Tomorrow marks the start of another exciting Live Voyage Report, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be returning to Europe and the gorgeous Danube River.  For the next 12 days, I want to take all of you here reading this site on a magnificent journey with Tauck that will see us travel from Budapest, Hungary to Prague in the Czech Republic onboard the beautiful Swiss Jewel.

The itinerary map for our Live Voyage Report aboard Tauck’s Swiss Jewel. Illustration courtesy of Tauck.

Ironically, I saw the Swiss Jewel on my very first river cruise experience this past December.  We were literally tied up next to it in Passau, Germany and had to cross over its upper deck in order to reach shoreside.  And I remember looking at its sleek white hull and sea-foam green accents and saying to myself, look at that! Not that the ship I was on was any slouch; far from it.  But something about the Swiss Jewel struck a chord with me.  I took out my pen and trusty mini-notebook I keep in my jacket pocket, wrote her name down, and made a mental note: I had to sail aboard her.

Come sail the Danube with us, as our Live Voyage Report takes us aboard Tauck’s Swiss Jewel on a journey from Budapest to Prague. Photo courtesy of Tauck.

But this fantastic itinerary doesn’t just take place aboard the Swiss Jewel. It begins with two full days in Budapest before embarking the ship on Saturday and two days in Prague at the end of our shipboard journey. Best of all, it’s all part of the experience: Tauck’s skilled Directors will be there to guide us every step of the way.

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

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Tauck prides themselves on the fact that their tours are all-inclusive; there are no options sold, and no sales pitches made.  In fact, aside from the odd meal ashore or alcoholic beverages like spirits, there’s very little you are actually on the hook for. Knowing up-front what your trip costs, rather than being surprised by add-ons, is refreshing indeed.

Tauck’s pre-cruise documentation is wonderfully comprehensive. Photo © Aaron Saunders

During my traditional pre-cruise planning, it struck me that I had very little to do.  Tauck provides each guest with a pre-cruise booklet that rivals anything I’ve ever seen and features day-by-day guides customized for your trip, along with detailed booking information, flight information, and hotel contact information. There’s even a perforated page you can tear off to give to friends and family.

In this age of “print-it-yourself”, documentation like this really sets the stage. It was my first hands-on experience with Tauck, and they’ve hit it out of the park!

I’m already an unabashed river cruising convert. When I first started cruising, I always thought bigger was better. But in the past few years, I started to realize that small, intimate ships with low passenger counts delivered a kind of cruising experience that just isn’t possible on a mega-ship. Even though river cruise ships typically hold less than 200 guests, Tauck has taken their four elegant ships one step further by limiting them to a maximum of 118 guests when they could easily hold more.

We begin our journey back in Budapest, Hungary, with its magnificent Parliament. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

I found river cruising was such a profound surprise that it frequently overwhelmed me with its astonishing beauty.  How else in the world can you see places like Vienna at night, then sail up the Danube the next day, bound for Budapest?  It simply has to be experienced to believed.

For me, this journey is the next exciting chapter in a book who’s ending has not yet been written.  I finished my first river cruise in Budapest on a cold December morning, so it seems only appropriate then that our journey aboard Tauck begins in Budapest, picking up where I last left off.

But that doesn’t mean this will be a collection of ports you’ve already heard about. Along the way, I’ll be visiting places that are entirely new to me, like Bratislava, Durnstein, Cesky Krumlov and Prague itself.  But I’ll also have the opportunity to do and see more of my favorite cities, like Budapest, Vienna, Passau and Regensburg.

And of course, I’ll be taking you all there along with me. Each day, internet connection permitting, we’ll bring you another Live Report from the beautiful Danube and Tauck’s Swiss Jewel.

Aboard Tauck’s Swiss Jewel, we’ll get to spend some time ambling around the beautiful German town of Passau. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Our coverage begins tomorrow, with a series of flights onboard one of my favorite carriers, Lufthansa, that will whisk us to the beautiful Hungarian city of Budapest, with its magnificent Parliament, Fisherman’s Bastion, and numerous marketplaces. I love flying with Lufthansa; the last two times I flew to Frankfurt, I even did so aboard the same aircraft, an Airbus A340-300 in Star Alliance livery known as D-AIGC. Tomorrow though, I’m slated to fly on a massive Airbus A340-600 – the second-longest aircraft in the world. And that’s pretty cool!

It’s 12 magnificent days of European River Cruising a’la Tauck – and it starts right now, here on From the Deck Chair!

Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Tauck’s Swiss Jewel begins tomorrow, as we fly to Budapest, Hungary and join our tour group for a dinner at the amazing Hungarian Academy of Sciences! Our first report will be filed on Thursday, September 27th!


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