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Why We Travel

Posted by Guest Blogger on 9/25/2017
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Switzerland, Europe, Travel, River Cruise

As long-standing members of the United States Tour Operators Association, founded as a tour operator advocacy group to safeguard travelers’ interests, foster trust and encourage high standards of tourism around the world, we were invited to take part in their “Why We Travel” campaign.

This 2017 program was created to put a spotlight on why we travel together by taking you behind the scenes with travelers who explored the world with tour operator members like Tauck. Our Switzerland: Europe’s Crown Jewel was chosen as one of their featured destinations. Tauck guests Diane and Scott Buchanan shared their reasons for choosing Switzerland as their vacation destination, and why they selected Tauck to take them there, with the photojournalists from USA Today. 

The following article by GET Creative, a division of USA Today, originally appeared on USAToday.com and is being republished here with permission. Click here for original article.

HEAVEN ON EARTH:
SWITZERLAND’S STUNNING MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE

Swiss efficiency and natural beauty allows travelers to maximize their time

If a comparison to heaven comes to mind while you’re standing on the top of Monte San Salvatore, looking out over southern Switzerland’s glittering lakes, mountains and quaint towns adjacent to the Italian border, you’re in good company. “The legend says that on the day of the ascension, Jesus Christ stopped here just to have a last view of the world’s beauty,” local tour guide Jaime Perdomo explained while looking out over the expansive view from nearly 3,000 feet above sea level. “Now pilgrims come here to follow the legend and feel themselves near to heaven.”Thirty such United States-based travelers spent 11 days traveling on Tauck’s Switzerland: Europe’s Crown Jewel tour, exploring nearly all the corners of the country, from Gruyères and Montreux to Zermatt and Lucerne to Interlaken and Lugano. Though it is an ambitious bucket list, the Tauck travel team, with their cadre of tour architects, tour directors, expert drivers and local guides created a carefully choreographed itinerary that rivaled even the Swiss reputation for efficiency. It played out beautifully for traveler Scott Buchanan, who was on the tour with his wife, Diane. “It sounds regimented. But with a little bit of efficiency, you increase your experience exponentially,” he says. “In the end, it’s more relaxing.”

That’s not an accident for Tauck, a company that became the world’s first licensed tour operator in 1925. With river cruises, land tours and family tours in Switzerland, the organization has deep and wide connections in the tiny Alpine country (and throughout the world—they operate on all seven continents). While anyone can book their own travel and accommodations, on a Tauck tour, even the mundane concerns like tipping a bellhop or a driver to the airport are handled in advance, so the travelers can relax and enjoy every experience. “I prefer this because of the effortlessness of it,” Diane explains. “We know that once we get to the airport, Tauck has us. We can relax and we don’t have to think anymore. It’s your vacation and that’s a really big part of it.”

Effortless enjoyment is a main focus for the tour operator, who is heavily involved with the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), as is a balance of must-see bucket list experiences and under-the-radar finds that can turn a trip from good to outstanding. “We talk about access to things that you couldn't easily find on your own,” Tauck president Jennifer Tombaugh says. “Our product teams are driven to find that hidden gem or undiscovered territory and we let our guests be part of that.”

"THE DIVERSITY AND VARIATION OF THINGS REALLY MADE THE TOUR SOMETHING UNEXPECTEDLY GREAT"

One such treasure is the aforementioned Lugano, a city rarely included on group tours. However, on this one, guests spent two nights at the Hotel Splendide Royal overlooking pristine Lake Lugano. In addition to a walking tour by local guides, the tour featured a wine tasting cruise with Valentina Tamborini, the granddaughter of the Tamborini Vini’s founder. She shared her family’s winemaking passion and introduced a local specialty, white Merlot, to the delight of guests.

After leaving Lugano, the guests dipped into Italy for a shopping excursion on the shores of Lake Como and a three-course lakeside lunch before boarding a 45-foot luxury motorcoach to take on some of the Alps’ adrenaline-pumping switchback roads en route to St. Moritz. “One of the things that interested me most about Switzerland was that this itinerary provided such a balance of things to do,” Scott said. “The diversity and variation of things really made the tour something unexpectedly great.”

After an a la carte dinner at the elegant Les Saisons and a restful night’s sleep at the five-star luxury Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, the group of 30 guests, ranging in age from 43 to 80 years old, hopped aboard their private glass-domed train car on the Glacier Express. Dubbed the “slowest fast train in the world,” the journey was a beautifully scenic tour through some of Switzerland’s arresting countryside, complete with turquoise glacial rivers, towering bridges and quaint Alpine villages. During the five-hour journey, some guests took photos or played cards with new friends, while others shared wine picked up on previous tour stops.

Tours of this caliber tend to be filled with like-minded travelers, some of whom seem destined to become lifelong friends. “I loved Switzerland, but the relationships we made enhanced that,” Diane says. “We’ve made friendships I think will last a lifetime. You learn from people and I like that.” Case in point? The Buchanans are making plans to travel on a Tauck Danube River Cruise with two couples from Boca Raton and one New York City-based woman in summer of 2018. As a founding member of USTOA, traveling with Tauck gives guests added peace of mind, knowing that any and all tours with them will adhere to the highest standards of truth, clarity and accuracy in advertising and top industry standards of excellence in service. It’s one of the reasons that the Buchanan's Switzerland trip was their ninth with Tauck.

"WE'VE MADE FRIENDSHIPS I THINK WILL LAST A LIFETIME"

Tombaugh highlights that those ultra-high standards are a common thread among USTOA member organizations. “We may compete in the same areas, but we share that passion for wanting to change the world through travel,” she says. “We believe we do that every single day. We continue to move forward, continuing to show travel agents and guests that the world is a big, wonderful place we all need to discover, and how better than with someone who can guide you?”

Next up on the tour was a true mountaintop experience: After an evening in Interlaken’s posh Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, tour guests made their way to the “Top of Europe.” The Jungfrau Railway, the continent’s highest cogwheel train, deposited guests at 11,332 feet on the Jungfraujoch, or “saddle” between the Jungfrau and the Mönch mountains. From there, they walked on the vast Aletsch Glacier (the largest in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site) and explored the Ice Palace, with its tunnels and ice sculptures carved right into the glacier. A private aperitif reception in the “secret” Ice Bar offered a truly insider experience, just for Tauck guests, complete with sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres. The experience was a highlight for many of the guests, including Scott. “It’s tough to pick one thing that you love about this itinerary,” he said. “But of all the wonderful things we did, that was a standout.”

Tauck’s product manager and the mastermind behind the Switzerland: Europe’s Crown Jewel tour, Mihaela Weaver, makes it a point to balance structured time with free time, so that guests are able to pursue their own interests and quality time with their companions. After an exciting day on the Jungfraujoch, the Buchanans shopped for a watch to commemorate their thirtieth anniversary, one adventurous trio opted to fill their free afternoon with an adrenaline-filled paragliding flight, while still others took a cable car to the top of another of Intelaken’s peaks, Harder Klum, for a sunset dinner.

From the countless moments orchestrated by Weaver in advance and tour director Daniel Huerlimann, a Lucerne native, from an informative walking tour of Bern’s Medieval old town to a visit to Château de Chillon on the shores of Lake Geneva and so much in between, the goal of effortless travel, memory-making and fun was achieved and then some.

"WE WANT TO TAKE AWAY ALL THAT HASSLE & LET YOU JUST BE THERE AND BE PRESENT WITH THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE"

“When you come away with Tauck, people take a deep breath and relax and be present in a destination,” Tombaugh says. “What greater gift is that? We want to take away all that hassle and let you just be there and be present with the people you love.” Whether the Swiss San Salvatore legend is only myth or not, a trip like that sounds like our definition of heaven.

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