As background, this was our 3rd river cruise having done Prague to Paris with AMA and Amsterdam to Budapest with Scenic. While Scenic prices are on the higher end when first viewed, we wanted a totally all inclusive, we don't have to worry about anything, type of cruise. Scenic met the bill and surpassed our expectations for the most part. We let Scenic book everything including air and we did the pre and post packages.
Pre cruise stay for 3 nights in Paris at the Marriott Ambassador Opera hotel. Very central location, close to everything. We walked most of the time to or from attractions but did take the easy to use Metro to and from The Marais area on a rainy Sunday. we had a direct Air France flight from Toronto that landed 30 minutes early and the Scenic rep was waiting for us in the very crowded Arrivals hall. very pleasant. She walked us to the waiting mini van that had just picked up 4 other people who had arrived at the other terminal so no waiting at all.
Hotel room was ready on arrival at 8:15 am, luggage was sent up. Room very large by European standards, courtyard (I.e not so pretty) view but quiet. Lots of moving around and storage space. Only issue I had with this room was that the toilet was separate from the bath on the other side of the room and there was no sink in the toilet room. Good powerful shower. Very quiet at night and a good sleep. Lobby area could be crowded when multiple tours getting organized (Uniworld was staying here as well). bar prices a little steep but what isn't in Paris.
Our Tour Director Nicholas was fantastic and would make a great Cruise Director. He was on a 6 month contract and generally works in the Scenic offices in Vancouver. He really did a wonderful job. We did the tour of the Louvre with Karyn which was great and we did the Lido dinner where the food was much better than expected. Bags were out the night before we left and were transported by truck to Chalon sur Saone. We went by coach to the Gare Lyon and then by TGV to Dijon. we had a few hours of free time in Dijon before catching the coach to Chalon to board the ship. Nicholas accompanied us to the ship.
We had been on the Emerald before so knew how compact the Aquarium class rooms are but great storage, good shower with glass door. No complaints about the room, the room Stewart, the butler (whose services we did not use). All the staff, without exception, were very friendly, helpful and seemed to care that you were happy. The CD Sylvie was very efficient and dealt with any issues that arose. The free WiFi was excellent all the time in the room or in the lounge except maybe when in a lock. the food exceeded expectations. I would rate as 5 star. Wines were very good and always free flowing. All inclusive drinks never an issue, never charged for special drinks. I do wish that they would stock Clamato juice so decent Caesars could be made!
All the included tours were excellent in my opinion. While the days could be very busy, you also had the option to forego the tours and relax on board. The highlight dinner at the Palais de Papes in Avignon was fantastic in my opinion and our home visit in the Beaujolais area was also an excellent experience. Lots of very interesting sights and well organized excursions. We did the Paul Boucuse cooking school experience in Lyon and rate it as a highly enjoyable experience.
The entertainment was the least enjoyable. There was an in house pianist Indre who was fantastic, did a great job, had lots of skills at various music styles. There was only one outside group who came on board to do some local dancing. They were ok but nothing special. There could have been more outside entertainment. This was my only negative with he cruise.
When the cruise was over after 12 days, the bus to Barcelona met us in Avignon. We stopped after a few hours to tour the Dali theatre and museum and get a snack for lunch before the ongoing trip, arriving in Barcelona at 4. We stayed at Hotel 1898 on La Rambla, rooms were very large with a quiet courtyard view. Unfortunately we had a room with only the hand held shower so unless you sat in the bath, it was very awkward to use. There was a city tour that started at 5 so by this time we were quite tired of buses but went anyways. It was raining by this time so we did not see all of the Park Guell as it was very muddy. We had a 6:45 entrance to the Sagrada Familia and this was awesome. So glad we did the tour.
Next day we did the Spanish Village which we enjoyed and then the Tapas tour at night. Too much food at one of the stops but a very interesting experience. Lots of walking on that tour. On our own on the last day walking and shopping.
To summarize, a very enjoyable experience, 5 star for the most part, good value for money (could have been better value if I drank more). Service was excellent most nights, staff a pleasure. There were 6 Canadians and I think 6 Brits and the rest from Australia or New Zealand. We love to travel with those from 'down under'. This experience with Scenic was better than last year's and the food much better. 2 thumbs up.