This was the best river cruise we have ever taken. No detail was too small or overlooked. Everything ran like clockwork allowing for a very relaxing yet very adventuresome cruise.
We arrived a day early in Vienna and Tauck had arranged for us to stay at the beautiful historic Grand Hotel Wien right on the Ringstrasse. We were able to walk to many of the sights from there such as. Viennna Opera House, the Museum Quarter. Being Christmas time, Vienna was a city of a million Christmas lights. You are transported to a feeling of excitement and joy of the season that you do not get when you are running from the mall to the stores.
Tauck picked us up at our hotel, The Grand Hotel Wien, and took us directly to our ship. The staff quickly and efficiently checked us in and escorted us to our cabin. Tauck had picked up our suitcases at our hotel that morning and all of our bags were waiting in our room when we got there. Our room steward showed up a few minutes later with a couple of glasses of champagne and introduced herself to us.
The shore excursions are all included in the price and there were three to select from each day. For instance in Nuremburg Germany, you had a choice between a bus driving tour of the city, a WWII historical tour, or a medieval walking tour of the old city. There was something for everyone. You did not even have to select your tour until a half hour before disembarkation for the shore excursion.
There were a total of 3 tour directors and a cruise director that were available at all times. They were all extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the area. By the end of the trip, they and the other 99 passengers felt like family.
We have taken other tours where we were nickeled and dimed to death. Not here. Everything is included in the price. If you want a glass of wine or a burger, it is yours. They passed out bottles of water before we disembarked and had hot cocoa, a heated cloth and some cookies waiting for us when we arrived back at the ship. We never spent a penny on the ship.
The ship was immaculate. She was christened in summer of 2016 and we sailed her in December 2016. The staff never stopped cleaning her and everyone was responsible for keeping her in tip top shape. She was well designed and beautiful in every way.
The staff learned our names on the first day and we quickly became friends with all of them. Only the Tour Directors and Cruise Directors work for Tauck. Everyone else works for the company that owns the ship, Scylla. Scylla does a marvelous job of hiring. It was almost as if they instinctively answered "yes" to every request and then went about figuring out how to honor it. There were some difficult passengers on our ship (of course) but the Scylla staff were more professional than any cruise staff that I have encountered and they killed them with kindness.
I HIGHLY recommend a riverboat cruise with Tauck/ Scylla. It is clear that both companies have the same priorities and mission. Trust me if you get the chance to sail the Danube on the MS Joy and visit all of the amazing Christmas Markets, it will be the trip of a lifetime.
The cabin was beautiful with a huge bathroom and a closet bigger and nicer than my own. The ship does not have balconies. Scylla apparently completed a study and found that passengers appreciated the square footage that is used on the balconies be put back in the stateroom. This meant that the stateroom was very large. We had 2 sliding glass doors so we were able to sit on our couch or the 2 room chairs and blissfully watch the world go by.
Schonbrunn was beautiful and we had a private tour of the palace. Afterwards, we had time at the Christmas Market. Our Tour Director gave us a coupon for a warm drink so that we could take home the unique specialty mugs.View All 179 Schonbrunn Palace Reviews
We were only in Melk for the morning. Once again, we had a private tour of the Abbey. It was very cold that day so we chose to not walk through town but take the bus back to the ship.View All 182 Melk Abbey Reviews
We had another amazing walking tour of the old town and the cathedral. The Regegensburg Wurst Kitchen is a must stop. They have been producing sausages since 1135 and still serve lunch sausages and sauerkraut every day. This is a great spot for lunch.
We took a walking tour and a Cathedral tour in the morning and then went to the Christmas Market at the Taxis und Thurn Palace. This was by far our favorite Christmas Market as we felt transported back to medieval timesView All 112 St. Stephen's Cathedral Reviews
This was part of the Cathedral Tour.View All 218 Walking Tour Reviews
We chose to take the bus tour to Salzburg and we were not disappointed. We took a walking tour of the old town and saw many of the sights from the Sound of Music. We then had lunch St Peters Stiftskellar, the oldest restaurant in Europe. It was very cool to be eating where Charlemagne dined. After lunch, we had time to explore the Christmas Market.View All 70 Old Town Tour Reviews
We chose to do the bus sightseeing tour and then visit the Christmas Market. This was our least favorite Christmas Market as it was so crowded that we felt unsafe. We picked up a couple of Christmas ornaments and then spent the rest of the time wandering the old town.