In a ceremony replete with the tunes of a marching band, speeches from local dignitaries, and the traditional smashing of champagne, Tauck family members and executives joined with selected partner-suppliers and travel agents to celebrate the christening of the new ms Grace riverboat in Maastricht, the Netherlands yesterday. The launch of the sleek and elegant ms Grace comes as Tauck is more than doubling the size of its European riverboat fleet, from four vessels at the start of 2014 to nine later this year with the June christening of another new ship, the ms Joy.
Following remarks from Tauck CEO Dan Mahar and Maastricht mayor Annemarie Penn-te Strake, the ms Grace was officially christened by three long-time Tauck employees who guide the company’s river cruising efforts. Sharing godmother honors were Katharine Bonner, Senior Vice President of Tauck River & Small Ship Cruising; Rebecca Sellet, Director Worldwide Operations, River & Small Ship Cruising; and Michelle Lavrado, Product Manager for European River Cruising. After the christening ceremony, the ship embarked on a celebratory three-night cruise to Amsterdam highlighted by in-depth shore excursions in Antwerp, Dordecht and Kinderkijk during the day and onboard folkloric performances in the evening.
“The christening of this beautiful new ship is a wonderful opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to all of the people who work so hard to make Tauck river cruises the best in the world,” said Mahar. “We’re thrilled to honor not only Katharine, Rebecca and Michelle, but also the many incredible partners who’ve joined us for this great occasion.” Those guests included Celia Sandys, the noted biographer and granddaughter of Winston Churchill, who speaks to Tauck guests on selected itineraries. Other partners in attendance who provide Tauck guests with special access and unique experiences included a countess, a baron, the general manager of a world-class luxury hotel, and executives from some of Europe’s most prestigious museums.
THE MOST SUITES OF ANY EUROPEAN RIVERBOATS
Like the other ships in Tauck’s fleet, the 135-meter ms Grace will have far more suites (defined by Tauck as staterooms of 300 square feet or more) than any other European riverboat. Located on the ms Grace’s upper Diamond deck, each of the ship’s twenty-two suites is furnished with two French balconies featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, a pull-out couch, roomy walk-in closets with built-in drawers, and a spacious bathroom with rain shower.
Along with the suites, the ms Grace will have eight award-winning, 225-square-foot Loft cabins located on its lower (Emerald) deck, an additional 24 junior suites of the same size on the Ruby (middle) deck, plus a total of 13 cabins ranging from 150 to 190 square feet split between the Ruby and Emerald decks. All suites and cabins feature in-room movies, minibar, individual heating and cooling controls, luxury toiletries, and plush bedding with 100% goose down pillows, 400-thread-count linens and pillow-top mattresses.
As on other Tauck riverboats, the ms Grace will carry far fewer passengers than similarly sized ships operated by other lines, yet it will have far more director-level staff. Where the 135-meter-long ms Grace will carry just 130 guests, other lines’ 135-meter ships carry 190 passengers, or 46% more guests. And instead of assigning a single cruise director to tend to those 190 guests, Tauck staffs each ship with a Tauck Cruise Director plus three professional Tauck Directors to care for 130 guests.
With fewer passengers aboard the ms Grace, Tauck is not only able to provide more suites, but also an intimate, club-like atmosphere and a second onboard dining venue, Arthur’s, with its own dedicated, open kitchen. Named for company chairman Arthur Tauck Jr., Arthur’s offers more casual dining as an alternative to the fine dining in the ship’s main dining room, the Compass Rose.
TAUCK’S DESTINATION FLEET
For all the thought and effort that Tauck builds into its European riverboats – collectively referred to as its Destination Fleet – the company maintains that what truly distinguishes its river cruises are the enriching, in-depth destination experiences Tauck guests enjoy. “Our Destination Fleet is comprised of the finest riverboats in Europe,” says Tauck CEO Mahar, “but that’s only half the story. We take even greater pride in the enriching and memorable destination experiences we deliver in every place we visit. They’re a winning combination of insider access to exclusive experiences, our 90 years of expertise leading land tours, and the fantastic service provided by our Tauck Directors and local guides. It’s the onshore and onboard experiences that keep our guests coming back,” he concluded.
The ms Grace will sail on itineraries along the Rhine and Moselle Rivers, and her christening comes at a busy time for Tauck. The company recently announced its 2017 river cruising plans, which include a new family itinerary on the Seine and a doubling of its total family river cruise departures. Tauck has also announced the reconfiguration of the five 110-meter ships in its fleet, to be completed in stages over the next two years.