ABOVE: A Scenic Cruises "Space-Ship" on the Rhine.
Scenic Cruises is upping the ante on river cruising in Europe with a variety of enhancements for 2013:
- All but one of its "Space-Ships" are being refitted with "sun lounges," which allow guests with private balconies to convert their balconies into indoor lounges when the weather turns iffy. (More than 80 percent of cabins on "Space-Ships" have private balconies, according to Scenic Cruises, so the "indoor lounge" feature is more than just a marketing gimmick).
- Most ships will have three restaurants: the River Café ("all day offerings"), Table La Rive ("degustation"), and the Terrace (for "high tea").
- The company is introducing "Scenic Tailormade," an "exclusive bespoke GPS guided tour system with full commentary, allowing guests to choose from independent walks or cycling tours exploring interest areas like food and wine or history." This is a refreshing alternative to traditional river-cruise shore excursions, where passengers are transported to the sights en masse in tour buses.
Other Scenic Cruises amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, butler service, unlimited free beverages, and a "no tipping" policy. (Gratuities are included in the fare, and you don't even need to tip local tour guides.)
Scenic Cruises offers river voyages of seven to 21 nights in Western and Central Europe, with add-on land packages available. For more information, visit www.scenictours.com or--if you live in the United States--www.scenictoursus.com.
The pictures below show Scenic Crystal moored along a European river, a typical suite with balcony, and a Royal Suite. (Photos courtesy of Scenic Cruises.)