Musical Magic Along the Blue Danube

First time poster to the Tauck message board –my wife and I took this trip last month (Oct of 2023) and would love to share our positive experience with this tour. As background, I am a bit passionate about classical music, and my wife enjoys symphonic performances and travel. This tour provided a deep dive into the classical music of the region, but also included historic venues and allowed time for us to visit other places of interest, for us specifically the Belvedere Palace in Vienna (for Klimt art) and the Mucha museum in Prague (Art Nouveau) -- and several cafes for us to sample the delectable pastries.

A couple of general notes for this tour as related by my wife: “There were more dress-up evenings than other tours we have taken with Tauck due to the number of performances, gala evenings, and the Captain’s Farewell aboard the ship. Most women wore dressy outfits and men wore at least jackets and/or ties. There were also more first-time cruisers with Tauck than on our previous trips, perhaps due to the unique content of this trip.”

Because the Danube’s water level was not sufficient to dock in Budapest, we had over an hour bus trip each way to reach the ship near the Slovakian border during our time in Budapest. Kudos to the Tauck staff for adjusting schedules for these two days at the last minute.

As for the ship experience, it was very similar to other Tauck river cruises that we have taken, so we will focus more on the specific “musical” elements of this Danube tour. Aside from the 3 tour directors and ship director, there was a Maestro (Raphael Fusco, an Italian American composer, keyboardist, and conductor) that traveled with us. The Maestro gave 3 one-hour lectures on board the ship in addition to a lecture aboard the bus. We saw in the last-minute preboarding information from Tauck that there was to be a “guest choir” and found out that indeed it was “of the guests” rather than a performing group coming onboard. It was completely voluntary to join and about 20 of the 75 guests participated with Raphael conducting. They rehearsed in late afternoon after the excursions and even one day aboard the bus to Salzburg – aka the “singing bus.” They gave a performance on the last evening in Prague. We are not vocally talented but heard enthusiastic feedback from those participating in this experience.

We will list the specific performances and venues below in another posting, although I am certain this information may vary from tour to tour. The performers ranged from young students to seasoned professionals; all gave polished performances in beautiful settings. The highlight of the trip for my wife was the Vienna opera night which was surprising as she really doesn’t enjoy opera performances. I think the pre-performance enrichment lecture by the Maestro, use of translation screens at each seat, and perhaps the selected opera trio format really added to the enjoyment of the evening.

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