Traveling the World & Appreciating Good Value – A Discussion with Tauck Travelers

Posted by Mary-Frances Walsh on 5/23/2014
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Tauck, Travel

As a company that depends on word of mouth to grow our business, we thrive on guest feedback. It’s how we make sure that we’re providing world travel that is truly beyond ordinary.

So we were delighted when local Tauck travelers, Scott and Diane Buchanan, offered to share their views on their Tauck travel experiences at a recent company meeting in our Connecticut office. We looked forward to hearing good things from them and were interested in learning how we can do better. But their discussion reminded us of how traveling the world creates awareness and an appreciation for good value – especially within a family context.

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Scott and Diane are not new to travel. They’ve planned their 7th Tauck trip for later this year; have taken land tours, river cruises and ocean cruises; traveled with other tour operators and on their own. Both are young retirees who enjoyed careers in corporate finance and share a passion for travel.

Diane grew up traveling from the age of 12, when her mother first shepherded her and her grandmother on a whirlwind tour of Europe. Her mother, a pragmatic woman, stressed the value of “education and travel, not fancy clothes.” She knew that travel would make her daughter’s world a bigger one.

Scott spent 26 years in corporate purchasing, ultimately as PepsiCo’s Senior Vice President of Global Procurement. His work entailed quite a bit of business travel, which gave him a focus on the world. “Having bought for a career,” he says that finding value in travel is something near and dear to his heart.

Together they have raised a daughter and two sons, now 26, 24 and 19 – travel-troopers since the youngest was eight years old. On one of their first (non-Tauck) tours as a family, they missed a wake-up call at the hotel and were given five minutes to get out the door to the waiting bus. In a panic, Diane headed first to check on the kids. She found the threesome ready to go, backpacks on, and ready to roll for the day. They’ve loved travel ever since, so much so that they never let their parents forget that Scott and Diane enjoyed Tauck’s Classic Italy without them!

Buchanan image 2How did you first learn about Tauck?
Scott: From a friend, a “toughie,” who had been on a couple of Tauck tours and raved about his small ship cruise experience on Venice & the Dalmatian Coast. I’d also seen photographs taken by a Polish worker who had sailed the Dalmatian Coast after the end of the Croatian War; the views were gorgeous. So we opted to make this cruise our first Tauck experience; it was fabulous.

How so?
Scott: It was not our first time in Venice, but our first time in Venice with Tauck. We stayed at the Hotel Danieli, one of the most beautiful hotels in the world, at the head of the Grand Canal and central to everything. When we had visited Venice on a tour with another travel company, our hotel was located out-of-the-way in an industrial area. Being in the middle of it all, with Tauck, was simply no comparison.

Your first Tauck river cruise was The Black Sea to Budapest, not always a beginning river cruiser’s experience. What attracted you to this itinerary?
Scott: Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia – an interesting part of the world. We found the experience unbelievable and the tour top notch.

You’ve cruised with other riverboat companies. What makes Tauck river cruising different?
Scott: With Tauck river cruises, it’s “hard value.” There are no options sold and no tipping – no expenses that can add hundreds of dollars to your final cost. Fewer passengers on board make it much more manageable; you don’t get jams loading and unloading for sightseeing ashore. It also means a more relaxed atmosphere. We’ve also enjoyed talking to some of the chefs after dinner, learning about local foods and why they choose to cook what they did.

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Tauck sightseeing is a cut above everyone else’s and this is real value. In Amsterdam, we visited the Rijksmuseum and then hopped on a canal boat just outside the museum to tour the city. That doesn’t happen with other river cruise companies. When we visited the Vatican Museums on Classic Italy, we visited after hours with a small group. That’s a different experience than being there with the crowds – which we’ve done. Tauck can be a bit more expensive, but when you spend a little more, you get something great.

Diane: We’re both finance people. When I add up all that’s included: hotel, tips and luggage handling for five people when we travel as a family… and all the intangibles, like the reassurance of knowing that if something goes wrong, Tauck will handle it – we’re able to relax. Not spending the extra on Tauck is not good value.

Did having four Tauck Directors aboard the riverboat make a difference?
Scott: With Tauck, you know you’ll get ‘competent and compassionate’ tour directors. They’re really good at what they do and they’re also nice, friendly people. That makes all the difference in the world. Having three Tauck Directors plus a Cruise Director onboard means they’re there all the time, making sure everything goes well. Even when you’re out seeing wonderful things, a tour director can make them seem more so. You get to know the Tauck Directors and they get to know you as travelers; it makes everything so much better.

What makes traveling on a tour appealing to you?
Scott: Not having to worry about anything; someone else does. While I was still working, I didn’t want to have to worry about what we did every day on vacation, with one child wanting to do one thing and another something else. From arrival at the departure airport to the journey-home airport, it was all taken care of and I loved it.

How do you find the Tauck experience before and after a tour?
Diane: I know that with Tauck, I can expect competent employees. They’re really good at what they do. We once arrived at the airport and found that the airline had shorted us by one seat, due to the airline’s name confusion between Scott and our youngest son. So I just called Tauck and it was taken care of. I keep Tauck in my phone. Especially when traveling with children, it gives you a sense of security.

Buchanan image 4How was traveling with Tauck as a family on a non-Tauck Bridges trip?
Diane: When our children were younger, we didn’t know about Tauck Bridges trips (designed for families). The Tauck Directors often complimented our children for being well-behaved. We’d say, “They should be; they’re getting the experience of a lifetime.” As they’ve gotten older, they have fit right in on Tauck’s classic land tours. And the river cruises give them the flexibility to do their own thing at times.

Does the size of Tauck groups make a difference?
Scott: A huge difference. When you board a tour bus and the sign says “Max. Occupancy 66 persons” and there are 66 bodies on the bus, it’s a very different experience than with 35-40 (or less, on small group departures) with Tauck.

Have you ever traveled on a large cruise ship?
Diane: We went to Alaska on a ship carrying about 1800 people. I felt lost in the crowd. If there are 100 guests on a Tauck riverboat, you won’t make friends with everyone. But you will find that Tauck guests look out for one another. When out exploring in a town in Europe, I had guests telling me that they’d just seen Scott and the kids…

Scott: Traveling to the Dalmatian Coast on Tauck’s small ship cruise was like traveling on a Bentley; traveling by big ship was like traveling on a VW bus.

Are Tauck brochures helpful?
Diane: They’re fun! They make us smile.

Scott: And they’re really important. As a Purchasing guy, I go through them with a fine-toothed comb. I want to know what I’ll see while I’m on vacation and what’s included. I look at the number of places visited, the included meals and the number of ‘real’ tour days. Although I like to compare the nuts and bolts, it’s the intangibles that matter most.

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Any other thoughts you'd like to share?

Scott: Many times, our ideas about where to travel next come from the other guests on a Tauck trip. We meet people who make us feel like we never left New York!

Diane: Unless you have the time to do the research, you’ll never see or do as much, never get as good a price, and never fill your travel day as you will on a Tauck trip… because you’ll have the luxury of Tauck’s researchers, finding the best of the best.

What could Tauck do better?
Scott: River cruising has become so popular today that I think it’s important to consider how to make the experience different from the rest, like docking in the best places, maneuvering to avoid the crowds, and stopping in places off-the-beaten path.


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