Tauck's pricing is fairly inclusive and that includes all shore excursions. You'll find more than just one walking tour in each port. Starting in 2018, Tauck now offers a variety of choices in every port of call it visits -- and there are usually quite a few ports as Tauck mostly charters space on port-intensive itineraries. On our one-week cruise, we had a choice of 38 excursion options, including classic walking tours, gastronomic- and wine-related choices and active options such as hiking, biking and kayaking. On expedition sailings, you'll also have Zodiac and snorkeling options. We loved the variety of choice and were amazed at the quality of guides on every tour we did; not a single mediocre one among them.
You'll really only get to see wildlife when Tauck charters Le Lyrial's expedition sailings to the Antarctic, though depending on where the ship is sailing at other times you might see birds and marine life. When in the Antarctic, expect to see penguins, seals and a variety of birds. The best spots for wildlife viewing are on Deck 6, either at the front or back of the ship. Deck 7 also offers great views, though it's also where equipment is stored, so be careful maneuvering around it. If weather is poor, the Panoramic Lounge at the front of Deck 6 is ideal, though it fills up quickly.
On Deck 3, just off the guest lounge area, you'll find small spaces for quick wildlife viewing, both port and aft. Make sure to bring binoculars on trips designed for wildlife viewing; Ponant doesn't provide them for use during your cruise.
Tauck offers limited enrichment on its small ship cruises, with most "learning" coming from the local tour guides in the ports you visit. However, there will usually be one or two onboard lectures about the region you're cruising, given by one or two of the Tauck tour directors who are most knowledgeable. These lectures can range from mediocre to excellent, depending on the tour director.
On unusual occasions, one of the local guides might come onboard to give a talk as well. On our Dalmatian Coast itinerary, a guide from Dubrovnik gave a slideshow presentation on what it was like to be trapped inside the city during the four years it was under siege (1991–1995) by the Serbian and Montenegrin army.
Other forms of enrichment might come from performances of local folklore groups, either on land or onboard on days the ship is scheduled to stay late in port. There might also be a few documentaries available on your in-cabin TV related to the destination.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Cruisers do not choose a Tauck small ship for the entertainment, but Le Lyrial does have a troupe of six dancers and three lounge singers. The dancers perform three times during a one-week cruise in the ship's 250-seat theater. They're decent, but the shows reflect a French sentiment that might not appeal to modern Americans. During one show on our sailing, the ladies were decked out in feathers, sheer chiffon or just plain bras and thongs, and would dance-fight over the single male dancer.
The most talked about evening show on our cruise was a classical piano concert with music from Bach, Mozart, Liszt and others, with a camera hovering over the pianist's hands so you could watch how quickly her fingers moved.
You'll also find live music, sometimes with dancing (it really depends on the crowd), in the Main Lounge and piano melodies in the Panoramic Lounge every night until about 11:30 p.m.
There's much less entertainment during the day as most of each day is spent in port; each afternoon one or more of the ship's dancers will offer a Latin or ballroom dance class. There are occasional fitness classes, as well; on our sailing they held a morning stretch class once, an afternoon yoga class twice and an afternoon aqua aerobics class once. Our sailing was also offered a premium whisky tasting (35 euros per person) one afternoon.
Main Lounge (Deck 3): Located on Deck 3, the main lounge is the central gathering spot before dinner when a late afternoon tea is served from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. People return after dinner, when a lounge singer performs and some passengers choose to dance. The lounge has lots of armchair and sofa seat groupings, a small stage and dance floor. Like the rest of the ship, it's tastefully modern, with lots of white and gray, but our favorite aspect was the large ceiling mirror, which gives the room (which actually has a fairly low ceiling) a bright and roomy feel. It also reflects all the furniture and the grand piano upside down, a neat little effect we found amusing.
Panoramic Lounge (Deck 6): As its name suggests, this small lounge is perfectly situated at the front of the ship for watching the scenery through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Its decor mimics what you'll find elsewhere with shades of cream, but here you'll find accents of aquamarine in the color of the armchairs and couches. To one side, at the back, you'll find the ship's library, as well as two computers for getting onto the internet (though one has a French keyboard). Plus, there's a piano for late-night easy-listening music.
Outside is the Panoramic Terrace, where you'll find a number of lounge chairs for those who want to soak up the sun. It's one of the best spots on the ship for picture taking, but it can get windy when the ship is moving at a fair clip.
Open-Air Bar (Deck 7): The ship's outdoor bar is located on Deck 7, at the back overlooking the pool. It's the best place if you want to be outside but in the shade as the entire area is covered. It's also a great spot for catching the sunset with a glass of prosecco in hand. Here you'll find a bar with wicker stool seating, plus tables with chairs and love seats for two or three people. Furniture is white and cream with dark blue or cream cushions, so most of it shows wear easily.
Le Lyrial has a small pool (a little less than 4-feet deep) at the back of Deck 6, with roughly 20 loungers arrayed around it. On the same deck, at the front and on Deck 7, also at the front, you'll find more loungers for sunning.
There is a marina on Deck 2. When in use, you can jump directly into the water for snorkeling, or board a kayak or Zodiak.
You'll find the main service desks in the lobby on Deck 3, including the reception desk and the Tauck ship liaison's desk. (For Tauck cruisers on partial charters, this is also where Ponant's shore excursions are sold to Ponant cruisers only.) The shop is around the corner from the main lobby; you can buy designer clothing, Ponant-branded accessories and a few essentials you might have forgotten at home.
The library is on Deck 6 at the back of the Panoramic Lounge. About 60 percent of the books are in French; the rest are mostly in English. Inside the library are two computers for connecting to the internet, one with a French keyboard, the other with an English keyboard. Internet is included in the price of a Tauck cruise. You'll be given a code at the start of the sailing for 1,000 minutes. If you use up the minutes, you can get a second code.
The photo gallery is on Deck 5; you'll need to scroll through hundreds of pictures on two computer terminals to find photos of yourself.
The ship has three elevators that go between Decks 2 and 6. There is a wheelchair lift on the aft stairs (between Decks 6 and 7) for passengers to reach Deck 7.
There are no self-service launderettes onboard, but a rather expensive pay laundry service is available.
Le Lyrial's spa (Deck 5) is small but it offers a full menu of treatments including massages, facials, scrubs and aromatherapy baths. The salon is similarly full-service, with Kerastase hair treatments (repair, shine, volume, etc.), as well as cuts and styling, manicures, pedicures and waxing. Prices are quite high.
At the back of the spa, you'll find a hammam (Turkish steam room); bathing suits are required.
There's also a small fitness center on Deck 5. It has three treadmills and three stationary bikes, as well as one recumbent bike, all by Techno Gym. There's also a resistance band machine, with picture instruction that we were never able to figure out. There are no free weights, but there is an exercise ball. Most days there was a free fitness class offered in the afternoon; classes ranged from stretching to yoga and water aerobics.
Tauck's small ship itineraries do not generally attract families (other than in the Galapagos), nor is Le Lyrial particularly well-suited to kids. There is, however, a game room on Deck 5 with kid-friendly board games and flat-screen TV hooked up to a Wii. Kids' menu items are available upon request in the dining rooms. There are no family accommodations on the ship, but several of the suites do have two bedrooms.