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13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
As a preface, we are a couple of active, still working adults somewhat on the low end of the age range of typical river cruisers. I cancelled a back to back Celebrity cruise touring Iceland and the Baltic after reading about river ... Read More
As a preface, we are a couple of active, still working adults somewhat on the low end of the age range of typical river cruisers. I cancelled a back to back Celebrity cruise touring Iceland and the Baltic after reading about river cruising. Our experience has been mostly with the Royal Caribbean/Celebrity product. I considered Tauck, Uniworld and a few other lines when booking this trip last October. I chose Scenic based on the inclusions(tips, alcohol, all excursions, butler, internet), greater population of Australians, and appeared to have more "active" inclusions such as a gym and use of bicycles as well as "tailor made" self touring. As many of CC members, I researched and read reviews and had a good idea of what river cruising was about -- or so I thought. We booked the Jewel - the newest ship of the Scenic fleet-- based upon itinerary, and the fact that it included a gym (we love to eat). We arranged our own air/hotel stays which included 10 days in Europe prior to our July 1st Scenic cruise. Budapest is just as wonderful as all of the reviews. We stayed in a lovely B&B (Kapital Inn) for 3 nights. Our first disappointment came 2 days prior to the cruise in a forwarded email from our TA. We would not be cruising on the Jewel in Budapest, but instead would be on the Diamond for 3 nights, then we would be bussed to the Jewel which was upriver and unable to make it to Budapest due to a lock being closed up the Danube. We took a taxi to the Marriott to drop our luggage and take transportation to the ship. Quite a few people had not received word that we would not be on the Jewel. Most of us had been aware of the flooding, and although there was a little grumbling about not being told in advance, it wasn't a huge problem. Our cruise director Marin was the only staff that stayed with our group during our very challenging cruise. He did an amazing job considering the problems he faced. I'd like to mention the other ships we stayed on, as we found huge differences that impacted our trip. We ended up having to change ships again due to lock strikes in Germany after being docked in a commercial area in Bamburg for 3 nights and long bus trips for excursions. We started on the Diamond, moved to the Jewel and ended up on the Pearl. Our vision of unpacking once and enjoying the river from our balcony ended up being not so ideal. We spent much more time being on big bus tours than we thought. Did the interruptions impact our cruise enjoyment? Probably. We never did experience the "afternoons enjoying the villages on our own" The only village we stayed at required a 10 Euro one way taxi ride. I thought there would be smaller than the 40-50 groups were regularly on and the long bus rides to our destinations.Diamond: Some wear and tear obvious on the ship. It didn't matter to most of us, as we knew we would be meeting the Jewel in a few days. Some negative comments "we didn't get what we paid for", some people ended up in different cabins due to the ships not being identical. The staff however was lovely. We were greeted with cool towels, glass of champagne and a rose for the ladies. Passengers waited in the lounge. We were escorted to our standard balcony cabin after a very brief and orderly check in process. The room was explained by the very friendly stewardess. The balcony was a great feature, space for two chairs and a small table. It was somewhat annoying that the railing was just at eye level when sitting. The ability to move the window up and down was what i guess is Scenic's "signature" feature. To get the A/C to work, the sliding door to the balcony needed to be closed. Our butler "Zoltan" came to introduce himself. He was a favorite on the ship. Most wished we could take him with us. The bed was two two twins (full size twins) pushed together to make a king. L'Occitane bath products, and shower had a complicated spray system, gave it a somewhat higher end feeling. There was a "meet and greet" before dinner, where officers made some comments and the CD explained the river situation, assuring all that we wouldn't notice the ship change, that all would be seamless. Buffet first dinner, somewhat chaotic. The dining room was noisy, most were tables of 6 with a table for 2 right next to it. We found fun tablemates the first night and ate with them frequently during our trip. The wait staff was friendly and seemed very busy and hardworking. We were treated to a night sailing on the Danube to see the lights of BUdapest. We enjoyed the Diamond. DIdn't enjoy packing up three days into our trip. The plan was to take the scheduled tours with being bussed to the ship which was ahead of us. Jewel: We were to have a BBQ lunch on the top deck. Kinda sounds like fun, but it wasn't. The lines were long around the buffet, there weren't too many near tables. Drink service was odd, with waiters asking what we wanted, then never bringing it. No reception when entering the new ship. Not much in the way of greeting. Given our room keys. We find the new cabin to be much nicer -- a better use of space, no sliding door to the balcony, but a nifty folding door that we just left open. The bathroom had a huge shower!! no more complicated shower system. The public rooms were somewhat the same, it was just obvious that overall the physical layout of the Jewel was much better. You would think that this would make happy campers, right? Well, there was a HUGE difference in staff across the board on the Jewel. The ship captain was a substitute and the hotel director appeared to be on vacation. I wish this was an exaggeration. While we saw the hotel director working alongside his people, and checking on dining room status, the hotel director was never seen. People were scratching their heads, how can waiters and bar staff seem to look so "busy" all the time, but people couldn't get any service. Overall, it impacted our experience. We heard there were many verbal and written complaints. We didn't put ours in writing, because at the time I wasn't sure what was going on. THe wait staff didn't appear to be trained on how to do their job, so rather than say it was the problem with the staff, I place the blame on the uninterested hotel director. I did notice that we seemed to "warm" up the staff, mainly because I think we had a very tolerant, fun loving group of passengers. Pearl: like the DIamond, great, hardworking staff. It's hard to believe the difference. I had low expectations for food quality, and high expectations of service, but the reverse actually happened. For example, there were only two menus placed on each table of 6-8. Never did a waiter point out there were alternate selections each night. We were offered a "red" or "white" wine, and it took a few days to figure out they stock more than one choice. You had to be on guard as the waiters often would just pour what was in hand, not noticing you perhaps were drinking a Chianti that night. There was no coffee served dinner. Dining choices on the menu were limited, the food was well presented. I was pleased with my meals. Dining by buffet is difficult when all passengers eat at the same time. I never stayed in the long line for the carved meat or breakfast selections.Scenic promises much more than they are able to deliver. If you enjoy large organized bus tours, or walking tours where you are herded from one location to another Scenic can give you that experience. Our best days happened to be those which we decided to take a pass on the bus tour, and stayed on the boat while it was moving to the next port. The best experience was meeting new friends. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
We booked our river cruise with Scenic Tours travelling from Amsterdam to Budapest from the beginning of June 2013. We had booked in the middle of 2012 so we were really looking forward to the whole experience. As reasonably seasoned ocean ... Read More
We booked our river cruise with Scenic Tours travelling from Amsterdam to Budapest from the beginning of June 2013. We had booked in the middle of 2012 so we were really looking forward to the whole experience. As reasonably seasoned ocean cruisers we knew that river cruising would be different but we expected from the Scenic Tours advertising that a high standard of life on board would be expected, and that the smaller sizes of ship would lead to smaller groups. The day before we left home we got an email saying that although we were booked on the Scenic Jewel it would no longer be possible to board this ship and we would be transferred to the Scenic Ruby in the same cabin number. However, as the Ruby was different to the Jewel we would be given a small refund. We landed in Schipol airport and were supposed to be met by a Scenic Tours rep. We couldn't find him and eventually the airport information office ran him to ground. It turned out that he was attempting to pacify another passenger who hadn't been told about the ship change. When we got on board the Ruby the welcome was warm and the offer of a cold drink and a snack accepted with alacrity. The Tour Director was helpful and knowledgeable but explained that as the waters on the Rhine and Danube were in flood we were unable to get under some of the bridges. This might have an adverse effect on parts of our cruise but that he was told that the situation would be rectified in a few days. We stayed overnight in Amsterdam and began cruising on that evening. By day 3 we were in Dusseldorf and were coached to Cologne, about two hours away. After a day's sight-seeing we re-joined the ship and travelled as far as Bonn where we docked. In that evening's briefing by the Tour Director we were told that due to the delay from flooding we could not now walk to the mediaeval castle where dinner was arranged, but would instead be bussed there - a total of four hours there and back. The next day we were supposed to travel to Rudesheim but the river was too dangerous and the ship's captain turned back and moored at Koblenz. by this stage we realised that the cruise was not going to take place even remotely as planned, but the Tour Director still kept insisting that we would visit the places as agreed, not on the ship but would do so by coach. Most of our fellow passengers accepted the situation but as we saw what was happening elsewhere on the river a few became quite upset. It was clear from the reaction of the other river cruise companies that we were one of the few cruise ships still trying to complete their voyage. At one stage we were tied up five abreast with four empty river cruise ships alongside. Their passengers had had their cruise cancelled and given refunds. Scenic Tours did not make this offer. In the event, we got increasingly longer bus trips to see villages and towns for shorter periods of time. Then we changed ships to the Scenic Jewel and tied up in an industrial basin for four days before being bussed on an epic eight hour journey to Scenic Pearl moored in Vienna. The only cruising on this stretch of the river was from Vienna to Budapest. This was not a cruise trip but an extended coach holiday. As a result of all the ship changing we did get to experience the different levels of service on board three of the Company's vessels. Most of the time the service and helpfulness of the staff were exemplary but on one of the ships the vessel hadn't moved for ten days and the staff were beginning to get fractious - and it showed! Some evening dining was waiter service but for breakfast, lunch, and most evenings the service was mostly on a buffet style, with a somewhat limited choice. However, the specialist dining room, Portobello's, was very good with fine food and wines and excellent service. The cruise was advertised as all-inclusive and while wine was from a selected list I understand that there was a charge made if a different wine was ordered. However, I never experienced that as I thought that the wines available were fair enough. Most of the passengers were Australian (as befits an Australian Tour operator)and many of them did not like the European wines on offer. The Tour Director stayed with the passengers throughout the various moves and attempted to control the situation as far as he could. He talked to us daily, sometimes twice daily, but was unable to get any information from his Head Office about the future of the cruise. Their attitude seemed to be to keep doing the same thing (putting the passengers on buses) and maybe the flooding situation will improve. In the event we missed out on huge parts of the Rhine and the Danube including some iconic areas like the Rhine Gorge, and Rudesheim, but Scenic Tours just shrugged their metaphorical shoulders and herded the passengers around on buses. We had been on the Rhine before so knew most of the sights so we enjoyed the on-board service and sitting in the sun. Consequently we only took the bus option when either we had to, say when changing ships, or if we really wanted to see an attraction. I can't say why Scenic Tours decided to press on with a doomed river cruise when the other cruise companies had cancelled. Maybe because the majority of the passengers were Australian and the cost of sending them home would have been too high? If it hadn't been for the buses and the three ship changes we would have had a good holiday. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
This will be a mixed review of our experience with Scenic Tours and the new Spaceship -Jewel, starting from when we first booked about 18 months ago. Booking: We chose Scenic Tours because we were told it was an Australian company and ... Read More
This will be a mixed review of our experience with Scenic Tours and the new Spaceship -Jewel, starting from when we first booked about 18 months ago. Booking: We chose Scenic Tours because we were told it was an Australian company and really didn’t look too closely into the alternatives. We chose the tour “Prague to Amsterdam”, which had a land-based component before boarding one of the new Scenic ships which was to be the Crystal or the newly launched Jewel. We took advantage of the early bird special of cheap airfares to Europe, but some months after booking Scenic canceled the land based, pre cruise part of the trip so we decided to do Prague on our own and meet the ship in Budapest. Then we are in formed by Scenic that because we still wanted to fly into Prague we now had to pay extra for our flights. We never understood there reasoning but we sucked it up and moved on. With our so call early bird special came a free stop over and we decided to have a night in Singapore on the way over. We were given a selection on 4 hotels to choose in order of preference, which we did after researching the locations of each. Two weeks before we leave we get our paperwork and listed for Singapore is a hotel we had never heard of and was very disappointing in every way, being very much a businessman’s hotel, far away for all Singapore attractions – a complete waist of time, in our opinion. Also we have no choice of airline and found that we had a luggage restriction of 20kg which proved a challenge seeing we would be away a month. The lesson we learned is not to be enticed by early bird specials – they are not all they make them out to be. Scenic Jewel: We did thoroughly enjoyed or self organized time in the in Prague, trained to Budapest and taxied to the Scenic Meeting point at the Marriot Hotel. Scenic had a lovely meeting area set up in the foyer from early morning with coffee, tea juices and biscuits, cakes and pastries which was fabulous as people were arriving at all different times had a great base to wait and meet fellow passengers. Embarkation was easy and efficient and our luggage was waiting for us in our cabins The jewel is a very comfortable vessel. It's decor, being unpretentious compared to others, it is modern, contemporary style which we found very pleasing and well suited to smart, casual lifestyle on board. Our PP cabin 318 was surprisingly very adequate. The all weather balcony was fantastic and we used it daily - mostly with the balcony up so we could enjoy the suns warmth and the view with out the chilly wind. The bathroom worked well and the shower was a lot bigger than expected. People on the lower deck did complain about the size of their showers and described them as being a lot smaller than ours so it does pay to do your research. We were please with the sound proofing of the ship. We never heard any noise from the sun deck above us or from adjacent rooms. There was not creaking or noises you might expect when under sail. Food: The main Dining room served "nice" food but I wouldn’t call it 5 star. Breakfast being a basic buffet of mostly the same variety each day. Lunch and dinner was varied daily with something to please every one but it always fell well short of the "Wow" factor. e.g..I loved the fillet steak, cooked to your choice of perfection - but was never offered any sauce you night expect in most restaurants. I was hoping for a béarnaise, mushroom of pepper sauce at best - even mustard and when asked they could only offer a rather flavorless brown sauce. We enjoyed the cafe for light meals and snacks and looked forward to their filled pretzels, which were delicious. We had one booking in Portobello's and that was lovely and met our expectations in every way. Entertainment: Martin - out entertainer was OK and suited the age group on board. The guest entertainers were very average if you like audience participation. Tours These were of a very high standard - in my opinion. We also used to carry our Scenic head sets which gave us an interesting commentary when ever we past a point of interest - be it land or water. With the weather and high water against us we found ourselves stuck in Bamberg 3 nights and had to bus long distances to meet our tour itinerary. Scenic did an amazing job in dealing with this dilemma but it was not the easy boat cruise we had hoped for and long bus tours were not what we were looking for when choosing a river cruise. But I again emphasize that Scenic made every effort and can not praise them enough for that. Staff: We found the most staff to be pleasant and accommodating. Our cruise director, Patrick and Hotel Manage, Egor, were lots of fun, informative and always helpful. The lounge area at peak times felt understaffed and it would take a long time to get our drink orders. We found out very quickly that approaching the bar was a no-no and even though there were barstools up against it we were always instructed to sit in the lounge area and wait for the stewardess – a little frustrating sometimes. I challenged myself to make a barman (we nicknamed smilie) smile by the end of the trip - but failed. Unfortunately, being stuck due to high water and eventually having to pack up and change ships to the Ruby further down stream does change the vibe on board. Some people where very upset and it was evident they had not done their research and were not aware that this can happen even though is clearly stated in the terms and conditions on cruise forums. Moving to the Ruby: First impressions were – it is almost the same as the Jewel because it had just been refurbished. We had the same cabin number but it was not the same and because we had the Jewel to compare with the little things became very annoying for the 3 days we were onboard – like the loud creaking in our cabin that forced us to wear ear plugs to sleep, - the slight smell of waste from time to time and the very much smaller shower that often flooded into the small bathroom area. We were unfortunate with the weather and the floods but we believe Scenic did all they could to keep our itinerary on track and they did a great job under the circumstances. In conclusion: I have to agree with another Scenic reviewer – in my experience this is not the 5 star product it proclaims itself to be. Scenic does a great job in looking after its passengers but it does fall short of the mark in most areas. This trip had highs and lows and we didn’t return home thinking, “Wow – we must do another river cruise”, but we haven’t completely ruled it out sometime in the distant future and if we do, we will be looking at all options.   Read Less
Scenic Jewel Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.6
Dining 5.0 4.3
Entertainment 2.0 3.9
Public Rooms 5.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.7
Family 1.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.3
Enrichment 3.0 4.3
Service 4.0 4.7
Value For Money 5.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 3.3

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