We chose this cruise for a number of reasons: great reviews, great incentives for booking early (price, $500 flights from Canada (we went with the recommended KLM), two complimentary $100 Euro pre-paid Mastercard cash cards, lots of cabins to choose from when we booked, exciting itinerary, truly all-inclusive (did not pay extra for any excursion or drinks and food on the boat, and Scenic has a no tipping policy), 7-nights option (ocean cruised, but never riverboat sailed before and wanted to try it out for a shorter amount of time), and able to book a night in Zurich and a night in Amsterdam with Scenic hotel partners which included all transfers needed (airport to hotel, hotel to boat, boat to hotel, hotel to airport).
The booking incentives were great. But we will definitely consider booking another vacation with Scenic because of the actual vacation experience.
What did we love about Scenic? Everything.
Excursions are outstanding! Scenic does not scrimp on these, and we were very happy with everything we experienced. From a choice of at least two excursions, we selected ahead of time one excursion for each day. We went mostly with the more active and fuller days options. Bus transfers were on time, and the coaches were very comfortable. It is hard to pick a highlight because everything was so amazing. Scenic uses Taylor Made units to allow excursion guides to speak to the group through connected ear pieces and to provide pre-recorded descriptions of city sections you may explore on your own and details about what you see along the banks of the river.
The Scenic Crystal riverboat is modern, beautiful and immaculate. We enjoyed spending time in the lounge, in the dining room and on the deck.
We booked a Balcony Suite on the second level. The room is well laid out. We had lots of closet and drawer space. There is a mini bar and snack shelf. The bed was comfortable, and we got good sleeps. We thought the bathroom is great (for a boat) – shower with more room than we expected and spray and lighting options was a pleasant surprise. We spent less time on our balcony than we thought we would, but it was lovely to have the light from the larger windows.
There is a pianist in the lounge for later in the day listening. A variety of entertainment offerings are scheduled for later in the evening, but we were typically so exhausted from our day that we were in bed by 9:00. We did go out to Schwetzingen Palace by bus after supper when we were docked at Mannheim for a concert by two traditionally trained vocalists and a pianist (gone from about 8:00 – 10:30). It was so worth going … and definitely a bonus excursion from Scenic!
The lounge is large and comfortable, and there is a great selection of alcoholic and non-alchoholic drinks. You can also relax up on the upper deck on lounges or at tables (covered and open) and enjoy refreshments. If you want a snack, there is a nice selection of prepared foods displayed at the side of the lounge bar.
One of the big factors for us for a great vacation is the quality of the food and wine. Scenic measured up! The food was excellent.
I have a food allergy and received a menu earlier in the day highlighting dishes I should avoid. Scenic tries hard to work with dietary issues.
Along with a breakfast buffet that has a wide selection of items, there is a hot breakfast menu. Our favourite was the eggs benedict, with my husband usually getting French toast as well.
Buffet lunches have some common items offered each day, but there are new dishes prepared as well. One day the staff did a BBQ meal up on the sun deck. It was great – a variety of interesting meats and every bit as interesting as the buffet. And it was lovely to enjoy this lunch in the sunshine.
New evening á la carte menus are offered daily. Like lunches, the evening meals frequently feature locally produced meats, produce and wines. Presentation, quality and taste give suppers a gourmet dining flare. Portions are generally smaller; but there are several courses and we always went away feeling satisfied. There is never a limit though to what you can order, and the staff is happy to bring extra. Decent wines are nicely paired with the food.
Each guest is offered one pre-scheduled dining experience in the Portobello dining area. We enjoyed this meal very much. All of it was delicious, but we thought the tiered appetizer fare, the tiramisu and the wine were standout components.
Some guests were also seated at “The Captain’s Table” within the dining room and had an alternate “upscale” meal. We did not book a suite that qualified us for this one-time event, but it appeared to be enjoyed by those who took part.
A huge part of our fabulous vacation was due to Scenic Crystal’s wonderful staff. Everyone was so friendly, accommodating to questions and requests, and wanting to make our experience special. Staff work very hard on an ongoing basis. Thank you to everyone! We know that there are so many people working together and some behind the scenes we never met personally whose contributions gave us an incredible week on the Rhine. Special greetings and thanks though to Aleksandar, Antonio, Zulkipli and Carmen who we always looked forward to seeing at meals – such delightful, unique personalities. We also want to mention our gratitude to: Ivan, our cabin steward, who maintained our suite beautifully; Nikola, the cruise director, whose humour, booming voice, and great organizational skills flavoured the trip in a positive, memorable way; Ivan, the hotel manager, whose friendliness, competence and concern about each guest’s satisfaction made an impression; Captain Plamen, who got us safely along our river route and had a great sense of humour.
Tips: A) Bring Euro coins for public bathrooms on excursions (or pick up some early on). Most specific excursion locations (e.g. castle that Scenic paid admission for) had washrooms you could use at no cost, but 50 cents was common when you were exploring a city more independently. B) We were surprised by the number of small shops that did not accept our Mastercard cash card or a credit card (e.g. bakery, coffee shops, small retailers). Consider bringing a few extra Euros in cash, or be prepared to find an ATM. C) Bring a European power converter with you. The boat has a few but not enough for everyone. If you are extending your stay, hotels may or may provide one.
On our map and literature this port is spelled Kehl (but we are assuming it is the same). We chose the Black Forest area outing. First we were bussed to Gengenbach. It's an incredible, picturesque little town featuring very old structures: a town hall that becomes an advent calendar prior to Christmas, full timber houses, a public baking oven, monestary and more. Then we were bussed to Winzerhof Sester. We saw grapes growing and orchards on the hillsides as we did a short hike in this Black Forest foothills area. When we reached the farm, we were served Schnapps made at the farm and then delicious homemade Black Forest cake with home-pressed apple juice and coffee. The farm had old, well-maintained buildins, deer, rabbits, chickens and beautiful flowers. The farm owners were so hospitable. We loved this excursion!
Impressive castle construction. Largest castle ruin in Germany with architecture spanning 13th - 17th centuries. Renaissance and Baroque facades. Terraced garden. Immense kegs. Good view of Neckar river and Heidelberg below.View All 181 Heidelberg Castle Reviews
Cable car ride was to Niederwald Memorial provided great views.View All 54 Niederwald Cable Car Reviews
The highlight for us in Rudesheim though was Siegfried's Musikkabinett. A huge collection of amazing musical devices and some musical automotions are housed and maintained here.
Rudesheim is a picturesque town and walking through the streets is lovely. There was a Harley Davidson event while we were there, which added a different dimension to the atmosphere.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Lovely to be bussed through the Moselle Valley. Saw extensive vineyards growing at steep angles along the way.
Enjoyed Cochem -- a very old town (brief colonization by Romans in 886) with a quaint Marktplatz, half-timber houses and beautiful glass within St. Martin Church.
We also toured Reichsburg Castle that went through many owners, destruction and rebuilds. The last reconstruction was about 140 years ago and was developed in the interior to reflect the decor tastes of the owner who lived there. This castle is beautiful and has an interesting history.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We were bussed from Cologne to Drachenburg. We took an old dog train (about a ten minute ride) up to Drachenburg Castle. It is a rather modern castle - built in the late 1880s by a man who made a fortune in the stock markets. It has an interesting hisory and offered beautiful views.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This excursion included a walking tour or Edam, a stop at the Henri Willig cheese factory and a walking tour of Volendam. Edam is a quaint old town with a moat around it.
You can buy cheese in many locations, but the Henri Willig cheese factory / farm offers a huge selection of goudas made from cow, goat or sheep milk to so many flavours. We stopped here on our way from Edam to Volendam.View All 13 Edam Walking Tour Reviews
Volendam is an old fishing community. We didn't like the intense commercial strips here so much, but there were areas that were very interesting. You can pick up local food favourites here though -- herring, fish and chips, etc. Our guide took us through "the maze" group of houses. You might get lost without a guide. The building construction here is completely different from Edam. We were glad to have seen this town.View All 17 Volendam Walking Tour Reviews