River Cruise Review: Tauck

Tauck has won "World's Best River Cruise Line" from the readers of Travel + Leisure two out of the past three years for good reason: the river cruise arm of the family-owned, all-inclusive Tauck invariably delivers good value and immersive travel experiences.

Tauck takes great pride in exposing its guests to local culture by creating unusual itineraries, excursions and events, such as a private dinner in a palace above Prague or a cooking class in a Michelin-starred Parisian restaurant.

It also adheres to a strict all-inclusive policy, incorporating not only all tours and drinks but gratuities and bottled water for excursions -- even providing coins for public bathrooms.

It's the thoughtful surprises that loyal passengers invariably name as their favorite part of the Tauck experience: fresh-baked cookies provided on the coach after an excursion, warming mulled wine served upon return to the ship after an evening at a snowy Christmas market and meals enjoyed ashore in authentic local restaurants.

Tauck's custom-designed premium river boats are comfortable and spacious, with its four sister ships accommodating just 118 passengers in an inclusive, club-like atmosphere on a vessel that would typically carry 160 passengers.

Selling point: Tauck offers a wide choice of themed cruises, from music to art, and has a particularly strong Christmas market selection. It is also one of few cruise lines to offer family-friendly voyages as well as superb value for solo travelers, waiving single supplements on all European river voyages when guests stay in a Category 1 cabin (with savings of $1000 for other cabin categories).

Keep in mind: Despite its diverse itineraries and excursions, Tauck tours are generally tailored to an older audience, meaning more active guests might wish to explore independently at their own pace or sail during dedicated family weeks.

Operating since: Tauck has been operating river cruises since 1992 and launched its own fleet of river ships in 2006.

Number of ships: 4, plus 2 new ships scheduled in 2014

Rivers sailed:
  • Europe: Danube, Moselle, Rhine, Rhône, Seine, the Dutch Waterways

Most popular route: The 12-day Blue Danube voyage between Budapest and Prague (both directions) (April through October, from $4790 per person).

What's included: Cruise fares include full board with all wine, beer, premium spirits and soft drinks; shore excursions; Internet; use of bicycles; airport transfers; and gratuities.

Contact: 800-788-7885; www.tauck.com

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