GoCruise franchisee Ian Warren was recently among the first customers to set foot on board Scenic Tours’ brand new ship, Scenic Jasper, as it took a group of agents on a short mini-cruise from Amsterdam. The luxury operator is making a name for itself within high-end river cruising. We asked Ian to give us his thoughts on the ship and the Scenic experience….
Scenic Tours operates a fleet of modern ‘Space-Ships’ on the rivers of Europe, and Scenic Jasper, the company’s latest addition, will be cruising the Rhine. I was one of a group of travel agents lucky enough to be the first passengers on this brand new ship, before even the naming ceremony.
We were on board for four nights, with time spent in Amsterdam, Antwerp and Hoorn, before returning to the Dutch capital. During this time we were given the full Scenic Tours passenger experience, which included butler service, all drinks (including those in the suite mini bar) and a great range of shore excursions.
The décor on board is clean and bright, and shouldn’t offend anyone. She has 13 outside staterooms, and 72 suites across a number of grades, all of which have the service of a butler, and the higher the grade booked, the more services they provide. My balcony suite was on Diamond deck, which qualified for valet service, shoeshine, two items pressed each day, a drinks service, breakfast served in suite, and an invitation to Table La Rive for dinner. It was very spacious at 205 sq ft, but even the outside staterooms are 160 sq ft, with the Royal Suite being 360 sq ft.
The price of your cruise includes return flights, resort transfers, all food and drink on board, butler service, a great choice of shore excursions, prepaid gratuities and free Wi-Fi.
Meals are open seating in the Crystal Dining Restaurant, with the River Café and Riverview Terrace offering lighter options during the day. Portobello’s Restaurant serves Italian cuisine to just 30 invited guests. Table La Rive offers a six course taster menu, with wine pairings, to those in certain accommodation grades, and is by invitation only, although I was one of those lucky enough to experience it.
I must say that the food and service was generally very good in all the dining venues. There were a few little issues, but then this was a shake-down cruise, which is done to sort these things out before the paying guests get on board.
The Scenic FreeChoice programme meant that we had a choice of at least two excursions in each port.
In Amsterdam – I opted for ‘Windmills, Cheese & Clogs’, which was a trip to the reclaimed landscapes of Beemster, then the community of Zaanse Schans, and tried the local cheeses, visited a working windmill, and watched clogs being made. The alternative excursion was a boat ride around the canals of Amsterdam.
Antwerp – I enjoyed an interesting guided walking tour of Antwerp, but there was an alternative of a trip to Bruges.
Hoorn – there were three options available, which were a guided walking tour, a guided cycling tour, or take part in a clog painting class. Unfortunately, due to a lock-gate breaking down we had to berth back in Amsterdam, and make the short journey to Hoorn by coach, which meant the cycling tour was unavailable. I therefore enjoyed the walking tour of Hoorn, and we were able to try a local dish called Kibbeling, a deep fried white fish, served with a sauce similar to Tartare, which was very tasty.
The Scenic Enrich programme took us out for the evening in Hoorn, where we joined the locals and dined in the magnificent Oosterkerk (East Church). Our meal was local dishes served by local residents, and each table was joined by one of the locals, including the deputy mayor who was on my table. They were all very proud of the city of Hoorn, and the history it has, and I can see that passengers would find this to be a memorable experience.
Although we didn’t get to experience one, as our cruise was only for four nights, each cruise would normally include a Scenic Sundowner, which is a cocktail reception hosted as the sun goes down, in one of Europe’s most majestic locations, such as a castle or chateau.
In summary, I would say that if you have clients looking for a river cruise on a good standard ship, where everything is included in the price they pay upfront, then they could do a lot worse than travel with Scenic Tours. I would certainly have no hesitation in booking my customers onto a Scenic river cruise.
The read the full review by Ian Warren and watch his video click here