Stern's Guide to the Greatest Resorts of the World, Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation, Stern's Guide to European Riverboats and Hotel Barges, and The Indispensable Guide to Foreign Words and Phrases--by Steven B. Stern (Sponsored by Stern's Travel Guides, Ltd.)
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
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
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‚Ä¶‚Ä¶.
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
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
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 PapalPalace 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.
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 RomanTheater, 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
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
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
Tauck offers a vast array of cruise itineraries including
cruises on the Danube, the Rhine, MainzCanal, Moselle, Elbe and Seine extending from 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)