some of the amazing fresh cheeses, inviting pastries and a bottle of wine for a picnic on our own.

          After breakfast the following morning we disembarked our ship  and boarded  the high-speed TGV for a fast trip  in first class to Paris. We enjoyed an overview of landmark sites on an orientation bus tour of the city before arriving at our hotel, the Paris Intercontinental Le Grand. That evening we were on our own and elected to dine at ‚Ķ‚Ķ‚Ķ.

          The next day we were given a choice of  three museum visits: Musee du Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory; Musee National de l'Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens, location of the Water Lilies murals created by Claude Monet; and  the Musee d'Orsay with works of art from 1848 to 1914 with works of van Gogh, Degas, Renoir and Rodin. We selected the Musee d'Orsay, having visited the other museums on previous trips. That evening we were treated to our farewell dinner at Fouquet's on the Champs-Elysees, a celebrity brasserie dating back to 1899.  It was some incredible day.

          Transportation to the airport for our trip home was provided. Sadly we bid farewell to the staff and our fellow guests after having experienced one of the very best river cruises  we had taken to date. The pampering staff, the fine cuisine, the exceptional tours and many extras offered, make a cruise with Tauck (as the French say)magnifique.


post script:

          Tauck operates 8 riverboats that are owned by Scylla, a Swiss shipping company; however the ships were constructed to Tuck's specifications and are operated exclusively by Tauck. Four of the ships are 361 feet in length similar in size to the Emerald and four others  are 443 feet in length with the capacity to hold 130 guests.

All of these ships are somewhat smaller and more intimate than competing riverboat lines and afford better service.

          Tauck offers a vast array of cruise itineraries including cruises on the Danube, the Rhine, Mainz Canal, Moselle, Elbe and Seine extending from 7 to 28 days. Tuck Tours are well known for land based tours all over the world.


by Steven B. Stern

 (author of Stern's Guide to European Riverboats and Hotel Barges and Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation)



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