First thing you need to do prior to taking a Scenic cruise, if my first experience is typical and I think it is, try to lose some weight. Failing that and regardless how successful, bring clothes that will adapt to a weight increase. In ... Read More
First thing you need to do prior to taking a Scenic cruise, if my first experience is typical and I think it is, try to lose some weight. Failing that and regardless how successful, bring clothes that will adapt to a weight increase. In the two weeks I spent on Scenic Crystal going from Amsterdam to Budapest 27 April to 11 May 2016 I managed to gain almost a stone (sounds less that way). Even my wife who is much more judicious in her eating and drinking gained. So be forewarned; the food is 24 hours and excellent. The liquor offerings are top shelf or just about anything you would want. A Scenic repeat couple told us they “go into training” prior to a Scenic cruise.
When you first board your ‘space ship’ as Scenic likes to call their custom designed boats, you notice how friendly all the staff and crew are to you. They are obviously trained to act this way and it is nice. It lasts the whole time and must get tiring for them, but they keep it up. More about the staff later.
Our cabin (port side, diamond deck) was a standard balcony and had a nice and spacious feeling considering the actual space (19sqm/205sqft). A nice amount of storage and room to store your luggage under the queen size bed. Our shower was actually full-sized, not the corner one pictured in the published deck plan. There is one category below this cabin and four above and the advice I got from this thread was accurate; this is the best choice unless you are willing to splurge on one of the Royal Suites. Your only other decision is which deck, as the upper Diamond Deck includes a higher degree of butler services and an invitation to special wine tasting dinner. The uniquely designed ‘Sun Lounge’ balcony with full width window that could be lowered to half height was nice, but we found that we actually didn’t use it too much. That the chairs weren’t too comfortable would be one reason, but the action and fun was going on in the public areas where all the food and drink was flowing.
I’ll mention a relatively minor consideration in choosing a cabin; port or starboard side. This has nothing to do with the POSH myth, but how the boat moors along the way. As most daylight moorings are on the right your view is generally less obstructed going south on the port side, the higher the deck, and the farther aft your cabin is located. Although I can’t personally verify, then starboard going north as I would think the same moorings would be used but on the left. Regardless, Scenic rarely moors beside another cruise ship forcing you to look into someone’s cabin. Unlike what we saw Viking doing with multiple Viking ships. The only time we saw another Scenic ship (Jewel) was when it passed going the opposite direction.
Our fellow passengers (148) were predominately Australians which was certainly expected with a scattering of UK, Canadian, and US like ourselves. No other nationalities represented (other than by marriage). All were generally friendly and as all meals are open seating, you tend to meet a lot of people. There was one large group of Australians that stuck together, but I assume they knew each other prior to the cruise. We ended up spending a lot of time with a Canadian couple and are thinking of going on another Scenic cruise with them.
The median age of Scenic passengers is purported to be about 68 and I would guess based on this trip that is about right. The few “youngsters” were in their forties with quite a few in their eighties. The vast majority were late sixties and seventies. As the information Scenic puts out emphasizes more than once, to take full advantage of the cruise and all the shore excursions, you need to be in fairly good physical shape. Even on board, there are a lot of stairs to climb to and from the various decks. There is one tiny elevator, but really not something you want to depend upon constantly. Too many passengers, in my opinion, didn’t read or pay attention to the physical demands to fully enjoy the trip. Of course, you can just go for the ride, on board entertainment, food and drink. It is like being on a moving five-star hotel. There was one couple in one of the two top Royal Panorama Suites who were making their fifth voyage on the same cruise. I don’t think they went on any of the shore excursions. “Been there, done that” I guess.
The wait and housekeeping staff from what we learned was mostly from various Eastern European and former Soviet bloc countries and very attentive and hard working. I don’t think they get a day off the whole cruise season, April to October, as one cruise ends another begins the same day. Giuseppe (hope I spelled it right), our constant live musical entertainment, singing and playing an electronic piano, was from Italy. He was very good and accepting of being ignored in the background. Tough on the ego in my opinion, but goes with the territory.
Probably the hardest working person in my view was Adrian, the cruise director. He barely gets time to sleep with juggling staff, tour arrangements, answering questions, handling problems, and herding and trying to keep track of all the passengers. The latter reminded me of my multiple feline household. He also gave a nightly “Port Talk” in the main Crystal Lounge of the next day’s events and tour options.
Finally, our chef whose name I am embarrassed to admit I did not record, did a superb job preparing imaginative, location themed and professionally presented meals working from a relatively small kitchen area. Each Port Talk he would bring out his recommended main course for that evening. Below is just one dinner menu for Thursday May 5th 2016 while near Regensburg, Germany:
Appetizers: Black Forest Ham, Farmer’s Bread, Mixed Pickles; “Maultaschen” Franconian Pasta Squares filled with Mushrooms, Brown Butter
Soups: Herb Essence, Puff Pastry Stick; Old Fashioned Potato Soup, Chanterelles
Main Courses: Oven-baked Seabass, Asparagus, Lemon-Cilantro Confit, ginger Risotto; Tender Pork Loin, Herb Farce, Glazed Vanilla Carrots, Palatine Red Wine Butter, Local Potatos; Celery Medallion in Hazelnut Crust, Lentils, Pumpkin Sauce, Herb Potatos
Desserts: Bavarian Cream & Elderflower Jelly, Forest Berries, Crispy Basket; Strawberry Ice Cream, Caramelized Walnuts, Whipped Cream; German Apple Pie; Fresh Fruit Platter
Daily Cheese Selection: Bresse Bleu Cheese, Porcini, Smoked Cheese, Water Crackers
For breakfast and lunch there were also standard menu options you could order custom. For a couple lunches I ordered a petite filet, rare with fries and it was delivered perfectly cooked in about 5 minutes. If anyone went hungry on the cruise it was because they were sick and couldn’t eat.
I won’t go into a description of all the shore excursions other than to say the ones we chose based on recommendations on this thread were all excellent with knowledgeable local guides. Scenic uses this electronic device that charges in your cabin called Tailormade® which you take and hang around your neck and connect with earbuds. Your tour guide has a master unit which you can then easily hear the running commentary. As it seems with all electronics, some passengers had trouble keeping their Tailormade® charged and a couple times the guide’s master unit refused to operate. Generally, the system worked fine though and could also be listened to while on-board with a running commentary of what the ship was passing.
Really the only problem I had was with my email. My email uses IMAP/STMP protocol rather than the older POP to send and the Crystal’s server didn’t recognize it. My wife had no problem as she still uses POP for both sending and receiving. Minor issue really. It was kind of nice being email free really.
The trip had only one logistical issue with one of the bow thruster props needing replacement requiring an emergency trip to the nearest dry dock. River/canal regs are that no ship can travel without functioning propulsion systems to limit banging into the sides of the locks. Adrian rearranged one day’s activities to allow for the repair and it had little impact (especially in comparison to the terrible river and canal flooding impacts just a few weeks later).
My final recommendation is to take advantage of staying an extra day or two in your embarkation city to help adjust to the time shift. Also use Scenic to book your accommodations since it will be the hotel that they use to gather all the passengers. They also provide someone to meet you at the airport and transport you to the hotel. All pre-paid like everything with Scenic.
Have a great trip…we sure did. Read Less