This will be a mixed review of our experience with Scenic Tours and the new Spaceship -Jewel, starting from when we first booked about 18 months ago.
We chose Scenic Tours because we were told it was an Australian company and really didn’t look too closely into the alternatives. We chose the tour “Prague to Amsterdam”, which had a land-based component before boarding one of the new Scenic ships which was to be the Crystal or the newly launched Jewel.
We took advantage of the early bird special of cheap airfares to Europe, but some months after booking Scenic canceled the land based, pre cruise part of the trip so we decided to do Prague on our own and meet the ship in Budapest. Then we are in formed by Scenic that because we still wanted to fly into Prague we now had to pay extra for our flights. We never understood there reasoning but we sucked it up and moved on.
With our so call early bird special came a free stop over and we decided to have a night in Singapore on the way over. We were given a selection on 4 hotels to choose in order of preference, which we did after researching the locations of each. Two weeks before we leave we get our paperwork and listed for Singapore is a hotel we had never heard of and was very disappointing in every way, being very much a businessman’s hotel, far away for all Singapore attractions – a complete waist of time, in our opinion.
Also we have no choice of airline and found that we had a luggage restriction of 20kg which proved a challenge seeing we would be away a month.
The lesson we learned is not to be enticed by early bird specials – they are not all they make them out to be.
We did thoroughly enjoyed or self organized time in the in Prague, trained to Budapest and taxied to the Scenic Meeting point at the Marriot Hotel.
Scenic had a lovely meeting area set up in the foyer from early morning with coffee, tea juices and biscuits, cakes and pastries which was fabulous as people were arriving at all different times had a great base to wait and meet fellow passengers.
Embarkation was easy and efficient and our luggage was waiting for us in our cabins
The jewel is a very comfortable vessel. It's decor, being unpretentious compared to others, it is modern, contemporary style which we found very pleasing and well suited to smart, casual lifestyle on board. Our PP cabin 318 was surprisingly very adequate. The all weather balcony was fantastic and we used it daily - mostly with the balcony up so we could enjoy the suns warmth and the view with out the chilly wind. The bathroom worked well and the shower was a lot bigger than expected. People on the lower deck did complain about the size of their showers and described them as being a lot smaller than ours so it does pay to do your research.
We were please with the sound proofing of the ship. We never heard any noise from the sun deck above us or from adjacent rooms. There was not creaking or noises you might expect when under sail.
The main Dining room served "nice" food but I wouldn’t call it 5 star. Breakfast being a basic buffet of mostly the same variety each day.
Lunch and dinner was varied daily with something to please every one but it always fell well short of the "Wow" factor. e.g..I loved the fillet steak, cooked to your choice of perfection - but was never offered any sauce you night expect in most restaurants. I was hoping for a béarnaise, mushroom of pepper sauce at best - even mustard and when asked they could only offer a rather flavorless brown sauce.
We enjoyed the cafe for light meals and snacks and looked forward to their filled pretzels, which were delicious.
We had one booking in Portobello's and that was lovely and met our expectations in every way.
Martin - out entertainer was OK and suited the age group on board. The guest entertainers were very average if you like audience participation.
These were of a very high standard - in my opinion. We also used to carry our Scenic head sets which gave us an interesting commentary when ever we past a point of interest - be it land or water.
With the weather and high water against us we found ourselves stuck in Bamberg 3 nights and had to bus long distances to meet our tour itinerary. Scenic did an amazing job in dealing with this dilemma but it was not the easy boat cruise we had hoped for and long bus tours were not what we were looking for when choosing a river cruise. But I again emphasize that Scenic made every effort and can not praise them enough for that.
We found the most staff to be pleasant and accommodating. Our cruise director, Patrick and Hotel Manage, Egor, were lots of fun, informative and always helpful.
The lounge area at peak times felt understaffed and it would take a long time to get our drink orders. We found out very quickly that approaching the bar was a no-no and even though there were barstools up against it we were always instructed to sit in the lounge area and wait for the stewardess – a little frustrating sometimes. I challenged myself to make a barman (we nicknamed smilie) smile by the end of the trip - but failed.
Unfortunately, being stuck due to high water and eventually having to pack up and change ships to the Ruby further down stream does change the vibe on board. Some people where very upset and it was evident they had not done their research and were not aware that this can happen even though is clearly stated in the terms and conditions on cruise forums.
Moving to the Ruby:
First impressions were – it is almost the same as the Jewel because it had just been refurbished. We had the same cabin number but it was not the same and because we had the Jewel to compare with the little things became very annoying for the 3 days we were onboard – like the loud creaking in our cabin that forced us to wear ear plugs to sleep, - the slight smell of waste from time to time and the very much smaller shower that often flooded into the small bathroom area.
We were unfortunate with the weather and the floods but we believe Scenic did all they could to keep our itinerary on track and they did a great job under the circumstances.
I have to agree with another Scenic reviewer – in my experience this is not the 5 star product it proclaims itself to be. Scenic does a great job in looking after its passengers but it does fall short of the mark in most areas. This trip had highs and lows and we didn’t return home thinking, “Wow – we must do another river cruise”, but we haven’t completely ruled it out sometime in the distant future and if we do, we will be looking at all options.