I had a wonderful opportunity to sail on the new Scenic Jewell on the Danube last week. What a wonderful ship and crew! This ship had some very impressive features, not to mention a very professional and friendly/fun staff. The first big and unique feature was their “Sun Lounge” balcony. These are amazing. The balconies (large by river cruise standards) are enclosed by glass so that they actually can become part of the cabin. If you want to open the glass to get fresh air or look out, you simply push a button and the upper half of the wide glass moves down – very, very cool. The next great feature was the very powerful shower – everyone likes a good, strong shower. This Austrailian company understands that has provided clients with one of the most powerful showers I have experienced in any cruise ship and even most hotels.
The next feature, that is exclusive to Scenic at this time, is their GPS handheld devices. These are in your room to be used anytime and act both as a hearing devices on land tours and also will let you know at anytime where you are and what highlights are in the area, whether on water or land.
Scenic is also the most all-inclusive of any river cruise:
Great food is available nearly all day in several venues, all alcoholic beverages are available at no charge all day and night, butler service is included, complimentary wi-fi, HD TV, complimentary mini-bar in cabin, L’Ocotane toiletries and wonderful shore excursions (typically 2-3 options) with wonderful special Scenic events. All is included without extra charges. The only thing you can pay extra for are massages and spa treatments or some items for purchase like jewlery on-board.
Speaking of food, it is not only very good, but there are options – unusual for a river cruise ship with limited kitchen facilities. There is a wonderful dining room that feature both buffet and menu items. There is also the River Cafe which is the main bar and are to relax. It features early-riser breakfast, light lunch items and also offers at night (with reservations) a fantatic dining experience in The Portobellos Restaurant (seats about 30). Another option for the passengers on the third deck is the Table La Rive which is a private, six-curse with wine pairings dinner table in the back of the restaurant.
I loved this ship and the crew (mostly from Hungary and neighboring countries) who were both professionally efficient and a lot of fun. Their humor and warmth added to the wonderful features of the ship and the terrific opportunity to get to know the destinations and history of the areas we visited.
If you want to experience a Scenic Cruise (only European rivers and Russia currently), there is still space available on many dates in 2014. They are introducing a new ship for the Seine in France (Paris to Normandy and back) in the Fall of 2014. It is unique in that its shallow draft will allow it to sail closer to Normandy, eliminating much of the normal 1.5 – 2 hour drive.