Delivering Delight To Your Cruise Client Tauck’s secret sauce & special ingredients make this company stand out
by Vanessa Lee
Emerald Cat 7 suite
A wondeful selection of cheese.*
Compass Rose dining room. *
Oyster tasting in the lounge
Sitting by fountain in Lyon. *
Truffle hunting. *
An included visit to the Camargue region.*
There are some companies that have honed the knack of simply delighting their guests. They work hard to achieve high standards and implement them in such a way that it all seems effortless and natural. But we know it takes a great deal of effort to ensure a varied cross-section of people are delighted with their vacation choice. It’s a big part of customer satisfaction and ensures repeat business when a company stirs up its secret sauce and liberally douses it all over the client.
Tauck is such a brand – and truly earns the delight seen in its guests. From the start of the Tauck experience everything is hands-on and there are numerous “reach out and touch” points along the way. I am a big fan of high-touch – always have been. It’s cleverly designed and with the best intentions: to keep the guest close, keep the guest informed, and ultimately keep and make the guest a very happy one.
There is nothing accidental in this approach and I applaud the company for honing this to a really enriching and immersive experience. Attention to detail goes right along with “delight” and when the two of those factors come together, you have a winning combination. On our recent Rhône river cruise aboard Emerald we met many guests who were on their 10th Tauck trip and higher – the most being 16 – proof in the pudding indeed!
How was I delighted? Well, I do expect certain things no matter where I am. The service should be warm, friendly, accommodating and discerning. I want to enjoy my experience of course but mostly I like to see an innate understanding of my expectations both large and small and to be delighted with the outcome. To have staff exceed my expectations and anticipate my needs. I like to know the staff by name and have them return the favour. I want them to recall my preferred drinks and wine – to understand my needs and deliver. And on Tauck I would give them a 97% for this. A very high number indeed – yes, the staff were really impressive.
Exceeding Expectations, Anticipating Needs
Of course, it helps that the ship now only holds a maximum of 98 guests and we were a complement of just 84. It was wonderful to have so few people as we sailed the gentle and charming River Rhône. The Emerald and her sister ships have all been recently remodelled and the staterooms and suites enlarged (good thing) and the ship is lovely, tastefully decorated, roomy and very comfortable.
I like that the bar in the Main Lounge (as it is on all Tauck riverboats) is centred about two-thirds down the room. The dining room never feels crowded or noisy and the addition of alternative dining at Arthur’s at the aft of the ship is welcome. I would love to see dining on deck though – perhaps a consideration for a casual BBQ or lunch in the future?
We dined in Arthur’s on the second evening as the ship left port. We were the only guests in a space that holds 28 – no reservations required and literally had our own waiter and a personal chef in the open kitchen to attend to our needs. It felt special. And when I asked for asparagus to go with my steak – not on the menu – the chef promptly returned with some from the main kitchen.
We were able to choose whatever wine we wanted and engaged our excellent waiter in enjoyable conversation. I love these small moments and always recommend that guests dine in such spaces especially in the early evening as the ship is sailing, as it enhances their experience. One of the points deducted from the score is attributed to Arthur’s – I felt the menu could have been slightly more expansive and interesting, there were occasional lapses in the way the food arrived at the table and please, when in France, could we have pommes frites and not large steak-cut fries?
Our room on Deck 2 was very pleasant although the closet space was limited and for a girl who has never considered packing lightly, it was a challenge. A removable bar in the cupboard would help so that longer items were not scrunched up. There should be a few shelves added as well – in the actual room. The space was tight for two of us who had a lot of stuff and were on an extended trip.
The room itself was spacious enough and the bed faces the window – which I always like -- and give a nod to Avalon Waterways for starting that trend. We also particularly enjoyed having a Nespresso machine in our room. There wasn’t a balcony but we didn’t miss it. There was barely an opportunity to sit on one even if we had one. And in port, the ships on the rivers these days are usually tied up next to another, taking away balcony privacy. I always say the ship is your balcony so go outside and enjoy it.
A few random highlights:
One of the best cheese selections I have ever had on a ship – indeed anywhere. Kudos.
Moet et Chandon is the house champagne and is poured frequently for events and also on request. Fab!
On the first evening on the ship when docked in Lyon a mother and daughter chanteuse duo entertained us very sweetly and enjoyably.
A gift of truffle oil at turndown after we visited the Truffle Farm.
Other memorable moments included an oyster tasting, a wine tasting, a fun, cheeky accordion player and the many sweet treats proffered when one arrived back from a tour or evening out.
I loved that there was open-seating dining between 7 and 9 for the most part. I don’t want to rush down to dinner with everyone else on the stroke of 7. As the days were jam-packed and guests sometimes only arrived back at the ship at 6 – it was great to know you could take time to enjoy a drink, change for dinner and not be rushed. Big points here.
It’s truly all-inclusive
You cannot buy a bottle of wine – you may simply choose from a very large and quality selection on board. Daily wines were proffered but if you wanted something else – that was absolutely fine. You cannot spend any money other than in the shop, for a massage or for laundry. Nothing for any shorex – at all!
And the ace – terrific Tour Directors are clearly one of the reasons Tauck has earned such loyal and repeat guests. Sometimes it felt as if there was too much hand-holding, but then I realized this was perfect for those who don’t have travel coursing through their veins. Each of the four Tour Directors were impressive in every way -- charming, engaged, considerate, knowledgeable and nice.
I mentioned this in my previous column, but wish to reiterate that the real highlights were the many very special inclusions that one might not have found or done for oneself. This is where the brand shines brightly. And there is no additional cost for these highly valued moments – many of which were clearly quite lavish and costly. All in all, river cruising with Tauck delivers an impeccable experience with a company that values the guest highly and provides extraordinary value through wonderful, memorable experiences.
* Tim Boyles Photography
Vanessa Lee Columnist
An internationally-known luxury cruise expert, Vanessa is publisher and editor of Cruise and Travel Lifestyles magazine. She appears with Nina on the bi-monthly video Cruise Factor.