Mini-Review Northbound-MS grace-4/17-4/25/24

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their previous posts as they are always helpful in our planning.
We flew Delta RT MCO-JFK-BRU, AMS-JFK-MCO. We used AMEX for our tickets as they had the best price
at the time compared to Tauck pricing. We found their business class to be good, not outstanding. Our flight home
was delayed by 1.5 hours which caused us to miss our JFK connection and they also lost a bag which we recovered yesterday.
Tauck transfers were excellent on both sides. We did not stay an extra night before the tour start like we usually do and that
was a mistake.

The MS Grace was in very good condition. We stayed in a Category 3 "loft" cabin and it was enough room for us and the
windows in the loft area were awesome. We looked at the smaller cabins and that would not have worked for us, and we looked
at the largest cabins and they were nice with a walk-in closet. Our friends on the top deck in the large cabin heard noise from
the deck at night due to the weather (see next paragraph). The service was excellent, the food good to very good. Our only disappointment
is how close the tables were in Compass Rose, it was very noisy in many of the tables. Arthur's was open and we went there several times.
IMHO, one of the best things about cruising is not having to pack/unpack everyday! There was a cruise director and three tour directors. The tour directors were all excellent and helpful.

The weather was DREADFUL!!!! As a point of reference we live in southwest Florida, it was 35-45F almost everyday, weather rapidly changed from rain, sleet, tiny bit of sun, very high winds. I did not expect needing a winter hat for a couple of days. The wind blew deck furniture around causing the noise I mentioned above. They said they couldn't tie it down enough in that level of wind. I wouldn't change when we went just sharing how crummy the weather was.......

Everyday we received a Daily Program sheet in our cabin mailbox the previous night. The first evening they also gave us a sheet with the excursion choices with more detail than we had when we signed up. Allowing us to make changes if we wanted to. When we were trying to arrange a private tour before we left, I called Tauck reservations and they had more detailed excursion information so I could plan around that.
I would suggest they provide that for when you are planning from home.

Excursion highlight-Keukenhof. Seven million tulips and other plantings. I was skeptical about spending five hours looking at flowers (my wife wasn't). It was awesome, however the place was packed with thousands of people. In our opinion the Northbound was the best direction as we ended the tour with Keukenhof and then Amsterdam. If you want to see the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh museum make sure you purchase the tickets in advance. They sell out very quickly. These were the highlights for us. Our local guides were generally very good. The brief tour of the Mauritshuis museum and dinner at Hague was very well done and we really enjoyed it. There had been questions in previous posts about the dress for the special events. I would guess two-thirds of the men had jackets, one-quarter had ties. The rest wore long sleeve shirts and slacks with a sweater. Men were also requested to wear a jacket for the ship farewell dinner. The suggested dress for the ladies previously posted was just right.

I don't have the skills that many of you have to do detailed reviews with pictures, etc. but I am happy to answer any questions. We haven't decided whether we want to go on another river cruise. I don't think Tauck could have done a better job overall, it's whether this is a "product" that we enjoy as much as ocean cruising and land tours......


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    Your post brought back some memories of our 2023 Dec holiday cruise on the ms Grace, particularly the inclement weather. The constant intermittent rain was one thing, but the sustained winds were clocked at seventy (70) miles per hour one day which resulted in Amsterdam's airport having to shut down for a day. Nonetheless, we persevered and Tauck did an amazing job of trying to keep us comfortable while on excursions.

    Like your friends, we had two restless nights because of the winds blowing the furniture on the deck above. The captain apologized several times but indicated that no matter how tightly they tethered the furniture, it would still be clanging around. It was just part of the adventure!

    May I ask about your tour directors? We had Anke, Sonja and Joe, all of who made this trip so very special for us. Nick was the cruise director.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I enjoyed reading about them.

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    Taxare: I was looking at this tour as a possibility for 2025. I have been to Amsterdam many times, so I would probably take the Northbound direction so that we could make our own plans in the City at the end of the tour. I have a couple of questions regarding the itinerary, not sure if it is exactly the same as this year, although it looks similar.

    Did your City Tour include extra time at The Atonium? That looks rather interesting to me, I understand there is a museum there.

    In Antwerp, did you visit The Red Star Line Ship Museum, I was wondering if it is worth the visit. Sounds interesting to me.

    What were your thoughts on the visit to Kinderdijk to view the windmills?

    I can see by the Map, that some of the excursions require a bus ride. Did your riverboat dock within walking distance of some of the towns you visited or did you have to take a bus to the various locations. If so, what was the average length of the bus rides?

    It is interesting that you received a Daily Program Sheet in your cabin mailbox, as the tour we just went on in France has done away with the paper program sheets in order to reduce paper waste. I personally like the paper program sheets for my scrapbook and to remember daily details of the trip. The on-line program sheets cannot be saved or downloaded to a PDF.

    Thanks in advance for your assistance in answering my questions.

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    kfnknfzk, Nick was our cruise director, the tour directors were Anke, Carie and Anna. Carie also does Switzerland which we have booked for next year. All three of the tour directors were excellent.

    travel maven, Regarding the Atomium there was only time for a photo stop and explanation.
    In Antwerp, we did the Red Star Line museum tour and found it fascinating and very well done. This was one of the few times
    that one could walk back to the ship from an excursion. Most of the docking was in an industrial area.

    The windmill tour and short canal ride was quite interesting, especially speaking to the current owner of the Windmill that
    we visited. There was much discussion about water level control during the entire trip and was essential here. Climbing up through the windmill to see the living conditions was worthwhile.

    All but two of the excursions required a bus ride. On the excursion sheet they provide at the beginning of the trip they indicate the estimated total coach travel time for the given excursion and they ranged from 30 minutes to 180 minutes. When we had some free time we used UBER with ease there.

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    I'm on the fence about the paper vs electronic daily schedules. I tend to be a paper hoarder so it's probably just as well that they are reducing it. I used to take a picture of the schedule with my phone so I had it with me all the time. I did notice on our Christmas Danube cruise that the cruise director's desk did have printed copies everyday so that's an alternative.

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    Taxare: Thanks so much for your comments, I appreciate the quick response.
    Claudia: The only reason I like the paper, as I mentioned earlier, is for scrapbook purposes. Otherwise, it is probably good to have it digital. I just wished they had an option to download it to a PDF, which would work for me. That way they are still saving on paper, but one has the option of a printed copy if needed.

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    Concur. I've also found that the daily schedule can contain additional info beyond just the schedule. Things like recipes, history, etc. I suspect this is a work in progress.

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