Being ardent Silversea and Seabourn cruisers we booked with Scenic because they appeared to be the nearest equivalent when it came to river cruising... wrong! Scenic are an old coach tour company (sorry coach holiday fans) with aspirations to be something they don't have the company mentality to be... a class act.
We booked quickly when told their latest offer was due to expire that day, only to have an email sent a day or two later that extended their offer for another month... an offer which is still going on in some form or another.
Having booked through a travel agent, who were ABTA members imagine my surprise when I discovered after booking that Scenic are not ABTA members... in fact of the top ten river cruise companies they are the only one that I can find who isn't a member. Not mega important you may think but should something go wrong (as in our case) at least with ABTA there is some code of conduct, which all their members must follow.
So what went wrong?
Well the cruise was the ship's inaugural cruise and so came with all the associated problems that you might expect... the real problem was Scenic didn't tell anyone beforehand that they were on a maiden voyage. So we paid just short of £12,000 to be guinea pigs and fault finders, of which there were many in our Royal Suite.
1. Constant smells from the toilet (ten days to fix)
2. No TV/entertainment/WiFi until we reached Vienna
3. Pictures which fell off the wall and struck my wife as she relaxed on the sofa( it was fastened to the wall with sticky tape!)
4.Noise and heavy vibrations through the night.
5. Shower not working correctly.
But the best... sorry worst... was Scenic promise of an experience not to be missed... new for 2015 was their Scenic Sundowner where we were promised ( read the brochure its brilliant) we could watch the sun go down over the Danube whilst sipping cocktails and champagne and listening to the music of the masters... wonderful. WRONG again what we had was a windowless cellar, sat at a picnic table, with a bottle of white wine from a beer bottle listening to some octogenarian play the accordion whilst his equally aged wife sang such classics as 'Roll out the barrel' and 'Its a long way to Tipperary' !
And what was Scenic's response to all this. Well whilst on board they provided us with a plug-in air freshner and a bottle of champagne by way of an apology (yes that's what we thought as well... champagne was already free on board!
Post cruise... well and this is something to remember for the future after my first letter of complaint I was called by their Customer Delivery Manager (great title by the way) who told me she would reply to my letter within 3 weeks. Well I did receive a short curt reply but not from her (I guess she was too busy delivering customers that day). When I phoned to speak with her and discuss the reply apart from ignoring my first three calls, eventually she sent a message to the person I was speaking to to say she wouldn't speak to me and if I had a reply to put it in writing.
But the worst part of all was the fact that they appear to think that most of what happened ... well it never happened because the cruise director on board didn't put it in her log. This in spite of the fact that the ship's engineer was in our suite almost every day and stopped me in the corridor to tell me he'd be in the cabin and ripped out the toilet whilst we were out for the day and repaired the faulty pipes... but I must have imagined that because Scenic reckoned it never happened! Perhaps I had too had a blow on the head from another picture falling off the wall.
So in summary:
-Beware of what Scenic promise because in my experience it's all gloss and no substance. --Record everything because they will deny most claims and ALL liability.
-They told me that it was MY responsibility to ask questions BEFORE I booked... questions like 'Is this a maiden voyage?'
-Don't believe anything you read in the brochure.
-Don't believe any of their 'offers must end by'
-Don't book the 15 day Jewels of Europe cruise. On the Danube the scenery's better and you can stand/sit outside on the sundeck.
- But most of all don't book with Scenic... if something goes wrong they are not ABTA members, they have no published complaints procedure and their customer service is appalling.
Final point to be aware of is that Scenic and Emerald Waterways are one and the same company... oh they say they're different but the addresses of the two companies are the same and there one and only customer service person...Darren... works for both companies (he told me so himself when I phoned the Scenic number and he answered the call as Darren from Emerald Waterways! That's despite the same person telling me before we travelled that the two companies were wholly independent.)
Mind you, at least it answered my queries... why there is such a long wait for anyone to answer the telephones? and why did Scenic's answering service tell me to visit the Emerald Web site if I needed more help!!!
Don't be put off river cruising... it's just that I wouldn't ever book with Scenic again, you're not valued customers just profit.
I've had much better.