Tauck v. Viking

Tauck is usually our first choice for tours. However, we chose Viking for a 2020 Alaska cruise because we didn’t want Princess, which Tauck was using at the time. Obviously, that cruise was canceled. Now that Tauck is using Silversea for Alaska, we’d rather go that route. So we’re looking to use our Viking credit for something else. We had opted for the credit plus 25% instead of a refund. I believe I read on the forum that since the Antarctica excursions were handled by the ship, there was not a lot of extra Tauck value-add, so this might be a good place to use our credit. Other possibilities are J&E or one of the many river cruises. Any of my fellow Taucktourians want to weigh in on this?

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Comments

  • Personally, I wouldn't use the credit for a river cruise. The other tours you've described are more adventure/exotic type of tours, whereas the river cruises is a laid back stroll through European history. The river cruise is fun, as are all Tauck tours, but for me it would not compare to a tour of Antarctica, J&E, or many other exotic tours that Tauck offers.

  • Yes, Sam. Our preference is to save the River cruises and do the more exotic ones first. What I’m looking for is a tour to use our Viking credit where I’d be almost as happy as i would with Tauck.

  • Dottie D - I misunderstood. Are you asking Tauck people to give an opinion on how to use your Viking Alaska credit on another Viking tour. Seems like a question better posed on a Viking forum.

  • I’ve never used Viking , but they send me brochures all the time with their stupid two for one deals. Their boats are the same size as Tauck ones but they carry quite a few more people.
    I have a friend who has taken a couple of their River cruises. She wanted to arrive a day early like we do with Tauck, but they would not include the pick up from the airport which is so annoying to me, not I think even if they paid extra. I know not all the touring is incredible in the price, which she likes because she offen stays on the boat and her husband does the extra tours.

  • I do not like river cruises - I am saving them for when I am decrepid but I can say I will never take a Viking tour again! We have been traveling with Tauck for 15 years and Viking was the only other tour we have done. We also travel on our own but like Tauck for access to special places, etc., and they take care of details in countries where we don't speak the language.

    That said, my husband wanted to try a Viking Tour so I went along on one on the Danube. Here are just a few examples of the lack of quality. Instead of going to the renowned Melk Abbey they took us to a "Viking Abbey" - one they apparently owned or rented. Nothing sigificant there,the best part was an add on tour of the attic for 3 euro where I saw the roof construction and the Roto skylights we had at home! On another purchased tour - to apparently the oldest brewery - we were not taken inside for a tour of the brewery but left to wander around the plaza and the promised beer was not at the abbey but at a roadside stop at a gas station! The "guide" added nothing but stood outside the bus with her hand out to grab her tips. Tacky!

    This was the first time we used an AAA agent. She lead to us to believe there would be time to explore in Budapest on our own and we were looking forward to going to one of the spas. Arriving on a SUnday, many places were closed. After a bus tour of a part of Pest and and then to a brief stop at a church in Buda, instead of cruising by the iconic parliment building featured on the PBS ad, we were loaded on a bus to board the boat docked in a no-name surburb up north.

    We deal with Tauck directly and learned here not to use AAA agents. I realize some on the forum like AAA very much - it may depend on where you live.

    Lesson learned - spend more time on the details of a trip and double check Husband.

    I am spoiled by Tauck.

  • Dottie - Viking's exploration vessels are new - they have not yet sailed to Antarctica. Those ships look beautiful, but I will be interested in reading trip reports after the sailings have commenced. If you want advice on their ocean ships, you may want to consider checking out the cruise critic Viking Ocean threads.

  • Hi all, I've been on Tauck and Viking river cruises as well as their ocean voyages. Personally, I won't travel with Viking anymore. I just didn't care for it. I felt as if I were just a number without a first or last name. When dining, I felt that I was in a noisy cafeteria instead of in a restaurant. The Tauck employees and associates really make an effort to get to know you and it must be difficult with all the people on board. My last Tauck trip, 7/25 Iceland, all the waiter knew our names. Our cabin steward knew our names. TIn a very small way, that makes a trip special. My last Viking was a Norway fjord cruise only because friends asked us to joing them. I always felt on Viking that I was "hurrying up to wait" and you will pay extra for the excursions. They are not included in the price of the tour. There are excursions that one doesn't pay for but I believe they are ordinary and basic excursions. Other excursions which are more involved, cost more - sometimes in the hundreds of dollars! That can be significant when traveling with a family. Of course, all this is my opinion in a quick nutshell, but I did feel the Viking also attracts a much older crowd. I applaud older seniors that still enjoy traveling but this was something I just observed. Anyone can correct me if I'm mistaken. Judy

  • edited October 10

    Great post, BSP51.

    I am 79, my husband is 97 today, and we are far from being decrepit. We are looking forward to our Tauck river cruse next month. Just like people have different travel styles, age is merely a number; it does not define who you are or how you are expected to act.

    Regarding Viking, it took me over a year to get them to stop sending me their flimsy pamphlets. They do, however, certainly have a niche.

    Safe travels to all.

  • We have only taken one Tauck River cruise. They certainly have the advantage of a slower pace, not having to get up so early and not having to pack and unpack.
    While we are able to take the land tours, we feel they are better value for money and we certainly see more than I think we would on a River cruise. The free time you get on a land tour can be more easily organized than when you are on a ship that might go without you. As far as the packing goes, we just don’t unpack and use cubes on our land tours.

  • No, river cruises are not just for the decrepit. I was in my 50s for our first and had a fantastic time. As others have said, it's nice not having to live out of a suitcase, adjusting to a new room and breakfast buffet every 2 days, and not spending as much time riding in a coach. I also noticed on our last cruise - Budapest to Amsterdam - that they are adding more excursion options plus bike rides, hikes, etc but without charging anything extra. The Scylla hotel management has really improved how they feature local cuisine and wines. As I've said before, many of the Tauck 4/5 star hotels seem more interested in gourmet cuisine than featuring the best of the local cuisine. I don't want to look at the menu and feel like I could be anywhere.

    It really comes down to whether the itinerary interests you or not.

  • Navigating on, off and around a river cruise ship isn't as easy as some may think. There is an elevator but it never goes to the sun deck and on some ships only goes to the Ruby and Diamond deck. Getting on and off the ship can really vary in difficulty depending on the water levels and the dock itself. Sometimes its an easy, short and level gangplank and others it's longer, sloped, has steps at the end, etc. And then you have to deal with situations where you are docked side by side with another ship. Sometimes it's easy where they line up the reception areas and it's a pretty flat walk from your ship through another to land. On others we've had to go up to the sundeck, go across it, then across a gangplank from ship to ship, across that one, then down stairs again. We did this a couple of times on one cruise in the dark. Scary.

    So you may want to save a river cruise until you're more "decrepit" but don't wait too long.

  • Claudia, I agree with your comments. I have taken 3 Tauck River Cruises in the last 8 years and I have also experienced the side by side docking ships. I remember on one trip where we had to cross thru 2 ships to get to our ship, which was the farthest away from the dock. I recognized a passenger, in her 90's, who was on our cruise and she had got confused and was sitting in the lounge on the middle ship. I helped her get to the Tauck ship. I am also confident that Tauck would not have left her behind when they did their final head count before embarkation. I also experienced having our ship docked side by side with a ship from Germany and watching the passengers having to traverse a gangplank on to our sundeck and down the stairs in order to reach the dock. I have enjoyed both land tours and river cruises plus independent travel over the years. I actually have come to enjoy the river cruises more as they typically dock right in town and you have the choice of whether you want to go on a specific outing or just do your own thing. I do like the idea of not having to pack and move every two days or so or to catch additional flights to the next city on the itinerary or Country. I do agree it depends on the itinerary and personal preference. There is no bad choice and I just turned 69.

    I do prefer Tauck over Viking , having taken only one Viking combination land/river cruise tour to China in 2005. I was not impressed with the land portion at all. It was very disorganized and not personalized like Tauck. The River Cruise went well for the most part, however, in one City it had rained for several days and we have to climb a huge amount of stairs to get from the ship to the top of the dock , sloshing thru water which was very slippery and our feet were soaked. There was no assistance offered by the staff.

    I have also taken a very nice small ship cruise to Greece and parts of Eastern Europe with OAT and it was a fantastic tour. I had actually travelled with OAT many times as their land tours were quite reasonable and small groups of no more than 16 plus their tours included the airfare. It was a very good deal, although I know many people on this site do not like them at all. So again, everyone is different and everyone has different expectations as to how they wish to travel. There is no right or wrong way, only what works best for you.

  • edited October 11

    We’ve been on the expedition ship Isabela II during P&G but have only taken one river “cruise”- Blue Danube. I think the term “cruise,” while technically correct- the boat “cruises” on the river, is a bit of a misnomer for Tauck river voyages . We spent very few hours actually cruising during daylight, prime touring, time- most of the time we were asleep- our mobile hotel did most of its moving during the night.

    Speaking of rafting- the one time we rafted, we were the inboard boat (closest to the dock). Passengers on boats outboard of us had to go up an outside stairway on their or our boat and cross a gangway to our sun deck and down another ladder- an up, over, and down trip- to go between their boat and the dock. They didn’t have key cards and couldn’t open the doors to our reception area! I liked that strangers couldn’t access the interior of our boat.

    According to everything I have read, Oberoi has its own docks in Aswan, Luxor, and possible at other stops, so rafting should not be needed on J&E and Egypt, Jewels of the Nile tours.

  • Yep, cruising during the evening or overnight. Very common especially for shorter cruises where they try to pack in lots to do. On the longer cruises you have more chance of daylight sailing. That's why we prefer a bigger cabin on longer cruises. Like cathy, we do enjoy some downtime on our own.

  • I am happy to see the good information about River cruising here. Especially about having to cross over from ship to ship. I think we only did that once. It may certainly make people considering a River cruise for the first time understand that you still have to be quite fit to enjoy the River cruising. I’ve stated why we think we prefer the land tours, it’s more about pace than fitness.

    On tours, we like to see as much as possible and I feel that happens much more on a land tour. If I had realized how much one has to spend in your cabin/room on a cruise compared to a land tour, we would certainly have paid for a larger cabin on our River cruise and our two small ship tours. There is little entertainment during the day. Quizzes and origami on a Tauck tour don’t do it for me, though I did partake anyway. It’s funny, Tauck have upped their game so much with hotel quality since we first started traveling with them and yet you are really in your room just to sleep. There is little time to enjoy the facilities.

    Our independent traveling has changed since the start of the pandemic. We would never book the best or almost the best rooms in an expensive hotel before this. We are on our fourth vacation’ within the US this year right now. We chose a ‘fancy’ hotel. We stay in one place, see as much as we can, at our own pace, enjoy the ‘feel’ of the city, use the services and knowledge of the concierges. We especially like to see the hidden gems that some places have. They might not be to everyone’s taste, but they are to us. We get much better value for our money for the hotel
    stays than we do on the Tauck tours. We love Tauck when we want to travel to many places. For us, we just don’t enjoy hours and hours of driving, so it’s perfect, we can both enjoy the scenery and when it comes to eating dinner, we can both enjoy a cocktail and a glass of wine without having to drive. We are very strict about drinking and driving, we won’t do it. It’s so common here in the US for people to do both.
    Of course, whereever we stay does not improve my sleeping abilities. But anyway, here we are, having been upgraded to a fabulous suite on the 40th floor at the Four Seasons in Chicago. We have fantastic views of the city and lake out of three huge picture windows. Five nights, one of which is ‘free’. The crazy thing is, this hotel cost about one third of the price of our hotel in Cape Cod.
    So, one of the things that will probably permanently change for us once ‘normal service’ resumes with Tauck and the Tauck trips we have booked are actually going to happen…..remaining doubtful right now for two of the four tours we have booked with Tauck in 2022….we will continue to stay in better hotels when we travel on our own.

    Still, none of this helps Dottie D, who I now realize was asking about an Antarctica tour with Tauck or Viking, I can only say, check for hidden costs with Viking…they must spend a massive amount of money on TV advertising and you know who pays for that, the customer.

  • Two more comments, one on boat travel, the other on Tauck tours in general. First, I believe you have less flexibility on the river to do your own thing- “free” afternoons are less common and when on the schedule, usually don’t extend much beyond late afternoon since the boat will often get underway for the next stop during cocktail hour, so touring on your own is mostly limited to what you can see during a walk around town. You won’t have the opportunity to do anything like a side trip to Pisa like we did in Florence or similar extended excursion. Though I will admit those are difficult on many land tours as well. Longer, more involved on-your-own excursions are better left to pre and post tour. Also, it is a lot different being late for or missing at Tauck supplied dinner because your free afternoon extended into evening, than it is missing the boat sailing!!! :o:o:o

    I may be off on this one, but it seems to me Tauck has downsized many recent tours. I don’t know whether that has been done because of customer feedback, e.g. “this tour was great, just a bit too long,” too keep the cost down, or for other reasons, but many tours are shorter than previous versions of the same tour from just a few years ago. My sense is that tours which were once 13 - 15 days have been shortened to 11 - 13 days. While my wife and our cat might disagree (she runs out of steam about day nine and our cat doesn’t want us to leave home at all! :D ), I prefer longer tours and want to get the most from my business class flight. Some tours were obviously shortened due to situations around the world, e.g. dropping Istanbul from Treasures of the Aegean. I wish they would add it back into the itinerary, (though, at the moment however, it would not be possible due to the ongoing dispute between Turkey and Greece that has resulted in Ephesus being temporary dropped from the tour.

  • I'm with you on this, Alan, regarding the shortened tours. I much prefer a longer tour a) to maximize the cost of my business class flight, b) because there is so much to see in many places that you need more than 10 or 11 days to do it. I also wish they had more stops in places where you were there for 3 nights instead of 2. You just barely get a feel for the city/location when you're packing up and leaving again.

  • Thanks for all the great feedback, everyone. I will always prefer Tauck over Viking (except on that canceled Alaska trip that resulted in my Viking credit). Anyway, since I’m not going to let a $14k credit go to waste, I’ll just pick the Viking trip that I think i would most enjoy. I had been focusing on my bucket list items and Antarctica might be the best bet for that. But I’m also going to look at places where Viking goes but Tauck doesn’t. That way I won’t feel like I’m missing out.

  • ...just like to make another note on Tauck river boats vs. Viking river boats. Tauck has a flat bottom boat Viking and other river boats are so much deeper. Hence, if the rivers are too high, the river boats which have a deeper hull (if that is the right word) won't be able to get through and fit under all the bridges. I've been on a Tauck river cruise and have seen the Viking river boat could not proceed and couldn't fit under the bridge because of the high water level on the rivers and the passengers had to be put on buses to get from one destination to the other. I don't know what the circumstances would be when the rivers are too low.

  • I don't know how it compares to Viking boats but a portion of our Tauck Danube riverboat trip was cancelled due to low water. I assume the Viking boats would have had the same issue.

  • kfnknfzk, Happy day-late birthday blessings to Mr. kfnknfzk & enjoy your upcoming travels!

  • MarketArt,

    How so very sweet of you to extend such kindness to my husband. Yes, he is blessed to have such longevity and the stamina to stil travel internationally...not to mention having a young bride as he does! Ha, ha!

    We both thank you for your kindness.

  • Yes, Tauck have shortened their tours. Yes, they used to stay three nights in some places more often. I heard people wanted to have more free time, find meals on their own and not stay three nights.
    Now we are retired, I want longer tours, staying in the same place for three nights more often and I want to visit places that Tauck don’t go to. But, as a veteran of Tauck, I’ve never been surveyed like some people have been for any of our preferences.
    It seems Tauck Culturious is not around, neither are the tours that went to just one city for a week. We are definitely all hard to please.

  • We are booked on a Tauck tour in June for the land tour of Northern Spain. We like to do back-to-back tours as we also travel business class and one can save on insurance. However, the Douro River with Tauck was booked and we couldn't get the cabin we wanted so our TA suggested Viking. This will be our first trip with Viking and I am not sure we made the correct decision now. We love Tauck and have travelled with them numerous times. We had a wonderful river cruise on the Rhine and Moselle in September and then we did the land tour of Switzerland. Tauck just doesn't disappoint!

  • edited October 12

    Perhaps Tauck will rethink these changes post-pandemic. A tour vs. independent travel is always the big decision and of course there are pros and cons to each; many friends and relatives are not “tour people” and find tours extravagant. I mix it up 50-50 and enjoy the leisure of traveling on my own schedule, breakfast at 9, returning to hotel during the day. And frankly I don’t need another winery visit or truffle hunt. I’m an urban explorer, so easier to go indy. I like off-season travel, cooler weather and spending several days in each city/town: Aix/Marseille, Dublin/Belfast, Lisbon/Porto/Coimbra, Vienna/Graz/Ljubljana. Many Tauck tours only skim the surface. I want to spend some real time in Singapore and was fortunate enough to do just that in Hong Kong after a Natl. Geo tour to Hokkaido. Australia and New Zealand are a cinch on your own, and our summer/their winter meant lovely temps and no crowds. Warsaw/Budapest/Vienna/Prague has always puzzled me…if it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.

  • We have traveled on Viking River and on Tauck river and land tours. Also several other river and Ocean lines. If we want personal attention and lovely amenities and unique experiences for a specific itinerary we will choose Tauck over Viking . But would also choose AMA over Viking for a better river cruise experience than Viking. If we want a trip that gives us more opportunity to explore ports we will chose an Ocean cruise.
    The main attraction of cruising for us is being able to unpack once and still have a variety of experiences that we do not have to manage and plan ourselves. I would rather spend my time enjoying a trip than unpacking and repacking arranging transport to the next stop.

  • Agree with your assessment. Although I would take a Viking ocean cruise, would not do a river cruise. AMA does a much better job and is more upscale in their river cruises. Viking does run some high end advertisements about their river cruises which makes them seem top notch, but in reality, Tauck and AMA do a much better job.

  • As long as we are talking about the merits of other travel companies, we have done 2 River cruises with Uniworld. Their boats are spectacular although the cabins are not as large as the Tauck branded boats. The food is excellent. The excursions are very nice but Tauck always excels over all others in their content. In my opinion Uniworld is right up there with Tauck.

  • Agree with the above - Tauck, Uniworld, AMA for River Cruises-- in that order. Viking, never again - although, I've heard decent things about their Ocean Cruises.

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