Passengers sip pre-dinner cocktails nightly in the Panorama Lounge & Bar as the cruise director, details the next day's tour options and itineraries. And while there's little time for extra activities on the eight-day "Rhine Highlights" cruise, a popular event is the German-themed barbecue, with beer, brats and other local fare served on the Sun Deck, weather permitting.
The hands-down passenger favorite is the afternoon spent cruising past more than three dozen castles along the Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. Whether gathered outside on the Sun Deck, Riverview Terrace or Panorama Deck or inside in the lounge or their stateroom, passengers ooh and ahh and snap photos galore. To learn more, some pull out their handheld, ship-issued GPS device, following its map and listening to commentary as the fairy-tale-like castles and other sites come within range.
Scenic Ruby offers an attractive mix of shore excursions, all included, such as cruising the canals of Amsterdam, riding a cable car in Rudesheim, touring medieval churches and castles, and exploring historic cities and vineyards. In most ports, there are guided city tours by foot or motorcoach, with some opportunities for e-bike outings. Typically led by experienced, English-speaking local guides, most of the shore tours are half-day or longer and are planned to accommodate shipboard meals. Guides communicate with passengers via headset using the cruise line's Scenic Tailormade GPS device whose virtual maps and commentary enhance independent exploring. Tour reservations can be made in advance. The ship typically offers a less strenuous tour option for passengers with mild mobility issues.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Activities on Scenic Ruby are generally low-key, centering around nightly piano entertainment in the lounge, guest musicians from various ports, dancing (including one night when crew supervisors join in) and a trivia contest with prizes on the last night.
Local musicians were brought aboard to entertain with typical regional music on three different occasions during our eight-day cruise. Scenic Ruby's main enrichment activity was an after-dinner outing to Rastatt Palace where first-rate vocalists were accompanied by a pianist playing classical music.
Panorama Lounge & Bar (Deck 3): This is Scenic Ruby's heart, an open and airy spot where passengers come throughout the day to read, chat, play cards or enjoy beverages, whether from the popular do-it-yourself coffee machine or tea service at one end of the room or the wide selection of local beer, wine and cocktails from the pretty marble bar in the center. Long and narrow with lots of windows, comfy couches and chairs, the lounge typically is busiest around cocktail hour when passengers gather to hear the cruise director's port talk. Treats are available at the River Cafe snack station (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.), including sandwiches, ice cream, cheesecake or other desserts. One night, after returning by motorcoach from a concert in a German palace, passengers were greeted in the lounge with a late-night snack of spicy goulash. Daily cocktails, including a nonalcoholic drink and a "Martini of the Day," are popular choices among a wide variety of first-rate options at the bar. The only beverages not free are a handful of ultra-high-end liquors and Champagne.
With umbrellas and canvas roofs for sun protection, Scenic Ruby's top-deck Sun Deck is the perfect spot to sit, beverage in hand, and watch Europe's many riverside castles and cathedrals slip past. Servers circulate with drinks. For those who get antsy, there's a small walking track, just over 11 laps per mile (7 laps per kilometer). The ship's fleet of some two-dozen e-bikes is popular with active-minded passengers when the ship is in port. And on the Panorama Deck, protected from the elements at the bow of the ship, passengers settle into comfortable chairs to view the river scenery, play games, read, sip drinks and snack --- or just take a nap.
A sleek reception and concierge counter at midship, en route to the Panorama Lounge, is the place to go for tour registration and information, limited currency exchange and other services. A small area across from the counter displays a daily alternating selection of jewelry, scarves, local and luxury items. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship but can be spotty at times. Crew members dispense bottled water, sparkling or still, each time passengers leave the ship for tours. For security purposes and to ensure everyone is accounted for before the ship sails, guests must scan their personal bar-coded key-tag every time they disembark and re-enter Scenic Ruby.
A small hair salon/massage studio with limited hours currently handles guest beauty needs. Passengers should make appointments early to avoid disappointment. In winter 2018, Scenic Ruby is scheduled for a remodeling project that includes a new wellness center with gym, massage services and hair dresser, plus a salt therapy lounge with low-level lighting and calming music designed to enhance the natural relaxing effects of the salt.
There's a small walking track on the Sun Deck. The ship also maintains about two-dozen electric bikes (and helmets) available for active passengers to use ashore. Depending on the crowd, the bikes can be very popular so be sure to reserve in advance.
Scenic Ruby is not designed for children, and there are no special facilities or programming for children. The mature 10-year-old boy and some older teenagers traveling with relatives appeared to enjoy our cruise. Overall, though, the ship and its tranquil atmosphere are not really geared to or recommended for young children.