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Scenic Opal Cruise Review
0.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
148 Reviews

Christmas Market cruise

Scenic Opal Cruise Review by John5671

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Nov 2019
  • Destination: Europe River

I first want to mention some statistics about our cruise:

There were about 160 people on the ship: 10 people from Canada, 10 people from the US, about 30 people from New Zealand, and the rest were from Australia. The cruise director is from Austria, one waitress is from Poland, and most of the staff is from Serbia. So you'll definitely meet interesting people from around the world!

There were *no* kids at all on the cruise- the youngest people were a group of ladies in their late 20's. I'm pretty sure this is by design and is just the way Scenic markets the cruises.

We went on the Christmas Market cruise from November to December and usually water levels aren't an issue, but this time, the water was too low north of Passau, which disrupted our schedule.

We were stuck in a port for 2 days and when we were finally able to go, we had to wait behind a slow cargo ship and then wait behind ships coming downstream.

This meant we didn't get into Regensberg until almost 9:00 at night. Then it would be a 1/2 hour drive into the city, then the Christmas market closes at 10:00. The ship continued on to the next port, which meant people who went into town had to stay out until the ship docked at 12:30 am. Only 8 people did this, so we probably could have skipped this stop and kept going to make up the time. We didn't go, so we missed out on seeing the town.

This also meant we didn't get into Nuremberg until late in the day. We also got stuck in traffic while driving into the city, which meant the bus didn't drop us off until 4:30... and it was already dark. This meant we didn't get any good pictures.

A similar thing happened in Rudesheim: we left the ship at 3:10 pm, then a 1 hour drive on the bus, then a short train ride into town... which meant it was too dark to see much of anything! This meant we didn't get ANY daytime photos!

But according to the cruise director, he'd rather stop in a port and give people a chance to see things, rather than continue on. But this amounts to little more than a tease!

To be fair, Scenic offered us alternative options and we could have chosen to continue by bus, but we stayed with the ship.

Would I take another European river cruise? I don't know, especially since the low water levels are supposed to happen in the summer, not winter.

Would I take another cruise on Scenic? Yes.

Dining:

Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style, though you can also order from a menu. The omelette station was very good and by the end of the cruise, the chef was practically asking me if I wanted my usual.

The breakfast buffet is the standard breakfast fare: scrambled eggs, bacon, cereals, bagels and bread, and juices.

Most of the time, a majority of the passengers eat at the same time because of the timing of the excursions. There were a few days when there was a line for the omelettes, but you can get scrambled eggs or something else instead.

The dinners in the main dining area approximate a 5-star dining experience:

- You're served three courses: appetizer, main, and dessert.

- The waiters/ waitresses put the napkin on your lap and take away silverware as it's not needed.

- The pacing of the dinner usually takes around 1 1/2 hours, because everyone is in the dining area at the same time and because it's just paced slower.

However, the menu options seem a little limited to me:

Every night, there's an option for meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb) and an option for fish. I don't eat most fish and some fish give me an allergic reaction. I'm not a big meat eater so I really don't care for beef every night.

I'm not sure why they don't have a main course choice of chicken or pasta. They serve pasta for lunch, so they have it on the ship. Plus, pasta with vegetables would be a good vegetarian option.

We when ate at Portobello's, the Italian restaurant, the choices were beef tenderloin and fish. Yes, more beef.

I was expecting some pasta choices, since it's supposed to be an Italian restaurant, but again, there was no pasta!

Also, as a hint: I had read that people needed to make a reservation at Portobello's when they boarded the ship. When we boarded, we were told that the reservation was already made for us and we'd receive an invitation the night before. But they didn't tell us *which* night... though a few days later, I asked and they told me.

Tours:

We took the guided tour in almost every city and they were mostly very good. Scenic hires local guides who talk about the history and joke around a little.

But our time was very limited due to the schedule change because of the low water level. For many stops, we would take a bus for about 1 hour or 1 1/2 hours to the city, then take a 1 hour guided tour, then get 2-3 hours of free time, then a 1 hour drive back to the ship.

I was expecting a cruise where the ship arrived in the morning, then we do an excursion in the morning, then go back to the ship for lunch, and then go out on our own after lunch. But our actual schedule turned out to be: cruise most of the day, get into a port after lunch, spend the afternoon in the town, then come back in time for dinner and continue cruising.

Needless to say, this didn't leave enough time to visit the Christmas markets and explore the town.

Entertainment:

There was a Hungarian folk dance on our first night, which was very good.

The ship brought in a violinist and zither player on different night and both were excellent.

The highlight was a German speaking class hosted by a "Dr Prof Prof" and held at exactly 10:33. Spoiler: it was the cruise director dressed in a traditional German outfit with glasses and a mustache. He was hilarious and we even learned a little German!

Staff:

Alex, the cruise director, was excellent, especially when it came to rescheduling everything because of the disruption caused by the low water level.

Dinner service seemed a little slow at first, but that changed when we mentioned we'd prefer a quicker dinner.

By the end of the cruise, our waitress, Ruzica, had our usual drinks waiting for us at our table for breakfast and lunch, which was excellent service!

More:

The pool wasn't open when we took our cruise. Though I don't think I would have used it since the weather was too cold.

We didn't use the spa, massage, or gym.


John5671's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

The cabin design was excellent.

The balcony is designed to be part of the room, with a set of glass door/ panels that can be slid open. The outer wall is a glass window that slides up and down.

This meant we could sit out on the balcony with the outer window closed and not freeze.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

This was a very good tour through a hospital complex built into Buda Hill. It was fascinating to learn about the history and how it was used during WWII, the Hungarian Revolution in the 1950's, and how it was turned into a fallout shelter during the cold war.

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Nuremberg

During our cruise, we had a problem with low water levels in the Danube, which disrupted our schedule.

We were originally supposed to go to Nuremberg in the morning, but we weren't able to dock and leave the ship until late in the day. We then got stuck in traffic while driving into the city, which meant the bus didn't drop us off until 4:30... and it was already dark.

We took a tour of the castle, but it was too dark to really see anything. The guide pointed out some things in the distance, but again, it was too dark to too see anything.

So this meant we didn't get any good daytime photos.

Then when the tour was over, we walked through the town on our own. But by that point, it was 6:30 at night and a lot of shops had already closed! And by the time we walked around some more, other stores closed at 7:00.

The cruise director said he would rather stop at the ports as planned and give people at least a taste of the city, rather than skipping it. But to me, this seemed like more of a "tease".

To me, I think it would have been better to skip this port, continue on, and try to make back some lost time.


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John5671
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