The Rhine and Moselle Northbound Aug 5, 2016

Just adding a kickoff topic for Northbound Rhine and Moselle cruise. My wife and I will be first time river cruisers, so we'd like learn about others that will be joining us. We're from Austin, Texas, and plan to stay 2 days extra on both ends of the cruise. We're looking forward to the trip, seeing Europe, and making new friends.

Comments

  • Hope you have a great cruise. We did this last Oct (southbound) as our second Tauck river cruise. I wrote a fairly lengthy trip report with mostly logistic details that you might find helpful. We also stayed extra at both ends.

    TTFN
  • Thanks Claudia. I'm sure I'll ask the same questions that first time travelers have for years. My wife want to blend in and not look touristy. What do the locals wear? I've heard they dress no different that we do at home. Since this is an early August cruise, are shorts, short sleeves, jeans, long sleeves for evenings, light jacket, shoes(are hiking shoes best?).

    Is it best to carry money in a money pouch? Are the pick pockets bad on this route?

    What's best from a cell phone perspective? We don't plan to call home as they'd all be in bed. We'll probably send photos via email. I'm planning to use my cell phone for pictures and upload them to the Amazon Photo Cloud later in the evening or early morning since i have Amazon Prime. As for laundry, I've see a lot of posts about DIY laundry, so I'll be prepared for that.

    Luggage... We've purchase 90L roller bags and we'll have backpacks probably. Is this too big, too much?
    Power outlets... Are there plenty in the cabin, or should we plan to bring a multi-outlet thingy. USB power?
    Biking... Is there any biking on this cruise?
    Touring... I'm sure the Tauck Tours are great. But can you separate and see some of the hidden gems in the towns? Any warnings? Is there a list of the best places to grab breakfast or lunch for each town?
    Buying things... I would assume that it's best to ship things home that would be too large to travel with. Any suggestions?

    I'm sure I'll have more questions soon....


  • I'll do my best to answer your questions. Keep in mind we did the cruise in Oct and it was very cool and several times rainy so no one was wearing shorts. In fact several people had to buy gloves, scarves, hats, etc. We did do a French Waterways cruise 2 years ago in July so we have cruised in warmer weather..

    Before specifics on wardrobe one thing to remember is if you dress a little nicer during the day you can go directly to dinner most nights without changing. Saves time and packing space. You can certainly wear jeans, shorts, flip flops, very casual clothing during the day but will feel some pressure to change for dinner. Current Tauck guidance asks that you not wear very casual clothes for dinner (see the Before You Go, What to Pack guidance for this tour elsewhere on the website).

    For your wife, assuming the weather is nice a pair of capris or light weight slacks, skirt, knit top and sandals or comfortable walking shoes during the day. For you, cotton slacks (kkakis, chinos), knit golf shirt and comfortable shoes. You don't need hiking boots, just something you can walk/stand around in for a couple of hours. I do sometimes change shoes after returning for the day just to give my feet a change. For the welcome/farewell dinners, most passengers do dress up a bit for the occasions. A dress, skirt or dress slacks/dressy top for women. For men, dress slacks and dress shirt at a minimum. You can add a tie and/or sport jacket/sweater. Be sure to bring some sort of wrap or jacket for evenings on the sundeck where is can be a bit cool, breezy. Also an umbrella or very lightweight rain jacket may be useful. I used my in France several times.

    As for blending in, face it you're likely to look like an American tourist no matter what - vox headsets hanging around your neck, strolling with a tour guide, camera in hand, etc. Nobody cares.

    On valuables, anywhere there are crowds there is the chance of pick pockets. One man on our cruise had his camera taken in Lucerne. Leave everything you can in the safe in your room - especially your passport. I have a small purse made by Pacsafe specially made with security features. During the day I take some Euros, credit card, debit card, and a copy of my passport and my smartphone for photos. The bag has a hook inside for keys, but I use it to attach a small change purse. My euros go in that and I don't have to worry about dropping it. All this goes inside the bag with the extra lock on the zipper. The outside pocket has expendables like kleenex, lip gloss, eye drops. I also got a special case for my phone that allows me to hook it on a lanyard around wrist. Partially for theft, but also so I don't drop it while taking pictures. When not in use it goes back in my bag. For this particular cruise because it was so cold, I wore a nylon jacket from Landsend with lot of pockets inside and out. I looked a bit bulky but never had to take my purse. There was even a pocket for the vox headset. They make travel vests that would work well for this also.

    My husband has a money pouch which he uses but again, he leaves everything possible in the safe.

    On luggage check with your airline for their restrictions - measurements and weight. If they meet that you won't have a problem. We also have carryons and actually on the river cruises that isn't as much of a concern as on land tours.

    Power outlets - there are 2 110 and 2 220 in your cabin. Sometimes in the hotel room it can take some looking to find outlets. We only bring our smarphones for pictures and checking our email and our kindles. They are dual voltage so the only thing to bring is a European adapter - 2 round prongs. We also bring small battery backups but have never absolutely had to have them.

    No one went biking that I know of, but again the weather wasn't great.

    Yes you can go on your own. Most days there is at least some time to go it alone. If you are leaving the group talk to the TDs so they know your plan, give you suggestions, etc and by all means be back on the bus, at the meeting location or the ship at the specified time.

    On meals, except for the days in the hotel, all meals are provided. My earlier post from last fall had some suggestions for Amsterdam & Basel. In Luxembourg they gave us each 20 euros for lunch on our own. I think we had a burger, but there were other options and in Aug you'll be able to eat at an outdoor cafe. The ship provides so much good food that it's kind of nice to just grab a sandwich and find some place to sit and people watch.

    We've never needed to ship anything. Mostly just buy small items. I always pack a small cloth bag like a reusable shopping bag. It's handy for picnic meals in the hotel or holding items I bought in the duty free at the airport.

    Hope that answers all. TTFN


  • Thanks Claudia.

    I know I can use the WiFi from the boat, but if I were to purchase a SIM card when I arrive...

    Is there a provider covers the entire cruise? If not how would that work?
    Since I start in Basel, where would I make the purchase since I have a concern about the different countries covered.
    Only in emergencies would I expect to make phone calls, but I might like to be able to send texts and maybe email.

    Anyone have any experience with these questions?

  • You can send texts and email from an iPad as long as you have the free wifi on the boat. A good tip is to compose your email on your Notes App, then copy and paste into your email. That way, if you lose your wifi connection while writing an email, you do not run the risk of losing what you have written if the wifi disconnects. So in theory, if you only want your phone for emergencies, we have AT and T and call them just before we leave and ask for one month of international plan, it was $30 last time we did that. It worked fine for our calls. That last trip abroad was not vacation, so we were calling each other in the same country. We generally find that because of the time differences for phone calls and the lack of opportunity to make them at optimum times to the US, we use email. You can also use FaceTime for free when in another country.
  • Nelon, there are people on this forum that understand this one better than I do. I'm attaching a link to Rick Steves website with a pretty comprehensive discussion on this topic.

    https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/phones-tech

    We haven't bothered with setting up our phones for international service for either of our cruises and have never regretted it. The only tech we take is our Kindles and Samsung S4 smart phones. The phones get used for photos, email and websurfing. As British mentioned, the time difference makes talking a bit of a timing challenge. We did know one couple on our first cruise who Skyped back home with their kids (young ones at home) using their Ipad. The ship has laptops you can borrow if you don't have your own WIFI device. The ship's wifi is pretty good on this cruise although they warn you not to do alot of photo uploads to a cloud or try to stream video.

    For emergencies your green spiral book has emergency contact numbers in case anyone at home has to call you. I figure if we absolutely had to make a call the ship's crew and/or TDs would help make that happen and we'd just suck up the cost.

    The only thing we have considered is being able to communicate between my husband and I if we went different directions on the tour - sight seeing or shopping independently. There is a new device we are looking at called a GoTenna that you plug into your smartphone and lets you text and share location data between 2 phones. It's pricy right now ($200) so we are hoping it comes down significantly before our next cruise.
  • Claudia, re Gotenna device. I have noted that you have Samsung phones, but is there an equivalent app for your phone like our 'Find my iPhone' app. When we turn it on, it locates all our devices. So when we were in Madrid last year, my husband was at a conference and I went into the city each day, quite a long taxi drive. He could look at his phone and see exactly where I was on the map on his phone. That was reassuring fro him since I am directionally challenged at times. We had paid for international data calls and texts so I could communicate too and tell him my estimated return ETA.
  • Yes there is an android version. Not sure how they would work if we didn't pay for an international plan at least temporarily.

    We're a year away from our next trip so who knows what will change between now and then. It'll give Mr Sails something to research which keeps him out of trouble (usually).
  • Thanks for all the help...Next question.

    We're arriving in Basel and we're not using a Tauck hotel. What is the best way to arrange airport to hotel transfers? Should I check with the Hotel (Hotel Basel in town)? Or should I just catch a taxi? A better way?

    Same question regarding from the Hotel to the Tauck ship for departure...

    Reverse this in Amsterdam. From ship to hotel, and hotel to airport. Is it any different?
  • Good Afternoon Nelon,

    We'll be joining you on this cruise. We are Ray & Joyce from Ocala, FL, my cousin and her husband, Linda & Dan from Boca Raton will be onboard as well. This will be our 3rd river boat cruise with Tauck and our past experiences with them has been wonderful. We are arriving in Amsterdam one day early and staying at the Tauck hotel. At the other end of the trip we will take the train from Basel to Lucerne for 2 nights and then on to Zurich for 2 nights and will fly home from there. We look forward to meeting you.

    Joyce & Ray
  • We had some discussion of this issue a few days ago and now I'm not totally sure what Tauck will provide if you don't stay at their hotel pre or post cruise so I'd call them to make absolutely sure they won't arrange a pick up/drop off.

    Assuming they don't,

    at the Basel end I would contact the hotel ahead of time and see if they provide a shuttle service. If not, the airport is very close to Basel. There are buses, trains, and taxis. I'm including a link to the airports website with info. Taxis seem to be about 50 swiss francs for a VERY short drive so bus or train would be the best value. Not sure of the cost since one of the perks of a hotel stay in Basel is free tram/bus riding. They give you a card when you check into the hotel but at the airport you may have to pay. You can use a credit card to buy a train ticket from the self serve machines. Otherwise, you'll need Swiss Francs since they don't use the Euro in Switzerland.

    http://www.euroairport.com/en/passengers/access/

    To get to the ship, you can either arrange transport to the ship itself or to the Tauck hotel. Since docking locations can be hard to predict, the hotel is probably the better option. Tauck usually has 1-2 of the Tour Directors at the hotel the morning to answer questions, etc and then in the afternoon at a predetermined time (about 2-3 PM) they will have a bus there to pick up all the people who stayed at the hotel. Definitely ask Tauck about this.

    At Amsterdam, again assuming Tauck or the hotel doesn't offer a shuttle, a cab should be fairly easy for the Cruise Director to arrange for you leaving the ship. There is also a very good tram/train network and the ship docks very close to the main/central Amsterdam train station where all trams end up. If you look on a map of Amsterdam, just to the east of the Central Train station is the cruise ship docking. If the hotel doesn't have a shuttle and you don't want to taxi to the airport, the train is the next best way.

    Spend some time looking at the maps of Basel and Amsterdam, figure out how close your hotel is the the Tauck hotel, the airports, and train stations. Then call Tauck and ask for what help you can get from them.

    And please, after you've learned all this, come back and write a post so others can benefit from your knowledge.
  • @JLam
    We'd love to touch base with you, but it might be mid-trip as we are traveling Northbound from Basel. Maybe we'll see you at the mid-point?

    nelon
  • @Claudia
    As for the transports, I'm going to try Suntransfers.com. They appear to have good ratings and it looks like 27 Euro for the one way trip. I think it will well worth it to not have to drag our luggage around 1/4 mile.

    As for catching the ship at dock, I contacted Tauck, and they suggested we catch a taxi to the Swishotel Plaza Basel (Tauck Hotel) by 2:30pm the day of check-in, and catch the transport used by those Tauck passengers at the hotel.

    Thanks for the help again Claudia. Much appreciated.

    nelon
  • I hear you on the luggage hassle. One of several reasons why we'd have to get a great deal on an alternate hotel to not stay in Taucks.

    Hope you have a great cruise.
  • Based upon our travel agent's feedback our hotel price covered the extra expenses easily on both ends.
  • edited July 2016
    I too would have to save a huge amount to forgo the convenience of a Tauck hotel, prestay or post stay. It includes rides from the airport, all tips and breakfast the next morning, not having to check out before noon and re-packing a bag, organize getting to the Tauck hotel, paying for another taxi ride and tip and missing out on meeting other tour people at the hotel before boarding. Usually on a prestay, you get a nice welcome letter and tips on all aspects of staying in a new city, restaurants, sites, cautions etx. And of course, once you are not a new Tauck customer, your next tour includes a free hotel night before or after your tour, which we have used so often, the price of those free stays must have saved us thousands of dollars.
  • I want to thank all of the people who posted answers to our questions. It's been very helpful and made our planning much easier.

    We're arriving in Basel on Tuesday Aug. 2nd ahead of the cruise start. Staying at Hotel Basel (not Tauck Hotel). We'll meet everyone at the Swisshotel the day of departure.

    Happy and Safe travels to all!

    (nelon) Terry and Tina Nolen
    Austin, Texas
  • nelon wrote:
    I want to thank all of the people who posted answers to our questions. It's been very helpful and made our planning much easier.

    We're arriving in Basel on Tuesday Aug. 2nd ahead of the cruise start. Staying at Hotel Basel (not Tauck Hotel). We'll meet everyone at the Swisshotel the day of departure.

    Happy and Safe travels to all!

    (nelon) Terry and Tina Nolen
    Austin, Texas
    How did you like Hotel Basel? We have reservations there in April.
  • edited August 2016
    @Beached

    Just arrived home from our Rhine/Moselle cruise. BTW... the locals pronounce Moselle - like "Mosil" with a long "o" and short "i".

    Great hotel, location, and reasonable prices in the older part of town. The beds were great, A/C wasn't great, but good. We opened the windows to get some fresh cool air when needed. Room was very clean and modern. Mini-fridge was compliments of the hotel and was restocked daily.

    Only a 5 minute walk from the marketplace (marktplatz). We arrived a couple days early and went there for breakfast and lunch daily. I'd highly recommend the bakery just outside the hotel and to the left up the hill for breakfast. Cupcake store just a bit further up the hill. Both were Excellent! We had Italian food just steps away from the hotel as well, and it was excellent too! Lot's of shopping throughout this area of town. We took the historic walking tours on our own and it was a good way to get oriented to the old side of town and the shopping. We did eat at the hotel. Expensive ($$$), but it was a 7 course meal and worth it.

    If you need to get to the Swisshotel from Hotel Basel for the Tauck transport, take the #6 tram from the marktplatz. Just 10 minutes that way, and the locals don't mind you carrying large luggage.

    Hope this helps....

    BTW...Switzerland is pretty expensive to shop. I suggest you wait until you get to Germany to buy anything expensive. I compared to the US prices and it was quite a bit higher. Enough that we decided to buy our Swiss stuff back home. One cool thing we found that is unique an not that expensive is a colorful waterproof bag in the shape of a fish, that the locals use to hold their dry clothes and use it as an inflatable floatie as they float down the Rhine river to keep cool in the summer weather (not sure you will see them much in April). We can get some good use for it here in Texas as we float down rivers too.


  • Nelon

    Thanks so much for the details about your stay Basel - very helpful!! Hope you had a great trip.

    Beached
  • For Claudia Sails ...

    Claudia -

    hope you see this. Apparently I can't PM you like I could on TripAdvisor.com :-(

    You said in a April 30, 2016 that you had posted a fairly lengthy trip report about the Rhine and Moselle cruise. Can't find it on any of Tauck's forums. Did you post it someplace else?

    Love to see it.



  • That's it! At least it looks like it. I had searched for "trip report," "tour report', but not "cruise report," which is what Claudia dubbed her report.

    Thanks a million for the link!

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