Back in May a handful of your local Co-op Travel Agents tested out a Scenic river cruise from Basel in Switzerland to Rüdesheim, Germany. Scenic is a luxury brand that specialises in the river cruise market and we had the chance to really get to know what’s on offer whilst spending 3 nights on board their beautiful Space-Ship, Ruby. We think you deserve to know what we found!!
Fly or take Eurostar
For this cruise, boarding took place in Basel in Northwest Switzerland. This means that the trip falls into the “Fly-Cruise” category, and with Scenic, flights are included in the cost of the cruise. You can even opt to travel by Eurostar instead if you’re not keen on flying! The team flew from our local airport, Birmingham, which involved a stop in Frankfurt as Birmingham does not offer direct flights to Basel. The reaction to this was mixed, and a few of us would rather have gone the extra distance to a London airport to get a direct flight as the wait was about 4 hours in Frankfurt. Others thought that the size of the airport, and the restaurants, shops and lounges it has, meant time passed easily.
After being met by a Scenic host and transferred the short distance by coach to the ship, we were greeted by the Cruise Director himself before boarding to find a drinks reception waiting for us. Like for every passenger on a Scenic ship, our luggage was taken directly to the cabins whilst we socialised and checked-in.
“Absolutely beautiful ship, very elegant and modern”
The Ruby is quite small in cruise terms, with a sun deck and just 84 cabins over 3 decks. All suites on the middle (Sapphire) and top (Diamond) deck have balconies. The Staterooms on the lower deck (Jewel) have no balcony due to the location of the deck, but there are large picture windows and the cabins still felt very spacious.
Each of us were shown to our cabins by a personal butler (we were looked after by Leesa) and found our luggage neatly placed and a personalised welcome waiting for us. It became clear to many of us the level of attention to detail and thought that goes into making each passengers’ experience memorable.
After a little moseying around the decidedly elegant ship, it was time to find one of the five restaurants and enjoy our first meal on board. All the group raved about the quality and the variety of food on offer, especially when you consider it was a buffet for a potentially limited audience of, at most, 170 guests.
All the tables were set to party sizes, meaning even if you came alone or as a couple there was plenty of opportunity to make friends. On a river cruise, it’s very difficult not to make friends, the ships’ size makes the entire trip feel intimate and friendly and you find yourself pulled into conversations easily. Seating was not reserved in the restaurant for any of the meals, although passengers did tend to stick to the same tables once they had made friends with others on board.
The evening was spent relaxing and listening to the Resident Pianist, Margie, in the lounge bar. All tastes were accommodated when it came to the bar, and one of our group even commented “I cannot see a single drink, or brand of drink, that’s not available”. This is high praise indeed when you consider the cruise is all-inclusive and for many companies this would be limited to only house choices.
Don’t worry, we didn’t get too carried away at the bar! A few of us wanted to stay up to experience the first lock of the trip. The mechanics of this are the same as a canal lock, but there was something magical about seeing this on a river that really intrigued us.
Over the course of the next few days, the cruise made its way through Strasbourg, Mannheim and finally into Rüdesheim. By the time we had woken each morning we were docked and the city of the day was waiting to be explored as soon as breakfast was over.
All-included and taken care of
There are always several excursions to choose from on a Scenic Cruise, all of which are available as part of the all-inclusive package. Some of us went to the Black Forest, saw picturesque villages and tried local, homemade Black Forest Gateau (“out of this world!” apparently). Others tried a walking tour around Strasbourg using Scenic’s tailor-made GPS system to provide an audio guide. There was such variety on offer at every stop, from museums to historic buildings or free time to explore on an e-bike, we really were spoilt for choice on the cruise.
On the second evening there was even a privately arranged Opera offered as an exclusive to Scenic passengers; including a tour of the Palace where the Opera took place! Many of us had never experienced an Opera before and readily admitted having preconceptions of what the evening would be like; you’ll be glad to know we were pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
“The attention to detail was immeasurable”
Our final night on board the Ruby saw us dine at the ships’ al a carte Italian restaurant. Dining here is by invitation only. All passengers receive a single invitation for one of the nights they are on board. Everyone agreed the food was exceptional and could not be faulted. The atmosphere and the attentiveness of the waiters made it the most memorable meal of the cruise for many of us.
After yet more wonderful excursions (cable cars and year round Christmas markets!) and another delicious lunch, it was time for us to disembark one final time and return to the UK. “Relaxing”, “welcoming” and a “truly amazing experience” were all phrases repeated several times during our journey home; and from our experience, we know if you give Scenic a try, you’ll be left thinking the same!
Your Co-op Travel Agents xx