Our Wonderful Tauck Adventure

Hello Travelers,
We've just returned from the Grand European Cruise and it was wonderful! I thought I would give you some info on the things that we discovered or just things we enjoyed.
We spent our 2 free nights in Amsterdam. We were picked up at the airport with no delay and transferred to the Sofitel. The Sofitel was a delight..never have I had a more comfortable bed. Our room was outstanding. We wanted to adjust to Amsterdam time, so we took a walking tour (3.5 hours) of Amsterdam that was an excellent orientation to this beautiful city. My DH and I had spent hours with travel books and maps which made the walking tour very enjoyable since we were familiar with the streets, attractions and history of Amsterdam. We were warned about bike riders (they have the right-of-way) and those pink bike paths (we learned to always look both ways before crossing the paths and to listen for the bell on the handlebars of the bikes) as well as the narrow trains that seem to be everywhere. There are a lot of tourists as well as inhabitants in Amsterdam!
Before the walking tour,we ate lunch in the cafe at the DeBijenKorf Department Store (very nice store) which was on Dam Square. This gave us an idea of the shopping scene. By the way, we had gotten 1000 Euros before we left the US so we were prepared to pay in Euros.
The walking tour went through the Red Light District which wasn't anything that we expected. There were a couple of young women in bikinis sitting in windows reading books. Some of the shops were not where we would ever shop! Then onward to the historic areas. The canals are gorgeous. Tauck takes you on one of the canal boats for lunch so we did not do a canal boat ride on our own.
We walked back to the Sofitel, took baths and dressed for dinner. The concierge recommended "IndraPura" since we wanted to eat at an Indonesian Rice Table. He made reservations for us and we walked the 7-10 minute walk to the restaurant. The owner of IndraPura welcomed us and we were seated. The restaurant is rather small. The food was really, really good. At first we thought we would never be able to eat all of it, but we did! Back to the hotel and to bed. Sundown was about 10:30 so we had to close the drapes. We were adjusted to Amsterdam time when we woke up the next morning.
We had reservations for a 9.5 tour of the windmills, Delft, the Hague and Maduradam (miniature Holland which was unbelievable). We thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We made our reservations through Viator. Very easy to walk to the tour office.
The next morning, we walked to the Anne Frank house for the tour (we made reservations before we left home and we talked to people who could not get in because the tours were full. Recommend that you make reservations as far ahead as possible). We then walked around the beautiful Jordaan neighborhood and ate lunch in small cafe (drizzling rain so no sidewalk cafe for us). Young wait staff in cafe were very nice to us and food was delicious.
We were picked up at the Sofitel at 3:30 to go to the Swiss Sapphire. Jeremy, one of our Tour Directors, was there and very helpful. We were greeted by Bridget, Tour Coordinator, Tom, great TD, and Domonique, TD, as well as the staff on the ship. We were taken to our cabin which was on the Ruby Deck (214 to be exact). Our cabin was perfect. So much thought had been put into the design. We had those large windows that allowed a wonderful view of the river. We unpacked and went to a welcome cocktail party. It was so much fun! Now I don't care for alcoholic drinks (that's just my taste, I don't mind what others drink) so Diet Coke was my choice. We then went to dinner. The food on the Sapphire was always delicious.
Some things we discovered: The small refrigerator in our cabin was stocked everyday with cokes, diet cokes, OJ and water at no cost. You could ask for a coke, ice cream, soft pretzels or snacks in the lounge every afternoon. The ice cream on the ship was from Belgium and the best I've ever tasted (especially coconut). Beer was included with meals but there was a charge any other time.
There is a great map of the entire river trip from the North sea to the Black Sea with all of the locks on the back of the map...we found this a week into the trip in the leather notebook next to the bed. My DH was delighted since he just loves maps. Any time you don't like the dessert at lunch or dinner, you can order ice cream which is why my middle is bigger today. Housekeepers like to clean (and I mean they clean) your cabin while you're at breakfast so we always put our sign on the door so they knew we were gone. The computers were great (a little slow ) for receiving and sending email which kept our children up tp date on our travels. We did do a little laundry using the clothesline in the shower...easy!
Warnings: not all countries you'll visit are as friendly as you think. Never take pictures of policemen even when they are standing in a heavy tourist area. In fact, our local tour guide told us that the police are not so friendly and to not take pictures. Also, in Bucharest, you'll see signs for "no pictures" on and around some of the buildings. Not all store clerks speak English and not all store clerks are friendly. It was a learning experience.
I guess I've rambled on enough this early morning (a bit of jet-lag remains). I'll be happy to answer any questions you have. I received so much info from the old "Ask and Share" for this trip as well as the others we've taken with Tauck.


  • The most often asked and eternal question: Given the length of this trip (on river) plus casual and the occasional dress up event, how did you deal with the laundry and dry cleaning challenges?
  • I washed out a few undies in the bathroom (there is a pull-out clothesline in the shower). I've learned to pack light for long trips. Nobody cares that you've worn the same outfit 5 times! Also, the fancy dinner is held in a building that is not air conditioned. We were there in June and it was HOT. Men were told to not wear jackets.
    This is your vacation. Enjoy every minute, Pep
  • Peppy, We're not going on the Grand European Cruise but a lot of what you posted will be helpful for our Rhine/Mosel cruise in May 2012. We're starting our trip at the Softel like you and will also be on the Swiss Saphire. It was good to get your insights for a free day in Amsterdam. We've been on several cruises but this is our first river cruise so it was good to get a glimpse of the ship from a travelers perspective. Thanks for your in-depth posting.
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