In April 2017, I was lucky enough to experience all-inclusive cruising with Scenic, on their very popular 15 Day Jewels of Europe river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, crossing four countries (Hungry, Austria, Germany and Holland) and cruising on three rivers - the Danube, Main Danube and a bit of the Rhine.
Scenic is an all-inclusive operator, everything from meals, drinks (at any time), mini bar in the cabin and Freedom of Choice tours are all included in price, which makes it easy as you can budget for spending money if you decide to purchase anything while ashore. There were so many highlights, here are just a few of my favourites.
After arriving in Budapest we were greeted at the airport and taken straight to my pre-cruise accommodation. I always like to fly in the day before the tour starts so I can explore the city I have just arrived in and of course, refresh and be ready for the holiday about to start.
The next morning after breakfast we were picked up and taken to our ship, which was the Scenic Jewel, home for the next 14 nights. Our bags were delivered to our balcony suite so we just needed to unpack and put the suitcases under the bed. Starting to like this new way of travelling and we haven’t even departed yet! After dinner our cruise director had a surprise. As the ship was docked overnight in Budapest we did a quick cruise up the river to the famous Budapest Parliament, lit up in all its glory at night, to get that iconic shot you see on the TV or on the cover of the river cruise brochures. I had wanted to see this view for a while, what a way to start!
Today we chose the Freedom of choice option to Schönbrunn Palace which is one of the most historical monuments in Austria. We got to go through the palace and learn about the Habsburg family. After the guided tour we had free time to wander the gardens, which are very well manicured, however when we were there it was the ‘off season’ so they were planting all the tulips and flowers again which I can imagine in summer and spring would be very pretty.
After our visit to the Palace we returned to the ship and still had free time before we departed, so I walked into the city to do a bit of shopping and of course try the Apple Strudel which is a popular pastry in Austria.
This morning we had a guided city tour of beautiful Salzburg. Our guide showed us some sights where ‘The Sound of Music’ was filmed which was exciting as I loved that movie growing up. Later that day we were treated to the ‘Best of The Sound of Music and Salzburg Show’ which is exclusive to Scenic guests and is performed in the rolling hills of Salzburg. We were also served an authentic Austrian lunch.
This was probably one of my favourite days, starting our morning in Rüdesheim which is a charming town on the Rhine Valley in Germany. To start off we boarding the Winzerexpress mini train which took us through the town to our first stop at the Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum. This place was pretty fascinating, learning the history and the mechanics of music from tiny boxes to big orchestrions built for fairgrounds. Another highlight of Rüdesheim is the cable car over the vineyards up to the Germania monument which overlooks the stunning views of the Rhine and the old town of Rüdesheim.
Back onboard for lunch we then set sail through the Rhine Gorge. This stretch of river is 65km and has all the best castles of Germany. I really couldn’t believe how many Castles there were as we sailed through the gorge and passed the quaint little towns and villages.
Later that day, as an exclusive to Scenic guests we were taken to Marksburg Castle, which is practically untouched since the medieval days. Our guided tour was around an hour and we were shown everything from the kitchen to the armoury and even the Torture Exhibition. You can really imagine how the middle ages lived after this tour. Side note_ this castle has natural terrain, uneven steps and narrow walkways so if you do go here, watch your step. After our guided tour we had a true medieval feast for dinner at the castle which was a great way to finish such a fantastic day.
I have come to the conclusion that I am a fan of river cruises, the whole unpacking once and living on a floating hotel is so relaxing. I would certainly recommend travelling with Scenic, I was blown away by their service and attention to detail from the very first meet and greet at the airport to the very last day with disembarkation. Everything ran like clockwork.
Our hotel manager knew everyone’s name by the end of the first day and would always greet you which I thought was a nice touch that really made you feel special.
The food on-board was great starting with a buffet breakfast or you can order waffles, pancakes or eggs from the kitchen. Lunch in the main dining room is a huge buffet or you can ask the waiter for the lunch menu which usually has a club sandwich or a burger. If you were wanting a light lunch you can eat at the River Café. Dinner in the main dining room is a 4 course à la carte menu or you can dine at Scenic’ s Italian Portobello restaurant (need to make reservations for this) and I highly recommend dining here at least once, the food and wine is devine.
If you are staying on the Diamond deck (top deck) you will be invited to dine at Table La Rive which is a degustation with matching wines.
Every cabin has a butler so for the nights where you don’t feel like a 4 course meal and would like something easy you can phone your butler and order off the Room Service menu. Scenic really have thought of everything even the mini bar is free and re-stocked daily.
If you want a relaxing, stress free holiday I would highly recommend a Scenic river cruise, you only have to unpack once and your biggest decisions are what Scenic Freechoice touring you are going to do or what to order for dinner. I would definitely travel on another Scenic River cruise.