At our departure airport in Sydney, my wife and I were approached by a Scenic representative to ensure that everything was OK as we boarded our Scenic-arranged flight. We flew from Sydney to Singapore, then to Frankfurt and finally ... Read More
At our departure airport in Sydney, my wife and I were approached by a Scenic representative to ensure that everything was OK as we boarded our Scenic-arranged flight. We flew from Sydney to Singapore, then to Frankfurt and finally arrived at Budapest 29 hours after leaving Sydney. Due to my wife’s walking difficulties, we had prearranged “meet & assist” and this certainly helped in the larger airports to get from arrival to departure points. Both at the start and end of the cruise there were exclusive Scenic Passenger rooms at the designated hotels with tea, coffee, pastries and other delights for guests while waiting for the next stage of their experience.This inspired idea allowed passengers to mix with their fellow guests as well as those who had just completed a cruise and who could provide most welcome advice.
On embarkation onto the Scenic Crystal in Budapest, my wife was handed a white rose - a lovely gesture. The 168 passengers comprised 110 Aussies, and then Kiwis, Canadians, Brits, Americans and a couple and family from Chile. The status of passengers was evident by the colour of name tags: white for first timers, then gold up to emerald. The ship was always spotlessly clean and its international staff were faultless and very friendly. The front desk staff were exceptional. The captain was the friendliest captain of any ship we have sailed on. Cathy the Cruise Director was bubbly, competent and very approachable – a real delight.
Drinks on the ship were good quality and freely available, with cocktails arguably more potent than usual. In our experience, nothing was ever refused. There was never any pressure to tip staff, not even at the end of the cruise. Entertainment on board was top quality. We didn’t hear any noise from the engines, with the only disturbance being the very occasional “clunk” as we went through one of the 68 river locks. Those with difficulty walking on stairs should note that the elevator does not go down to the lowest deck.
The first dinner on board was a buffet – very good but unfortunately not a sign of things to come. The next best meal on the ship was the BBQ lunch out of Rudesheim, and then the final Captain’s Gala Dinner. It would have been good if this standard had been maintained for the whole cruise, but we found on average that the meals were not as good as those we have experienced on ocean cruises which have more passengers and more variety in their menus. This, of course, could have been due to the size of the kitchen, but the important message is not to expect too much. Breakfast and lunch, while the selections were plentiful, quickly became monotonous. We frequented the River Café in the bar area for most breakfast and lunches instead of the main restaurant. Moet was available for breakfast each day. For dinner, portions were measured and small, and I doubt if anyone would put on weight on this cruise unless they were ordering double portions (which was never refused) or overindulging in alcohol. We even ordered meat from the selections on one side of the menu and vegetables from the other, which although obviously a challenge was quickly provided. The jokes of the cruise were the appetisers of “Grilled Prawns”, which turned out to be one grilled prawn, and “Breaded Mushrooms” which was a large white plate with one breaded button mushroom in the centre of it. There was not much choice for vegetarians, basically limited to one of the three main course choices for dinner each day. There must have been the exact number of seats in the dining room as the tables were not cleared and reset once guests departed, and quite often choices were not available for passengers who arrived towards the end of the set dining time. Guests had the opportunity to dine one night at the Italian-themed Portobellos (which was not open every night) but it was nothing memorable. High level guests were also given the opportunity to dine at a special long table in the main dining room for a French-style dégustation, with each course preceded by a loud “ding” on a wine bottle (at least, until the Aussies at adjacent tables dinged their wine glasses each time in reply).
In summary the cruise was a satisfying "bucket list" event and we are glad that we went with Scenic. I have attached some Port Reviews but, in addition to these, the following information provides advice on five other ports of call:
We went by bus into Bamberg at 9 am. Again, there was a ‘careful walkers’ tour that did not climb the 48 steps to the Domplatz, and other tours that did. The tour guides were all uni students. All tours ended at 10.30am at the Altes Rathaus in the middle of the river, but amazingly (inexplicibly) did not include the other end of the building (Bamberg’s most famous photo location) - you had to ask the guide to find out how to get to it. Then there was one and a half hours of free time. Directions back to the bus (20 minutes away) were fine for those with a map and a sense of direction but not for those without. Back on the bus at 12.45 pm for a 2.15 pm departure from the wharf.
We arrived at the little village of Freudenberg early at 10.30 am. It is a very small town but the Scenic-exclusive Oktoberfest celebration is very boisterous, with good food, plentiful wine and beer, games and dancing. Don’t forget your money to buy the souvenirs. A highlight of the cruise.
The bus left at 5.45 pm for a walking tour of the magnificent Castle and a mediaeval feast. This tour is absolutely fantastic and not to be missed – plenty of wonderful entertainment, food and drink.
We were already docked by 6 am close to the centre of Cologne. The one and a half hour walking tour of Cologne was very good, and ended at the cathedral. There was then plenty of free time to explore before the ship left for Amsterdam at 1.45 pm.
We docked in the main river, near the railway station, at about 4.30 am. We decided upon the 9 am to 1.20 pm tour of the Dutch countryside, which included a UNESCO heritage region, a visit to a tourist village comprising windmills and a clog factory (quite interesting) and then a visit to the town of Edam. The tour was spoiled by the tour guide purposefully and deliberately steering the Edam walking tour away from the centre of the town, with its multiple shops and cheese outlets, to a single cheese shop which I can only assume was his commission shop. The bus and the tour commentary was not as good as previous buses, especially for those sitting towards the back. Read Less