The M/S Treasures is a purpose-built ship designed exclusively for travel on European rivers. It was completed in 2011 and put into service in October. There are many similarities among different companies’ ships so that they pass under bridges along the river, fit into locks side-by-side, and squeeze through narrow river gorges, such as on the Danube, where the width is only 150 feet in one area.
But there are differences, and what differences! Treasures features floor-to-ceiling sliding glass windows in almost all cabins, with one or two French balconies. There is a spa and fitness center, along with a length-of-ship sun deck. Interior décor is elegant in everything from lounges to dining rooms to passageways, but the feeling and atmosphere – and dress requirements for passengers – is casual. Only 118 passengers aboard, with 29 crew.
All excursions are included, and when they say gratuities are inclusive, they mean everything from ship staff to local guides, and no one expects anything more.
An interesting feature of these riverboats is that they are unable, because of available space, to dock one in front of or behind another. The “dock” of a typical riverside town consists of a pontoon anchored to the shore, and a riverboat docks alongside. If a second or even third riverboat needs access to the shore, they dock alongside and parallel to the first docked ship. Here is where the common elements of European riverboats come into play. All of them have entry and egress at the same place, and at the same level, as all others. When they are required to dock alongside each other, passengers simply walk across and through the lobby of the first (or second) ship nearest the shore. One of the accompanying photos shows the doors at the level where all passengers of an adjacent ship can pass through.
The ship is easily walkable, and there is one elevator, between only two of the four decks. They make it clear that they do not cater to guests with special needs. The tours are strenuous, with extensive walking and climbing, and there is no accommodation for wheelchairs, either aboard or on tour. So don’t put these tours off for when you are older, and think you can sit on board and watch Europe flow by.
Tauck, the tour operator, staffs these cruises with three “Tour Directors” on board, who are extremely knowledgeable about nearly everything connected with the region visited. They accompany each tour and provide supplementary comment to local tour guides, who are assigned to each tour. Back on board, they provide the cultural and historic background through a series of onboard lectures and presentations, so that one feels as if he has truly been immersed in the visited regions.
And a last word about food and service. All of the above is enough to make you not care about food and service. But, not to worry, both are top notch. Service on five-star cruise ships is expected and taken for granted, and rarely disappoint. Food, on the other hand, can never be taken for granted on a ship. European river cruises have a distinct advantage in that they can put in frequently for fresh supplies – especially fresh fish – and Tauck does that, often offering two or three different fish dishes at dinner. Lunch is primarily buffet, but not the steam table variety. Today, duck confit was a choice on the buffet table.
So here we are, sailing through all of Europe on three rivers, through 2000 years of ever-changing history, trying to absorb as much as we can in only three weeks. And doing it in the most extreme comfort. How lucky can you get? For more pictures of the riverboat, click here.