Treasures of the Rhine on Scenic Jade
I have spent several years trying to convince my partner to accompany me on a river cruise, as despite the stereotype that they are for the older generation, I knew he would love river cruising just as much as I do even though we are in our 30s.
Finally after much persuasion he agreed to join me on a 7-night cruise along the Rhine and Main Rivers with Scenic Tours and with such a fabulous itinerary, new ship and all the inclusions we both enjoyed every minute of it!
The itinerary began with an overnight stay in Amsterdam meaning we could experience the city's infamous culture both by night with a walking tour of the red light district, and by day with a canal cruise, before heading on to Cologne with its magnificent Gothic Cathedral.
After an afternoon of cruising we arrived at the Marksberg Castle for our 'Scenic Highlight Experience' a private guided tour of the only intact medieval fortress on the middle Rhine followed by a fabulous medieval feast.
The next morning we woke as we cruised past the famous Lorelei Rock and continued through the Rhine Gorge, passing terraced vineyards and fairytale castles. We arrived in Rudesheim in the early afternoon and after a visit to Siegfried's Mechanical Museum took the cable car to the top of the town before ending our visit with a Rudesheim coffee on the Drosselgasse.
Rejoining our ship we then began our cruise of the 247 mile long Main river to Miltenberg, in lower Bavaria. Here we had a guided tour of the town, with its pretty half-timbered houses, before enjoying some free time to sample the local beer at one of oldest pubs in Germany, dating back to the 15th century. The evening is then spent hiking through vineyards on our 'Scenic Enrich Experience' finishing at a local winery with a good old German 'knees up', complete with barbeque, beer and Bavarian folk music.
We woke in the morning, with slightly sore heads, in Wurzburg, a beautiful riverside city steeped in cultural and architectural heritage. Here we visited the Residence Palace an impressive building with even more spectacular decor inside!
The final stop on this wonderful itinerary was Bamberg, which is so beautiful it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A tour of the city showcased some of its beautiful architectural treasures including the artistic Old City Hall and group of old fisherman's houses, better known now as 'little Venice'. Back onboard, our visit to Bavaria is completed with a beer tasting experience, including Bamberg's smoked beer.
Our evening was then spent cruising towards Nuremberg, where, despite pleas from my partner to stay on for the second part of the cruise along the Danube, we said goodbye to our new friends and disembarked the ship.
As predicted there are so many things we enjoyed about this cruise, the itinerary being one, but there are many other reasons I would recommend cruising with Scenic Tours:
The Ship: 'We felt like we were staying in a small, luxurious 5* hotel'
The Scenic Jade is currently the newest ship in Scenic's fleet of Space Ships, launched in April 2014. She is opulent whilst still remaining contemporary and modern, with the d'cor creating a luxurious yet relaxing environment throughout. Large windows in the lounge and restaurant allow for fantastic views of the spectacular Rhineland scenery.
Other amenities on board include three restaurants; the main Crystal dining room, Portobello's Italian and Le Rive fine dining restaurant; a small gym, which I am pleased to say I used on several occasions; and a spa treatment room with hairdressing salon.
The Cabins: 'Spacious, extremely well designed and with a wonderful sun lounge balcony concept'
We stayed in a BB category cabin, a middle deck balcony suite. At 19m' the cabins are by no means small, but it also helps that great attention has been paid to detail, with storage space sufficient to accommodate even the most extensive wardrobe.
Over 80% of the ship's cabins are balcony cabins and these all feature the 'sun lounge balcony'. A floor to ceiling glass window that can slide to create an outside balcony or be put up to create an internal sun lounge, so you can appreciate the advantages of having a balcony regardless of the weather ' very useful in early November
Cabins also featured a large flat screen HDTV and entertainment system complete with film library and Mac mini-computer and an extensive minibar which is fully stocked and replenished daily. Bathrooms are small yet perfectly formed, with fabulous power showers and L'Occitane toiletries.
All Inclusive: 'With all the inclusions it was exceptional value for money'
Everything on this cruise is included! Flights, airport transfers, food, drinks, tips and all excursions. All we spent all week was a few Euros when we were off the ship.
The Food: 'So much wonderful food, the only problem was we ate far too much of it!'
One thing was for certain, we were never hungry on this cruise! Breakfast was a very well-stocked buffet offering cereals, pastries, fruits, meats, cheese or full cooked breakfast... oh and given this was a luxury cruise, Moet! If we were ever early or late up, there was also the option of breakfast at the Riverside Cafe offering a selection of pastries and cereals.
Lunch was also an extensive buffet with salads, soups, meats and then two or three cooked dishes and accompanying vegetables. If we still had room, there was also a selection of tempting deserts and ice creams ' and there was always room! On some occasions we did prefer a lighter lunch so ate at Riverside cafe where there was a selection of sandwiches and soups.
Most evenings we enjoyed dinner in the Crystal dining room where a delicious menu offered a wonderful selection of regional and seasonal dishes. I particularly liked the open seating dining arrangement, meaning that in the first few days we made new friends over dinner and towards the end we could choose to sit with the friends we had met on board. The dress code was very relaxed, no tie or jackets required for men or overly smart dresses for ladies.
On our last night we are invited to dine in Portobello's Italian restaurant, a small restaurant seating about twenty located at the front of the ship, where after a glass of Verve Clicquot we enjoy a sensational 5-course Italian dinner with accompanying wines.
I must also give a mention to the selection of cakes available at the Riverside cafe during the day! Truly wonderful!
The Excursions: 'It was great to have such an extensive choice'
The excursions offered on this cruise meant we could make the most out of the places visited. A choice of excursions was offered in most ports, so even when we went to places to which we had been before (such as Amsterdam), there was always something new to experience.
The Scenic Tailor Made devices meant that not only could we clearly hear the guides on excursions, but also allowed for independent exploration if we didn't want to follow a group.
The Scenic Highlight and Enrich programmes offered once in a lifetime experiences that we wouldn't have been able to do if weren't on this cruise.
The People: ' We met some fantastic people and formed some wonderful friendships'
Scenic Tours is an Australian company so about 70% of the passengers on the cruise were Australians and they really were great company, down to earth and lots of fun. The age of passengers on board ranged from early 30s to late 80s but it all seemed irrelevant as everyone of all ages mixed together.
Finally, it wasn't just the other guests that made this cruise so special ' the staff on board were extremely attentive, nothing was too much trouble and the cruise director was one of the best I've met.
All in all this really was a truly wonderful experience and one we hope to repeat in the near future ' the Danube next time!
Review by Jenny, Blue Water Holidays