a body of water with a city in the background

Luxury Cruising on the Rhine River


It’s morning aboard the Scenic Opal, and I lazily roll out of bed, put on my plush robe and dial my butler. “Good Morning, Ms. Marshall. Are you ready for your tea? Yes, please.” Slipping on a cushy pair of slippers, I wander out to my private terrace to see what fairytale scene is unfolding.

That is how each day of my Scenic river cruise along Germany’s Rhine River began. Evenings were even more indulgent as my cabin attendant, Thierry, made sure the all-inclusive mini bar was well stocked with white wine—apparently someone kept drinking mine.

Cruising with Scenic USA, the itinerary followed the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam. Gliding past UNESCO World Heritage sites, fairytale castles, picturesque villages, and historic cathedrals, it was eight delightful days of stunning vistas and incredible sights.

a bridge over a body of water

The Scenic Opal

Cruising on a Space-Ship

So named for their spacious cabins, dining rooms, and entertainment areas, every Scenic European river cruise begins aboard a Space-Ship—a boutique vessel that’s custom built from top to bottom. Super sleek ships with four decks feature panoramic views of the river from floor to ceiling windows throughout. The interior decoration is carefully curated, and luxury touches abound.

Suites and staterooms include retractable windows which convert the private balcony into an all-weather sun lounge with the touch of a button. Typically, I’m not one that spends a lot of time in my room when I travel, but I could have spent hours just hanging out in my Scenic Opal suite

At the heart of the ship is the Panorama Lounge and Bar—a place to relax, meet with old and new friends, or enjoy the evening’s entertainment. When the sun is shining, catch a few rays on the sun deck or relax in the Jacuzzi. There’s also a fitness and wellness center for workouts or a massage.

Rhine River banks

Fairytale Scenes Along the Rhine River

An Abundance of Dining Options

With a varied selection of dining options, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to meals. Crystal is the ship’s main dining room where a buffet breakfast and a la carte lunch are served. Dinners are full service with a delicious array of choices. Can’t decide between the fish or the beef entrée? You can order both. For more casual bites, River Café serves a range of light meals and snacks including personal pizzas and scrumptious desserts. Guests on Diamond Deck and in the Junior Balcony Suites on Sapphire Deck have the option of dining at Table La Rive, the Executive Chef’s table. This elegant experience features a menu of six-courses with sommelier paired wines. And for exclusive and intimate dining, make a reservation at Portobellos for fine Italian or L’Amour where French cuisine is the star.

At least once on each cruise, an old-fashioned barbeque is served on the sun deck—weather permitting. And although it was raining on barbeque day for my cruise, the theme was brought inside to the Crystal dining room. The rain didn’t bother us as we feasted on German sausages and a decadent Strawberry Buffet.

a white plate topped with meat and vegetables on a table

Gourmet Dining on Scenic

Excursions your way

There are times when I’m happy to join a group tour, but sometimes I prefer to explore on my own. With Scenic, the choice is yours. Choose from a vast array of “Freechoice” excursions based on your interests: history, culture, food or nature.

In Koblenz, I chose to explore on one of the ship’s e-bikes. Taking advantage of a GPS-based Scenic Tailormade tour—with a personal hand-held device that guides you to points of interest—I was able to see all the main attractions of the city and still find my way back to ship.

The cruise was also enriched with special events along the way. A private tour of the sprawling 18th-century Baroque estate, the Palace of Rastatt, was followed by an outstanding classical concert. In Koblenz, we traversed the Rhine to the impressive Ehrenbreitstein Fortress—a Prussian stronghold—where we were treated to traditional German entertainment complete with beer and sausages.

Castle in Europe

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Rethinking the cruise experience

There are people who live for cruising aboard mega ships with thousands of guests, massive casinos and enough space to ensure you never see the same people twice. I’m not one of them. I prefer a more refined, intimate experience … and Scenic delivers in that regard along with providing superb customer service. In addition to the Rhine River cruise, the line offers itineraries along the Main, Danube, Seine, Rhone, Volga, Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers. The all-inclusive policy includes an in-suite mini bar, meals and snacks, complimentary drinks (including alcohol), gratuity for the staff and tour guides, e-bikes and all transfers to and from the ship. You can practically leave your wallet at home.

Scenic Eclipse Yacht

Scenic Eclipse I and II

More on the horizon

There’s more on the horizon for Scenic. Launching in 2019, the Scenic Eclipse takes ocean cruising to new six-star luxury levels as the World’s First Discovery Yacht. The Scenic Eclipse will transport guests from the top of the globe in the Arctic along the Northwest Passage to the bottom with explorations through Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. Search for polar bears in the Arctic or wander among penguins on Antarctica’s icy shores.

Taking it to an unparalleled level, the Scenic Eclipse also will have two seven-seat helicopters and a seven-seat submarine providing incomparable windows into the awe-inspiring destinations. It’s a happy marriage of discovery and luxury.

By Terri Marshall, TravelSquire.com