River cruise/small ship recommendations

We have done 3 land tours with Tauck and want to try a river cruise or small ship. I tentatively booked the Douro but have a week to decide for 2024 (doing Botswana this fall). Can I please ask what River cruise and or small ship you would recommend. I was disappointed there are no bikes on the ship for this cruise. Just would love to hear what were your best!!! Thanks in advance.


  • Our first trip with Tauck was Amsterdam to Budapest, and was still the best of all. We’ve done the 3 Christmas Markets cruises, which we loved, and leave in 2 weeks for the French Escapade; Rendezvous on the Seine in June of ‘24. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in any of the river cruises, but I’d suggest Ams-Bud.

  • Mary,

    It depends. If you are adding pre/post tour days, are there particular cities you wish to explore? We have enjoyed all of our river tours but two were exceptional.

    Savoring France for its wine/culinary emphasis and the beautiful Provence area. And, of course, Paris. The food market in Lyon is glorious.

    The Douro plus Lisbon and Madrid. There is so much art and culture in the two anchor cities and the Douro is very relaxing and bucolic.

    I doubt you will be disappointed no matter which one you choose. All the boats have or have access to bicycles.

  • Mary, while we enjoyed our Douro cruise I wouldn't recommend it for a first river cruise. We've done it, Rhine (twice), Rhone, Danube, Seine and Moselle. I'd recommend either the Rhone or Danube (or one that includes those). The Rhone was our first and we loved that so many stops you're docked in places you can walk to. It was also our first visit to France which we love. The Danube is similar in that many stops you're right in the action and there's lots of lovely places to see. The Douro is nice but its a small.quiet river mainly focused on wine.

    Don't worry about the bikes. Since Tauck began adding bike rides to most all the river cruises they contract with a company that provides the bikes and helmets.

  • Thank you so much everyone for your input. Gives me something to think about!

  • Yes on the Danube. I’ve been on the upper and lower Danube and Budapest to Amsterdam is the best or even in the reverse. This river cruise is more scenic than from Bucharest to Budapest. I’ve also been on the Rhine and Moselle.

  • I really think it depends on the experience you have. I have done 6 river cruises and I would have to say that the Douro was the one we liked the best. It had a lot to do with the TD, guides and ship crew that treated us better on this cruise than on any other river cruise. Every staff member knew every passengers name and preferences by the second day onboard. They were much more personable than any we had experienced. I can't recall the ship not having bikes, but there was a beautiful bike excursion along the way that passed through vineyards and beautiful countryside.
    You really can't go wrong with any river cruise that Tauck offers. We will be doing the Savoring FranceFrance: Paris, Lyon and Provence this summer.

  • We had the same experience as Mimitravels. Every single crew member, including the ship's captain, greeted us with a genuine smile and, "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. XXX." Did you by chance have Riu as one of your tour directors? She was phenomenal!

  • kfnknfzk - We had Inken and Joao as Tauck directors and Jeremy as the cruise director. They were all fabulous! I'm glad you enjoyed your time as much as we did. I hope our upcoming Savoring France river cruise will be just as good. Any tips?

  • Mimitravels,

    We had Jeremy as well. He had a wonderful sense of humor.

    I think you will enjoy Savoring France. Every day is filled with exciting adventures, but we never felt rushed. I really don't have any tips to share...just enjoy as you "savor" your way through the glorious food and wine! Have a great time and please post a review upon your return. It's always nice to compare experiences.

  • Thank Minitravesl and all. You are actually the reason we chose this (it's Mary from Egypt). The hesitation I have is we do not drink and the wine focus, while wonderful, is not in our wheel house. I am more interested in walking, hiking, biking and for that reason, Claudia Sails and mfrancis suggestions of being right in the middle of things appeals to me. We have done France on our own 2 times but it was when my husband was flying corporate jets so not the river experience. Can anyone else weigh in on the Amsterdam/ Budapest cruise? You guys are all great!

  • We’re doing BUD to Amsterdam in Sept-October 2023. Any thoughts on weather that time of year?

  • edited May 2023

    Mixed. You might get some nice sunny days where short sleeves and capris pants are comfortable and cool/cold wet days when you're glad you brought a coat. One of our TDs on that cruise said it's was always cold/wet in Amsterdam when she'd been there.

  • You really haven't experienced Jeremy until you've seen him on a XMAS Mkts cruise wearing one of his many LED illuminated XMAS sweaters (all guaranteed finalists or winners in any "Most Gaudy XMAS Sweater" competition) :D

  • We had Jeremy for Halloween on the Douro. Quite the character.

  • edited May 2023

    I think we had the ‘Jeremy’ you are talking about as cruise director on Andorinha. I quickly determined that he knew everything about everything. We had bar ‘treats’ that were peanuts mixed with corn nuts … small marble like things. Our traveling companion friend who was a dentist pointed out these things were deadly for the teeth … particularly for mature people. I quickly decided the Jeremy was the man. I pointed out the problem, and the next day it was just peanuts … no corn nuts.

  • Re Mary's point about wine focus, I also am not much of a wine drinker. I know many love the new Douro cruise, but is it perhaps not a good choice if you're not into wine? Aside from paying for something I don't want, not the best use of my time. I have rejected several tours b/c too many winery visits, wine pairing dinners, etc.

  • MarketArt, The Douro cruise does have a big focus on port wine - basically the main focus of the river. We do enjoy wine and were curious about port since it isn't something we really knew anything about, however it wasn't our main reason for taking the cruise. We'd never been to Portugal or Spain and were curious about the new ship. Plus we just enjoy river cruises. We thought it was a pleasant cruise and enjoyed our time in both countries. It isn't a super busy cruise with loads of different sights to see especially when you're on the river. It was very pretty especially since we went in the fall with the changing colors. It's a good tour but not necessarily the right one for everyone.

  • I saw a cruise advertised on the Douro with the company we used for our river cruise last fall so I asked friends we had traveled with if they were interested and they said they had offered that before and they went. Surprisingly they also said it was wine focused and they love wine but I got the impression it was not their favorite river cruise.
    When people first went on this Tauck cruise, they raved about it, but maybe it was the new ship, not the itineraries became I’ve heard several reports about people being disappointed.

  • I think if you've done other European river cruises where there are loads of big castles, cathedrals, and towns to visit then the Douro might be disappointing. It's more rural with lovely scenery and mostly wineries to visit. Once was enough but I would go back to Spain and Portugal. Definitely think adding Lisbon and Madrid improved this one for us. We were glad we added Barcelona on our own and wished we'd had more time in Lisbon.

  • edited May 2023

    Thanks for feedback. I've been to Madrid & several times to Lisbon (cruises often start here), but would like to spend several days in Coimbra, having enjoyed the university architecture in Evora. Increasingly I'm finding tours and particularly cruises do not give me enough time to really explore. After my recent Tauck week in France, I headed north to Brittany, spending 2 nights in St.-Malo & 3 in Rennes: enjoyed wonderful 4-star hotels, £3 quiches, crepes, cidre...a wonderful time! And later this year I will post about Anima(ex)Musica, an amazing, though hard-to-describe, exhibit at the Musée de Bretagne, headed for Paris in September.

  • MarketArt - Ever venture outside of Europe? It sounds like you certainly have extensive experience within Europe.

  • edited May 2023

    SS, I think you've asked me this before. Yes, of course, though I do love Europe. I've been to Istanbul and Bursa, almost a year to the day b/f the earthquake there, Morocco, HK (loved it), Japan several times incl. Hokkaido, Australia, NZ, St. Kitts/Nevis, Peru, Patagonia and I'm taking myself to UAE next year. Sorry not a safari person. You csn't like everything & I think it's ok to know what you like, with occasional ventures outside one's comfort zone.

  • MarketArt - Sorry if I asked before. You have been pretty much everywhere. I only asked about Europe because based on your discussions of places in Europe you seemed to have a behind the curtain understanding of a lot of places there. It would take lots of visits to get that understanding.

    Perhaps you’ve been fortunate enough that you have traveled many more times than I. I haven’t made nearly enough trips to gain the breadth of understanding that you demonstrate. With my limited trips I’ve been seeking exposure around the world vs depth of knowledge in a specific area. I’m sure I will run out of time/money long before I’ve finished the initial exposure to places.

  • Sam, Thank you for your kind words. I always used every scrap of vacation time, started traveling after college and often went to Europe every fall and spring, mostly traveling independently. I find I meet locals and travelers more often when I'm not on a tour. There are many holes on my map, trust me.

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