During my recent Tauck river cruise along the Rhine, I can firmly say that it was the latter. This cruise line is set apart by having two dedicated tour directors along with the regular cruise director, all of whom personally greet passengers at the start of the trip and who accompany the group during the guided sightseeing, gala dinners and scenic cruising that make up the itinerary.
The two directors on my cruise were both German and the head chef was Dutch, and they all took genuine pleasure in welcoming us to their countries, sharing anecdotes and traditions and - for the benefit of the American guests - giving a quick politics lesson about the role of the European Union during our visit to Strasbourg. They were keen for everyone to make the most of the destination, always pointing out local curiosities (like German spa etiquette) and buying local snacks such as "stroopwaffeln" for us to enjoy on the coach ride back to the ship.
The ship itself, the MS Grace, is beautifully designed, balancing luxury and comfort. Cabins and bathrooms are all a good size, and Tauck have maximised the space available with their "loft" cabins, which brings lots of natural light to the lower deck. The food in the main restaurant was generally superb, and we also enjoyed having the option of the more casual venue "Arthur's". River cruises don't have the best reputation for evening entertainment, so I was pleasantly surprised by what the ship organised. The classical/folk trio was very well received and the closest thing to being high-brow, while everything else was simply good fun: a German oompah band that blended jazz and slapstick comedy perfectly, a battle-of-the-sexes quiz evening and a dance routine by the staff that got everyone cheering.
The gala dinner that took place in a stately home near Cologne was wonderful and proved how seriously Tauck take the operational side of their business - they make a point of forging relationships with other family business around the world, ensuring exclusive access to historic venues but also giving the occasion a personal touch. The owner of the house led the tour and chatted with each table at dinner, so the lovely welcoming atmosphere of the ship was also extended ashore.
I would thoroughly recommend this Rhine itinerary to anyone who enjoys a mix of historical cities, gorgeous scenery and delicious local food - with some cruise lines you are just a passenger, but with Tauck you really are a guest.
Find out more: Request a Tauck brochure