When Scenic Tours started offering river cruises in Europe a few years ago, it was not a brand name many North Americans recognized. Though the name may be new to some, , Scenic Tours has been providing quality vacations for thirty years. In 2008, its revolutionary fleet of five identical sister ships introduced the full step-out balcony, upgraded butler services, and specialty dining to river cruising. These evocatively named Scenic ‘Space Ships’ are longer than some river cruise vessels to accommodate larger floorplans of 205 square feet for most cabins; that’s huge by any cabin standards.
Speaking of the space, it’s is the most amazing amenity of the accommodations onboard; don’t be fooled by the cozy feeling, as the immense convertible King bed gives you the illusion of a smaller cabin that you actually have. High thread-count white linens contrast the dark wood wall panels and imaginative neutrals on the chairs. Closet and storage space feel well designed and ample for two, and the soft ambient lighting brightens up mornings or evenings. Bathrooms feature plenty of counter space and a large shower in most cabins, with a full tub in Junior or Royal suites. The l’Occitane toiletries evoke a luxurious posh that carries from your bathroom throughout the ship.
Like many cruises on the oceans and rivers, dining is a focal point aboard the Ruby. Breakfast is full of options ranging from continental, cooked-to-order omelets, fruits and cereals, to fish (salmon, herring and mackerel) and hearty options. Chefs grill up lamb chops with hash browns and minute steak on baguette each morning. Elegantly prepared cold salads and hot soups, such as tomato gin bisque or lemon grass consommé, highlight lunch. The galley also prepares the day’s special meat, fish and vegetarian dishes to order. Dinner is a full service five course affair using fresh local ingredients paired with exquisite wines and beers.
Alternatively, at dinner the forward portion of the Panorama Lounge transforms into Portobello’s, an included Italian specialty restaurant. Dinner may start with a butterfish caprese matched with a delectable soup and scallop skewer. The truffle and parmesan pasta we had, cooked tableside, was absolutely divine. Main course options include sea bream served simply without sauce or fanfare, or corn-fed chicken. The last course consisted of a cheese plate and strawberry tiramisu.
Coffee concoctions from basic to exotic are available at the self-serve machines any hour in the lounge. Tea aficionados can also rejoice, as Scenic offers over a dozen loose leaf tea blends and plenty of proper pots to brew them in, raising the river cruise bar.
Entertainment & Excursions
An onboard pianist entertains nightly, and some ports showcase local artists. Our cruise featured the delightful Bells of Basel’s unique show of handcrafted Swiss bell musical performances, and Strasbourg chansons that sang Parisian classics a la Edith Piaf. While on the Mosel, a local wine expert presented a lecture on wine, and a renowned Zither player performed an exclusive concert.
While sailing the rivers, the Panorama Lounge provides floor to ceiling glass for unobstructed views. The lounge and hallways are decorated in a minimalist, almost Spartan, modern décor. Outside and forward is the observation lounge, partially covered and shielded from the wind. Additional shaded and sunny spaces are available on the top deck, where the wheelhouse is open, when possible, for informal visits.
Scenic’s tours are very thorough, with extensive excursions that go beyond just towns and villages adjacent to the river and delve deeper inland; this is unique to Scenic, and rarely seen on other river cruise lines. On the Rhine, for example, guests journey into the Black Forest in Germany, or traipse the Dutch countryside to reach the Kröller Müller museum. Although the tours fill up the days, the schedules seem properly paced and unhurried, some with lunch at local restaurants. Activities onboard and ashore are well organized and communicated, making the Ruby also the perfect choice for who appreciate experts handling all the details while they travel.
Itineraries and all-inclusive pricing
Scenic Ruby and her sisters sail two-week programs year-round in central Europe and offer extensive itineraries. The cruise price is exhaustively Inclusive. Alongside shore excursions, beverages, and amenities, Scenic adds gratuities, transfers, and all tours. New for 2013/2014 season and beyond: Scenic now includes all bottled water, and a full minibar stocked daily so even those pesky fees are now included. Way to go Scenic!
If you go:
Scenic Tours and Cruises
- Ship Details:
- Built: 2009
- Length: 443 feet
- Passengers: 169
- Crew: 48
- Cabins: 85 (All categories)
- Step-out Balcony Suites: 60 (Cat. P,PA,A,B,BA,C,BS)
- Junior Suites: 6 (Cat. RJ, BJ)
- Royal Suites: 4 (Cat. R)
- Standard Suites: 15 (Cat. D,E)