Today we are reviewing our recent “Venice & the Dalmatian Coast” Small Ship Cruise with Tauck onboard Ponant’s “Le Lyrial” ship and we are excited to share our review with you, but two important points we want to make you aware of first:
- Tauck does NOT own/operate any Ocean Cruise ships so if you do a Small Ship Cruise with them it’ll be on a separate line like Ponant, Silversea, Windstar, etc. where Tauck simply charters space onboard for their guests… or sometimes they charter the whole ship as our’s was
- Taking a Cruise directly with Ponant (without Tauck) would be a VERY different experience and one we would NOT recommend so make sure to have Shawn explain the differences if you’re considering booking direct with Ponant instead of Tauck
As we have done a Tauck Danube River Cruise as well as several land tours with Tauck (as mentioned here, besides Cruises, we also sell Land Tours with Tauck) but we had not done a Small Ship Cruise with Tauck, we were really wanting to get onboard and experience this type of Tauck Vacation so we could report back to you what it was like.
Ok, let’s dive in…
So what is it like on a Small Ship Cruise with Tauck on Ponant’s “Le Lyrial” ship?
Well, first off, this Cruise ship has very much a River Cruise feel in that the ship has just over 200 guests onboard so it’s intimate & not crowded like the big Ocean ships.
In fact, she is sleek looking, so we felt like we were boarding our very own private Yacht each day, see for yourself…
On top of that, the Le Lyrial is small enough to sit in the ports close to the heart of the towns & cities we visited whereas the large cruise ships cannot enter or have to sit much further away from some of the ports we pulled straight into…
Case in point, here we are in a couple medieval towns enjoying the views from our Balcony before we “stepped off” to enjoy… keeping in mind, there were a few “tender” ports but we were never very far from shore…
A small ship typically means a small galley (kitchen) so the menu only had three to four selections for each Appetizer, Entree and Dessert so the menus weren’t huge like on some Big Ocean Ships but the cuisine onboard was fresh and good quality…
…plus, each day/night the Sous-Chef made fresh local specialty dishes (see pictures below) like seafood, pasta and BBQ right in front of us and served it hot along with the daily dishes that were prepared as well as local cheeses, ice cream, sweet treats and breads that are made onboard daily and are VERY hard to resist! 🙂
A Little About The Itinerary:
This Tauck Small Ship Cruise itinerary is a Venice, Italy round trip Cruise which is such a treat as Venice is one of the most unique/amazing cities IN THE WORLD (in our humble opinion) so you will get ample time to play & explore here…
And yes, we would still suggest if your budget & schedule allows, that you add an extra night or so here… we certainly encourage that to get over the jet lag BEFORE your journey with Tauck begins— even with the two hotel night stays included in your itinerary.
We were excited to see, smell, taste and learn about the history & culture of 3 amazing Countries- Italy, Croatia & Montenegro on this 10 day journey with the majority of the trip exploring Croatia…
Croatia is made up of over a thousand islands & islets so after being on the ship and exploring Croatia, we can tell you that there is no better way to see the Country in a smooth and seamless way than by ship…
Instead of wasting a day travelling to each island, waiting in the airport or at the ferry terminal, why not wake up each morning refreshed, sit on your balcony sipping coffee as the ship slips into a new port for you to explore today, like we did here…
That’s what we did each day onboard and we got to sightsee and enjoy the culture and region fully instead of wasting precious time on logistics… that’s key in our minds to a quality, stress free and enjoyable Vacation!
In Tauck style, Tauck puts their spin on small ship cruising and surprised us with little gifts along the way… which we are going to keep secret so they remain a surprise. 😉 PLUS…
The entire trip from start to finish, they have several Tauck Directors on hand (as if the cruise staff wasn’t enough LOL) to ensure all guests are taken care of, supported and have the best experiences.
Here are all 7 of them with their usual bright smiles (note: the amount of Tauck directors on tour with you will vary itinerary to itinerary)…
We witnessed one of the Tauck Directors arrange & walked fellow Tauck guests to a specific restaurant they wanted to try in Venice that was recommended to them by friends back home, very impressive. That’s just one example of whenever you need help they are available.
On most Cruise ships, you’ll have to “get in line and wait” to get help at the reception or shore excursion desk but not with Tauck, they provided their own Hospitality Desk (in addition to Ponant’s front desk staff) to answer our questions “whenever” we had them…
Tauck tries hard to eliminate or cut down on lines and waiting which is a pet peeve for most who are experienced, well travelled and just want it all handled so they can simply enjoy.
On top of that, Tauck had Local Guides show us their city or small town or point of interest, etc. as it is their area of expertise so we had Local Guides everywhere plus we always had Tauck Directors with us on every tour to give us that extra level of service. 🙂
Onboard the ship, Tauck covers the bill for beverages, gratuities, private shore excursions and wifi which makes a “Tauck Small Ship Cruise” an all-inclusive experience!
Three things to note about the inclusions…
- The list of beverages included is a generous selection but as for premium drinks, there is an extra charge. We didn’t feel the need to purchase premium as the selection was a good variety for us but see the inclusions list in this picture we took for you…
2. Unlike other lines, Tauck includes all the best choices for excursions already so you will NOT see additional prices for other tours or add-ons, it’s already included… how Tauck operates is if you’re going to a destination & need to see something, they include it! 🙂
3. Overall, you will have no bill at the end of the trip except for premium drinks, as mentioned if you prefer them, souvenirs and as requested from previous guests “free time to enjoy a couple meals on your own in Venice” (more specifically: one Dinner & two lunches). Other than that, everything is included… airport/train station transfers, gratuities for all ship staff/Tauck Directors/local guides/drivers/porterage, etc., drinks onboard the ship as shown above, all but 3 meals, wifi on the ship, all excursions, etc.!
“Venice & the Dalmatian Coast” Tauck Small Ship Cruise Itinerary:
NOTE: Depending on the year you choose to sail, the order in which you visit the ports of call may change but the ports of call are the exact same, so no worries, you will experience what we show below but maybe in a different order.
Here is how we experienced it but either way everyone starts and stops in Venice so plane tickets are easy to book… Venice round-trip!
When you arrive to Venice its a special experience right from the start with Tauck…
While other travellers were dragging their luggage around the cobblestone & over the Bridges (there’s almost 400 of them in Venice so you cross one every few minutes) and then gasping at the water taxi prices (you see that take place ALL around Venice) we were met by a Tauck Representative with a Tauck sign in hand so we would notice her right away at the train station. (We arrived into Venice by Train, Tauck will pick you up from there or the airport… included in your trips’ price!)
She had a porter immediately take our luggage off our hands and in no time we boarded a private boat and our driver drove through the canals of Venice to take us to our hotel…we couldn’t snap pictures fast enough as the city is just jaw dropping incredible!!!
How neat an experience to get a boat ride to your Venice hotel!!
It was a special experience driving past gondolas and under centuries old romantic bridges, you can’t help but feel like you’re in a James Bond movie, its a pretty great experience! 🙂
You get dropped off and checked into one of the top hotels not far from St. Marks Square and upon arrival there is no shortage of Tauck staff to greet you.
Our Welcome to the Hotel stepping off the boat…
Our Tauck Welcome Dinner…
TIP: This trip is generally “country club casual” in dress but save your dressiest from your packed clothes for the Welcome and Farewell receptions/dinners.
Here is how we dressed one evening during a “Welcome” dinner onboard for ideas of what to pack from your own closet. As you can see, you do NOT need gowns and tuxes…
In Venice, we got to see (in small groups) accompanied by an expert resident guide, the opulently decorated “Doge’s Palace” that was built for the elite during Medieval times and was the primary residence of the rulers so many years ago.
We Visited St. Mark’s Square known as one of the most recognizable squares in the world and we went inside for a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica and took in the magnificence of it all, its gleaming mosaics and other priceless treasures and much more.
Then, we had the afternoon and evening to spend as we wanted.
Have a look at our pictures as a picture is worth a thousand words as they say…
Today, we visited nearby Islands & later embarked the beautiful “Le Lyrial” ship.
After a wonderful breakfast on the terrace over looking the lagoon in Venice, we broke up into small groups & sat up top for more amazing views as we took private boats for a scenic boat ride to the island of Murano to see the famous Glass Blowing where we got to watch one of the artists create a decorative Vase & then a galloping horse… AMAZING!!!
And if you are thinking to yourself “I’ve seen glass blowing before” (which we have to admit, is what we thought) we have to tell you- it’s not the way they do it in Murano which has been perfected and done the exact same way when they began in the Medieval times, don’t miss this!!
We bought a glass horse for 20 euros since we saw one created in front of our eyes! 🙂
Then we cruised to Burano and what a picturesque place that was!!
Beautiful brightly coloured homes & businesses and to top it all off were the canals and bridges… people couldn’t get enough of this place, just check out our pictures below.
Tip: You’ll have free time here today for lunch and it maybe a good idea to Google “Burano Lunch Restaurant Reviews” before you go so you can pick a good spot that appeals to you, ahead of time.
On our way back to Venice, Tauck served us strawberry wine and a local sweet treat while telling us about a little surprise they had in store for us…
We were told last minute that we would be taking private Gondola rides through the canals of Venice, yippeee, so excited for that as it’s THE thing to do in Venice!!!!
Another nice touch which Tauck seems to do on each trip we take with them. We love that they under-promise and over- deliver!!
After that we went to the ship and had welcome drinks and finger food (see picture below) while we took in a short presentation from the Crew & Tauck Directors of what to expect onboard and then we unpacked for the week and happily settled into our home for the next 7 Nights. 🙂
Want to see more of the inside of the ship?
Take a look at our Pictures and Videos to get more information about the ship and staterooms, she is as gorgeous on the inside as she is on the outside.
Tonight we enjoyed the Sail Away in Venice which is not to be missed. We had perma-smiles while we enjoyed cocktails and snapped lots of pictures.
You get the most incredible vistas, sunsets and sunrises while on a cruise ship, that you just can’t get anywhere else!! ~ Nancy & Shawn Power
After a comfy sleep and a great shower (it’s all personal choice but we found the showers to be good pressure and really nice!) we headed out to explore Korcula, Croatia.
The choices for today were a walking tour of Korcula or a Taste of Korcula tour and we chose the later.
Our tour took us on a scenic drive of the harbour & coastline to a winery where we sampled local wines from the island and a tasty pairing of meats, cheeses, olives, dried candied fruits and more.
Once back to the port we all came together in a local theatre for a “Moreska Performance” which is a traditional sword dance from the town of Korcula from the 15th century that required lots of stamina from the performers. Sparks were flying and it was fascinating to watch.
Then we were treated to a delicious ice cream (Tauck does little things like that while on tours with them just to go above and beyond and remind you that they care) before heading back to our “home” onboard…
Back onboard we had a Captain’s Gala Evening on the deck as the sun set and shimmered off the calm ocean that looked like glass and we enjoyed meeting the Captain, sipping welcome cocktails and feasting on a 6 Course Dinner prepared by the executive chef Xavier Etchebes that was quite yummy in our tummies. 🙂
After that the dancers and singers put on a GREAT Cabaret performance for us in the lounge and there was dancing afterwards.
Lots of fun on our first full day onboard!!
This morning we docked in Sibenik, Croatia and took a short bus ride to Krka National Park, just 15 minutes away to enjoy one of THE nicest parks we have ever been in!!
Natural Waterfalls, one of which was 142 feet, flowing water, scenic bridges, clear water that mirrored it’s surroundings— it was truly breath-taking to see the panorama views and walk on the nice platform throughout the park.
TIP: If feeling adventurous you could go on your own and walk a well-written trail all around the park that would take you 35 minutes or you can simply stay with the group for the guided walk.
Do as you choose as it really was for all fitness levels.
At our departure meeting point Tauck provided bananas, apples and water to re-energize us. Nice touch!!
Here are some pictures:
SPLIT, CROATIA (Day five still)
After lunch onboard the ship while docked in the Old Medieval Town and second largest city of Croatia called Split, we took a guided walking tour and a Cetina River Cruise.
(The other option was a shorter excursion including just the Split Walking Tour)
On our tour we first took a scenic drive along the coast past some picturesque riverside towns to Madman’s Mill to enjoy some Croatian food specialties, wine & drinks at a riverside restaurant.
Then we took the river boat down the stunning Cetina River and “ooo’d” and “awww’d” at the views surrounding us… take a look at our pictures below, that’s limestone in those cliffs, absolutely stunning!!
Before going back to the ship, we explored historic Split on foot for 45 minutes and enjoyed gazing at the medieval structures that are still standing today and are well preserved. It’s a pretty town, good for shopping too! 🙂
This morning after an amazing sleep (as it was a FULL day yesterday!!) we arrived in the quaint and one of the most talked about cities in the World… Dubrovnik, Croatia.
After our walking tour we understand why it is so highly spoken about!!
A long defensive city wall surrounds the entire sea side old town and is walkable from end to end with the most incredible viewpoints of Dubrovnik and its encompassing blue ocean. The air is clean and beaches beautiful. (see our pictures below).
Today there were 3 different excursions to choose from…
A Caveat & Wine Tasting, Croatian Traditions plus Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik by Foot excursion or you could simply do nothing at all and have a pool day onboard or movie day or do whatever your heart desires.
We walked the city wall from end to end and strolled thought the city snapping these pictures…
Plus we had a Caviar tasting tonight back onboard, a lovely dinner and listened to a Folkloric Klapa Show preformed by a local men’s choir.
Later that evening we took a romantic stroll about Dubrovnik (as we were not sailing away till midnight) and we have to say, it was even better than our daytime tour. Less people around and less heat too that made our walk enjoyable.
TIP: Try picking an itinerary that gives you an evening in Dubrovnik so you can enjoy it as we did, it is worth it!
Today we celebrated as it was our 77th Country visited as we woke up in Kotor, Montenegro! 🙂
The country of Montenegro is bordered by Croatia, has the most incredible Bay in Kotor and is surrounded by towering mountains.
The old city was constructed between the 12th & 14th Centuries and is a well preserved Medieval town that is listed as UNESCO “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site” for good reason.
Three excursions were listed for today: Kotor & Our Lady of the Rocks, Njegusi & Kotor Walking Tour and finally the Blue Cave Rib Boat Adventure.
We choose the Njegusi & Kotor Walking Tour.
We took a bus up 25 hairpin switchbacks that are along the Mountain’s edge and we enjoyed wonderful views of the city from the drive.
At the top we enjoyed a look around the small village of Njegusi where we took a tour of an old Smokehouse that is still in use today for processing and curing prosciutto.
We learned how this specialty is produced and smoked and then enjoyed a spread of prosciutto, olives, wine and sweets.
TIP: If you are prone to car sickens or nausea this may not be the right tour for you as the drive involves lots of turns.
Tonight, we enjoyed the views while we sailed away from Kotor.
Today we docked in Hvar, Croatia… another UNESCO World Heritage Site with traditions that date back to Antiquity. You will find Lavender fields as far as the eye can see, olive trees and vines filled with juicy grapes for harvest.
There were four sightseeing choices for today: Hvar Island Highlights, Hvar Off-Road Tour, Hvar hiking and Sea Kayaking in Hvar.
We choose the hiking and were really glad we did as the hike started at the top of the Island and we walked down a beautiful path we would never have found on our own. It weaved through small villages, vineyards, lavender fields and olive trees.
After 45 minutes we stopped at a local restaurant and ate prosciutto, cheese, olives and had locally produced wine from the very hills we walked.
Another 25 minutes of walking and we ended our tour with a chance to swim in the ocean for 30 minutes before retiring to the ship.
TIP: If you decide on this tour, bring water shoes as the beach is rocky and of course a towel from the ship if you plan to take a swim!
Another Great day!
Pula & Rovinj, Croatia
This morning we docked in Pula where we took a walking tour and explored it’s quaint town including the amphitheater that was build in the same era as the famous Colosseum in Rome.
We couldn’t imagine what took place here so many years ago, but gratefully, our local expert guide painted a good picture. 🙂
This morning you could also have joined a delicious Olive Tasting Tour… the choice is yours! 🙂
Have a look at our pictures:
We then sailed during lunch and stopped at our last port for the day called Rovinj, known as one of the most romantic cities in world.
Here we had the choice of a Rovinj Walking Tour, Porec & Wine Tasting or an Estrian Truffle Tasting Experience and without a doubt we choose the Truffle tasting as Nancy is fascinated with them and thinks they are the most delicious creations ever. 🙂
Not only was it a Truffle tasting with pasta, ice cream and local wine but much more…
It was a scenic drive to get to the countryside where Truffles are grown readily plus we learned all about how they are grown and are found using dogs… very interesting!
And of course we HAD to buy some truffle products to take home.
Loved this tour!!
We didn’t leave port till 11pm so we walked about this stunning port town and admired the architecture and preservation of the old buildings plus the harbour is super lively with restaurants and leisure boats in the water.
Back in Venice this morning all guests onboard said goodbye to their staterooms by 8 am (schedule your flights from 12pm onward to be give yourself time to get to the airport, check-in, etc.) and then to Ponant’s “Le Lyrial ship” and then we said “until next time” to the Tauck Directors and fellow guests after breakfast before heading home.
Tauck made our disembarkation really easy by taking care of all the luggage and getting them from the ship, to our water Taxi and right to our check-in for departure so we didn’t have to worry or lift anything.
Look how easy it was (here we are walking into the Venice airport with our porter behind us and our Tauck Director up front leading the way)…
What a trip!!
We have some wonderful memories and because we took this trip personally and didn’t just read about it in a brochure, we got you even more details to make your trip even better so here are…
A FEW “FIRST HAND” TIPS FOR THIS TRIP:
- This tour requires guests to be able to walk over cobblestones and climb steps and several of the ports were accessed by a “Tender” (getting onto a small boat off of our big boat) so it’s NOT very suitable for people in wheelchairs or who need assistance walking
- In Europe in certain Countries like Italy, if you order a water at restau