In November I had an extremely lucky break – I got the opportunity to partake in a Scenic Tours River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. I could wax lyrical for hours about languishing on deck while castles and tulip roofed churches float past. Or sipping hot chocolate on a private balcony while peering into the living quarters of an overtaking barge. And then there’s the sixty something locks and canals and their associated smells, the legend of the Lorelei, and how the ship docks right in the middle of small villages that are straight out of a fairytale. But many companies do similar itineraries, and what I want to tell you is what sets a Scenic Tours river cruise apart.
Shore Excursions and Onboard Experiences
The bulk of Scenic Tours clients on my cruise were Aussies (with smatterings of Kiwis, Canadians, Irish, English, and Americans), and we had all the creature comforts we Antipodeans are used to - showers with good water pressure, comfortable beds, facecloths and no tipping. The 5 star “space ship” was immaculate, the cleaning staff were virtually invisible and everything ran like clockwork.
We were told the day prior what would be happening and usually given the choice of three activities or you could do your own thing. The next day we’d be directed to the appropriate Scenic Tours branded bus or group and would be met by local guides who knew their towns and cities inside out, while giving personal insight to certain landmarks and how their families were involved.
Scenic Tours are clearly well liked by their suppliers and the Enrich experiences - which are unique to Scenic Tours - really do set them apart. With diverse performances such as a night at the opera in Vienna, a Sound of Music extravaganza in Salzburg, and an emotional piano recital at a school for the blind in Budapest.
A personal highlight for me was e-biking 35kms through the German countryside while the space-ship followed along behind, blowing its horn and all the other passengers on deck (in freezing weather), waving and cheering us on.
Every night local entertainment was brought onboard to give us a glimpse of regional cultures and traditions, from Hungarian folk dancing to Austrian violinists. There was always something going on, and they even live streamed it to your room, in case you didn’t want to get out of bed.
Depending on the space-ship, there are generally no more than 169 passengers, and you do get to know your travel companions quite well.
With Scenic Tours, you have your own butler – ours was Stefan from Serbia. As the US election was taking place during my cruise, there were times I was glued to the TV, and my butler was invaluable delivering meals and hot beverages, cakes and Baileys. And hot beverages containing Baileys .......
Needless to say, the food on board was phenomenal. All drinks are included (except top shelf whiskey and champagne), and they have a cocktail and mocktail of the day. The menu reflected our changing environment and featured local specialities pertaining to the area we were travelling through.
The menu would usually contain three choices for each course at lunch and dinner. If you didn’t want to eat in the Crystal Lounge, you could get a pizza at the River Cafe upstairs, and if you really wanted to blob out, you could make the most of your butler and order room service.
A key feature for me is that Scenic were all inclusive. You don’t need to pay for anything and it was a lovely two week break for my bank account that had previously taken quite a beating in Europe. If I had to pay for shore excursions (which other companies make you do), I wouldn’t have done most of them - purely due to cost - and that would have been a shame because the shore excursions make the experience authentic.
I can wholeheartedly state, if you choose a Scenic Tours river cruise, you will have amazing memories that will last a lifetime, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Scenic Tours to any of my valued clients.