Posted on Leave a comment

Wine Theme River Cruises 2013

ama-waterways-wine-cruise-12-13-12

The river cruise line, AmaWaterways has announced a roster of wine hosts for its 2013 “In Celebration on Wine” theme cruises. The river cruise line will host 21 wine-themed itineraries through Europe’s wine regions this year, each hosted by a different wine expert from the U.S. or Europe.

The 2013 season has new excursions on Portugal’s Douro River and France’s Seine River, in addition to the company’s other unforgettable itineraries along the Danube, Mosel, Rhine and Rhone Rivers.

AmaWaterways’ 2013 wine hosts for the “In Celebration of Wine” itineraries and dates are as follows:

March 29: Legendary Wine & Regions of the Rhone

James Cluer, MW of Fine Vintages. Cluer took his first Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) course at age 18, became a Master of Wine (MW) several years later, and has been working in the wine industry since 1988.

April 2: Classic Port Wines & Charming Quintas

George Sandeman of the House of Sandeman. Over the past two centuries, Sandeman Port and Sherries has become one of the world’s best known brands. George Sandeman is the seventh generation of his family to head the company.

April 5: Paris & the Sparkling Seine

Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat Winery in Santa Barbara, Calif. Food & Wine magazine named Clendenen “Winemaker of the Year” in 2001; Germany’s leading wine magazine, Wein Gourmet, named him “Winemaker of the World” in 2004; and in 2007, he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.”

April 12 & Nov. 1: Paris & the Sparkling Seine

Preston Mohr, an American wine expert now based in Paris, holds an Advanced Certificate from the WSET and is currently studying for his Diploma, to be completed in June 2013. One of his specialties is French Champagne.

April 13: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Gary and Marcy Eberle of Eberle Winery in Paso Robles, Calif. More than 33 years after the release of its first vintage, this award-winning winery remains one of the most highly regarded winemakers in the United States.

Oct. 31: Castles & Wineries of Germany

Len and Marisa Crispino of Foreign Affairs Winery. After living as ex-pats in Italy in the early 1990s, Len and Marisa returned to Ontario and planted their first vines. Inspired by the Italian wine-making process, they use a unique grape drying process known as appassimento (or the Reductio method).

Nov. 5: Classic Port Wines & Charming Quintas

Brian Heath of Grape Creek Vineyards in Fredericksburg, Texas. This Texas Hill Country winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and also boasts the first underground commercial barrel cellar in central Texas.

Nov. 6: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Eric Glomski, owner of Page Springs Cellars & Arizona Stronghold, specializes in producing Rhone-style Arizona wines. Eric will co-host withSam Pillsbury, New Zealand film director (Free Willy) and owner of Pillsbury WineCompany.

Nov. 7: Vineyards of the Rhine & Mosel

Carissa Chappellet of Chappellet Winery in Napa, an estate known for its Bordeaux varietals and its Cabernet Sauvignon. Chappellet and her brothers inherited the winery from their parents, founders Don and Molly Chappellet. She will co-host with Archie McLaren, founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic.

Nov. 8: Legendary Wine Regions of the Rhone

Gerryand Rosie Wilson of Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, Calif. Wilson Creek’s famous Almond Champagne and other unique vintages have garnered numerous prestigious international wine awards.

Nov. 8: Paris & the Sparkling Seine

Jean-Marc & Kristi Espinasse of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Rouge-Bleu has been awarded many gold medals in France and its wines have been ranked 90+ points more than four times in Wine Spectator.

Nov. 9: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Boband Jodi Dickinson are event chairs for Camillus House Auction, which raises funds for nonprofit organizations in southern Florida. Past auction items have included a rare collection of Chateau Haut Brion, which sold for more than $59,000.

Nov. 11: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Stephanie and Michael Honig of Honig Vineyard & Winery in Napa, known for its Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Stephanie has a WSET Higher Certificate and Diploma and has many years of experience in the industry. Michael is often referred to as “the James Brown of the wine industry” and is a leader in sustainable farming.

Nov. 13: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Christopher Silva, President & CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma County, Calif. The winery’s products have earned a reputation as top quality varietal wines that are bold flavored and fruit-forward.

Nov. 15: Culture & Wine Legacy of the Rhine

Holly Howellis a columnist for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, New York and an authority on the wines of the Finger Lakes region, particularly Rieslings. She also teaches food and wine classes and makes her own wine.

Nov. 16: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Barry Wiss, Certified Wine Educator, VP of communications & trade relations for Trinchero Family Estates, a winery established in 1947. The Trinchero family estates represent more than 27 brands in the US and Australia, including Sutter Home, Menage a Trois, and Napa Cellars.

Nov. 18: Great Capitals & Vintages of the Danube

Vic Poulos of Zin Valle Vineyards in El Paso, Texas. Poulos owns and operates the Zin Valle Vineyards winery and also writes about wine for local and national publications.

Nov. 22: Culture & Wine Legacy of the Rhine

Mark Johnson of Chateau Chantal Winery in Michigan. Trained at the Geisenheim Research Institute in Germany, Johnson has been the winemaker at Chateau Chantal since it opened in 1986.

Nov. 22: Legendary Wine Regions of the Rhone

Lee Fuqua of Fuqua Winery. Lee Fuqua’s boutique Texas winery produces what he calls “wines with an attitude” – big, rich, full-bodied wines that satisfy serious wine drinkers.

The River Cruise Guru is a certified River Cruise Specialist and we are here to assist you FREE of charge with your river cruise. River cruising is our specialty!

Contact us today for more information at:
phone: 218-779-3050
email: pete@rivercruiseguru.com
facebook: www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru
website: www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

RCGuru Official Logo

Posted on Leave a comment

Scenic Cruises is Upgrading European Riverboats

Onboard Scenic Crystal...the first River Café by River Cruise Guru Onboard Scenic Crystal…the first River Café by River Cruise Guru[/caption]Scenic Cruises is spending $10 million to rebuild five “Space Ships” with the same features and specifications of its newest ships, the Scenic Crystal and soon-to-launch Scenic Jewel. The five ships undergoing work — Scenic Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond, Ruby and Pearl — are only 18 months to four years old. The Scenic Crystal entered service in April 2012, while the Scenic Jewel is due out this April.

The five ships will get a new casual eatery, the River Café, which is open all day. Portobello’s, the 30-seat Italian restaurant, has been upgraded, while the main restaurant has enhanced omelet and carver stations. Also added to the ships is Table La Rive, which will serve a six-course degustation menu.

Cabins (except those on Scenic Emerald) have been redone with new wallpaper, marble-desk tops and side tables, furniture, carpets and 32-inch Samsung HD TVs linked to MiniMac computers for in-cabin email and Internet. What’s more, the cabins will get the “Sun-Lounges,” which allow guests to convert their private balcony into an indoor lounge with the push of a button.

All Royal and Panorama Suites were expanded and rebuilt to Crystal/Jewel specifications. The lounge has a new upgraded bar done with marble, additional coffee machines, and more wine dispensers. The lobby areas also are renovated with new floors, reception desks, wallpaper, artwork and light fixtures. The ships will also get new carpet, curtains and designer furniture throughout. The ships also offer a number of technical upgrades including an upgraded Wi-Fi system using both Satellite and UMTS Mobile technology for faster speeds, and new equipment in the galleys, such as pizza ovens.

In 2013, Scenic Cruises offers unlimited complimentary beverages (top-shelf brands are additional), private butler service for every guest, 24-hour room service, new themed dinners with entertainment, a personal GPS guided tour system providing commentary on passing sites, and complimentary Wi-Fi. The GPS system is not available on Scenic Emerald in France.

FREE RIVER CRUISE PLANNING, BOOKING AND ADVICE!
Contact The River Cruise Guru! We are certified by the river cruise lines as
RIVER CRUISE SPECIALISTS!
Don’t settle for anything less! We will get you the best value and price available and we offer unbiased river cruise advice on cruise lines, ships and itineraries.

CONTACT US TODAY!
Phone (or text): 218-779-3050
email: pete@rivercruiseguru.com
Website: www.RiverCruiseGuru.com
facebook: www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru

The River Cruise Guru is a specialty branch of Jolly Mon Vacations!
RCGuru Official Logo

Posted on 3 Comments

All-inclusive resort vs cruise vacation prices

All-inclusive Resort
Jolly Mon Vacations is your ticket to savings this winter for your getaway.

“What will a week-long vacation to an all-inclusive resort cost me?”
Here are some prices for some one week getaways figured for two persons. Airfare is figured from Minneapolis, but can be purchased from most any gateway. Prices may vary greatly to deviate. There are a host of different resort and flight options but these were picked for best value and scheduling. Contact us for any specific requests or different resort options: pete@jollymonvacations.com

==========================

A week in Cancun, Mexico that won’t break the bank!
• Roundtrip NON-STOP flights for two on Sun Country Airlines from Minneapolis to Cancun, Mexico.
• Roundtrip transfers from Cancun airport to the resort. 7 nights stay arriving February 2 at the 4-star Krystal Cancun Resort in a Deluxe room.
• Price: $1,432 per person total.
• $100 deposit at booking

========================================

A week in laid-back Negril, Jamaica…just what the doctor ordered!
• Roundtrip flights for two on US Airways from Minneapolis to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
• Roundtrip transfers from Sangster International airport to the resort in Negril.
• 7 nights stay arriving February 2 at the 4-star RIU Negril Resort in a standard room.
• Price: $1,670 per person total.
• $1,263 deposit at booking, full payment due: 19DEC12.

RIU Negril all-inclusive resort
RIU Negril all-inclusive resort

======================================

Sunning in Montego Bay, Jamaica this winter can be a reality!
• Roundtrip flights for two on United Airlines from Minneapolis to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
• Roundtrip transfers from Sangster International airport to the resort.
• 7 nights stay arriving February 3rd at the 3.5-star Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in a Superior room. (thru Cyber Monday)
• Price: $1,371 per person total.
• $1,063 deposit at booking, full payment due: 20DEC12.

Holiday Inn  Sunspree Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

==============================================

Looking for something completely different? How about Costa Rica?
• Roundtrip NON-STOP flights for two on Sun Country Airlines from Minneapolis to Liberia, Costa Rica.
• Roundtrip transfers from Liberia airport to the resort.
• 7 nights stay arriving February 22nd at the 4.5-star RIU Guanacaste Resort in a standard room.
• Bonus: Complimentary city tour of Liberia. (4 hours)
• Price: $1,980 per person total.
• $100 deposit at booking, full payment due: 08JAN13.

RIU Guanacaste, Costa Rica

RIU Gaunacaste Pool area

RIU Guanacaste:
Where families, spa-lovers, active travelers and couples come for sun and luxurious sand, this inviting resort provides the perfect blend of service and smiles fronting Costa Rica’s warm Pacific Coast. Nestled amidst tropical palms and fragrant gardens, guests are treated to spacious guestrooms and suites featuring a regularly restocked in-room mini-bar and liquor dispenser; a pampering spa; fun-filled children’s amenities including a playground, activity club and pool; lighted tennis courts; a disco and 24-hour, all-inclusive restaurants and bars serving delicious cuisines ranging from Asian fare to a robust Steakhouse. Creating the perfect setting for unforgettable vacation experiences, this polished resort has something for every member of the family.

=====================================================

How do these all-inclusive resort prices compare to a one week cruise vacation?

-Here is a sample of what a cruise vacation actually costs:
• Ship: Ruby Princess sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to the Eastern Caribbean:
• Feb 3, 2013 for 7 nights. (FLL-Princess Cays-St. Maarten-St.Thomas-Grand Turk)
• Category BE Balcony: $1,210 per person cruise-only double occupancy. *
• Hotel night prior: $100 per person with free airport shuttle.
• Dinner & breakfast prior to cruise: $30 per person.
• Transfers from hotel to ship and ship to airport: $25 per person.
• Roundtrip flights from MSP-FLL: $377 per person.
• Shipboard gratuities: $80.50 per person/week.
• Water, soda, juice, specialty coffee, beer, wine, alcohol: $175 per person/week.
• Baggage gratuities/misc. gratuities: $15 per person.
• Actual total cruise vacation price: $2,013 per person.
*All soda, specialty coffee, wine, beer, liquor and some juices are extra on cruises.
Mandatory gratuities are 15% extra on beverages. If you were to drink a bottle of water, one soda and three mixed drinks each day it would add more than $25 per day, per person or $175 per person for the week. (which is added above. Adjust this according to your drinking preferences)

We advocate flying in to the port city at least one night prior to your cruise so a flight delay won’t cause you to miss your ship. We’ve added this into the overall cost above.

All-inclusive resorts generally include some other activities and tours that will cost extra aboard a ship. Each resort is different in it’s inclusions so study them closely when comparing a specific resort Vs. cruise vacation.

Some resorts, like RIU above include free Wi-Fi . Aboard ship, you will pay a premium for internet service. Since everyone does not require Wi-Fi service, this fee has been omitted above. Please add these costs onto your trip if its something you require.

Call, text or email us today if you are interested in booking your next vacation at the lowest prices available.

IMPORTANT! These prices /quotes /offers are time-sensitive and capacity controlled. They were priced on 11/25/12 and prices can rise and fall daily. All pricing and/or promotions are subject to availability at the time of booking. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise stated. Jolly Mon Vacations does not control these offers and cannot be held responsible for changes in price or terms.

Jolly Mon Vacations ALWAYS recommends that you purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance is not included in these prices but a personalized quote will be provided at request.

Jolly Mon Vacations
Call: 218.779.3050
Click: www.JollyMonVacations.com
Email: pete@jollymonvacations.com
Jolly Mon Vacations and its branch River Cruise Guru are owned and operated by Peter Larson.
The business is registered in the state of North Dakota, USA.

JMV Official Logomini

Posted on Leave a comment

European Christmas Markets

So which one to choose?

Well, every German Christmas market has its own specialities (the best wooden ornaments come from the Erzgebirge mountains; the Bavarian Forest produces superb glass) but if you’re planning a special trip to Germany to do your Christmas shopping, it makes sense to visit a market in a place you want to see in its own right. Hopefully, the following shortlist should help you make up your mind.

And by the way, a word of warning about the Glühwein. Hot alcohol hits you quicker, especially in chilly weather, and this mulled wine is often a good deal stronger than the stuff we drink at home.

Aachen

23 November to 23 December (aachen.de)

The market

Of all Germany’s Christmas markets, Aachen’s Weihnachtsmarkt is closest to the UK – less than four hours from London by train, changing in Brussels. The Weihnachtsmarkt, in the shadow of the cathedral, has in a spectacular setting. Be sure to try some Printen (the local gingerbread) and potato fritters (the local fast food).

The city

Founded by the Romans, who came here to bathe in its hot sulphur springs, Aachen briefly became the capital of Western Europe under the Emperor Charlemagne during the Dark Ages. The mineral springs are still here (you can swim in them or drink them; bad-aachen.de) and Charlemagne’s ornate cathedral is still standing – a relic of a time when this border town was the centre of a great empire.

Cologne

26 November to 23 December (cologne.de)

The market

From its main site in the cathedral square, close to the bustling central station, Cologne’s Christmas market spills over into several diverse locations around the city. The markets in the Neumarkt and Alter Markt are both charming, but the most scenic spot is the Hafenmarkt, on the Rhine, beside Cologne’s Chocolate Museum. Frikadellen (pork burgers) and Spekulatius (cinnamon-flavoured biscuits) are among the culinary favourites. Kolsch, a light lager served in a dainty 200ml glass, is the favourite brew.

The city

Cologne Cathedral – Copyright River Cruise Guru

Cologne’s gigantic Gothic cathedral dominates the city skyline, but this busy Rhineland city is also a lively centre of the arts. The Ludwig Museum (00 49 221 221 26165; museum-ludwig.de) houses the biggest collection of Pop Art outside America and some stunning German Expressionists such as Max Beckmann and Ludwig Kirchner.

 

Dresden

28 November to 24 December (dresden.de)

The market

Founded in 1434, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. Contrary to popular misconception, it isn’t actually the oldest – that honour belongs to Bautzen, a historic town on the Polish border which beats it by half a century. Never mind. Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is uniquely atmospheric, as the city’s Altmarkt is transformed into a gigantic grotto. Striezel is the Saxon word for Stollen, Germany’s distinctive Christmas cake, and Dresden’s version is commonly regarded as Germany’s finest. If you’re here on 8 December, don’t miss the annual Stollenfest (stollenfest.com), when an enormous Stollen is paraded through the city to the Striezelmarkt, where the Stollenmädchen (a sort of Christmas beauty queen) cuts the first slice.

The city

Renowned before the Second World War as one of Europe’s loveliest cities, the “Florence of the Elbe” was flattened by the Allies in 1945. However, since reunification it’s been painstakingly rebuilt and today the panorama Canaletto painted has been immaculately restored. As well as its beautiful baroque architecture, the Saxon capital has one of the world’s most wonderful art galleries, the Zwinger (00 49 351 49 14 2000; skd.museum), full of treasures by Renaissance masters such as Botticelli and Raphael.

Munich

30 November to 24 December (muenchen.de)

The market

Munich hosts more than a dozen Christmas markets. A lot of overseas visitors venture no further than the traditional Christkindlmarkt below the bell tower of the Neues Rathaus, but the smaller markets beyond Marienplatz are well worth a visit. The most picturesque is the Kripperlmarkt, which is devoted to crib sets and carved Nativity figures. For something completely different, visit Tollwood (tollwood.de), an alternative Christmas market with a focus on ethnic crafts, world music and international cuisine, which continues until 31 December.

The city

Forget the tourist clichés – there’s more to Munich than bierkellers, oompah bands and fat men in lederhosen. In fact, apart from a few weeks during the Oktoberfest, the Bavarian capital is one of Germany’s smartest cities, with lots of chic restaurants and private galleries, and a lively opera scene. Its greatest asset, however, is its close proximity to proper countryside. On a clear day you can see the Bavarian Alps from the city centre and the lovely lakes of Starnberger See and Ammersee are only half an hour away by U-bahn.

Nuremberg

30 November to 24 December (nuernberg.de)

The market

Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt (literally, “Christ child market”) is Germany’s most celebrated Christmas market, attracting more than 2 million visitors annually. Air Berlin flies non-stop from Gatwick; the route ends in early January, but before then there is plenty of availability, The city’s culinary speciality is Lebkuchen (spiced gingerbread) but the biggest attraction is the Christkind (Christmas angel), who opens the market on the Friday before Advent, from the balcony of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in the main square. A local girl in her late teens, the Christkind acts as an ambassador for the Christkindlesmarkt. Despite its popularity, the market retains an old-fashioned atmosphere and an emphasis on authentic produce, especially the Nürnberger Rostbratwürste – delicious little sausages served by the dozen or half a dozen, with heaps of tangy sauerkraut.

The city

Nuremberg’s medieval heritage made it deeply attractive to the Nazis, who adopted this romantic city as the cultural capital of the Third Reich. You can still visit Hitler’s Zeppelin Field, a vast crumbling ruin on the edge of town. Thankfully, Nuremberg’s totalitarian past now feels like ancient history. Today its main claim to fame is as the world’s top producer of children’s toys.

There are many cities along the Rhine and Danube River that have great Christmas Markets. One can take a river cruise and hit them all in style. We recommend Uniworld, AMA and Avalon for these cruises as well as some others. We here at River Cruise Guru assist you ‘free of charge’ with your river cruise plans. We are Certified River Cruise Specialists that really know this unique cruise niche.

Contact us today at:

218-779-3050

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru

Posted on Leave a comment

Scenic Cruises Launches True All-Inclusive River Cruises

Pete Larson, River Cruise Guru

Owner and Travel Consultant for River Cruise Guru & Jolly Mon Vacations

Scenic Cruises has announced what it calls the “first truly all-inclusive luxury river cruising experience.” New on 2013 cruises will be unlimited complimentary beverages (top-shelf brands are additional), private butler service for every guest, themed dinners with entertainment (including Hungarian and Bavarian itineraries), a personal GPS onboard guided tour system devices providing commentary, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Also new are three dining venues — River Café with all-day offerings; Table La Rive, for degustation menus; and High Tea on the Terrace. (River Café, Table La Rive and the GPS tour are not available on Scenic Emerald which will be relocated to the south of France)

New shore experiences include Scenic Enrich, exclusive experiences such as a private dinner and concert at Rastatt Palace; Scenic FreeChoice, 18 tours including the Hockenheim Formula 1 Track in Heidelberg; and Scenic Tailor-made, a bespoke GPS-guided tour system with full commentary, allowing guests to choose from independent walks or cycling tours exploring areas like food and wine or history.

“We are redefining the term ‘all-inclusive luxury’ with the addition of unlimited complimentary beverages available at any time throughout the ship, free Wi-Fi, and butler service for all,” said Managing Director Glen Moroney. “Our relaxing new River Café offers food items all day, including cakes and espresso coffee. And most important — there is basically nothing more to pay except for personal expenses.”

River Cruise Guru can attest to this, as we were invited to sail onboard the maiden voyage of Scenic Crystal and have personally experienced the 2013 changes ourselves on a special voyage. It was nothing short of incredible.

Also in 2013, Scenic “Space-Ships” will get “Sun-Lounges,” which allow guests to convert their private balconies into an indoor lounge. This is basically a step-out balcony that can be totally enclosed in glass for bad weather or wind. Unlike most river cruise ships with balconies, Scenic does not take away ANY space from the stateroom when adding balconies. Sun lounges will be retro-fitted to the entire fleet (except Scenic Emerald). Moroney also announced a number of technical ship upgrades including a “silent drive” system that significantly reduces noise and vibration, and a sophisticated and powerful air-conditioning system.

When it comes to river cruising, Scenic has really stepped up the game. A luxury product that no other line matches in terms of all-inclusive amenities.

To begin your river cruise planning, call us today! Expert river cruise knowledge and assistance at no extra cost to you!

River Cruise Guru is a branch of Jolly Mon Vacations located in Grand Forks, ND serving clients around the globe. We are RIVER CRUISE SPECIALISTS and we DO NOT CHARGE ANY FEES. You get expert advice, planning assistance and booking for the same or less than you would do things yourself. WE KNOW RIVER CRUISES!

Find out more at:  www.JollyMonVacations.com and www.RiverCruiseGuru.com

For questions and assistance contact Pete:

pete@rivercruiseguru.com

Phone or text:  218-779-3050

LIKE us on facebook:  www.facebook.com/rivercruiseguru

 

Posted on 3 Comments

Scenic Crystal River Cruise Review: Part 4; The Ship

Scenic Crystal River Cruise Review:

Part 4:  The ship

By Pete Larson, Owner of River Cruise Guru and Jolly Mon Vacations

We are River Cruise Specialists! Your free vacation planning source!

Scenic Crystal 2012. Photo © Jolly Mon Vacations

Scenic Cruises launched its sixth river cruise ship, the 169-passenger Scenic Crystal in April and we were on this maiden voyage. Scenic Crystal is 443 feet long and has cabins and suites ranging from 164 to 315 square feet, most of which have real outdoor balconies that you can enclose at the touch of a button.

We boarded this ship in Amsterdam for a trip down the Rhine to Rüdesheim where the ship would be christened before continuing down to Basel, Switzerland.

The Airport Transfers:

Scenic Cruises will pick you up at the airport when you arrive on departure day whether or not you purchase flights from Scenic. Scenic staff will be waiting  near the baggage carousel holding a sign. You may have to go to a bus or holding area for a little bit while others are arriving. In 2013, the included transfers will become PRIVATE transfers, so once you arrive at the airport, you will be whisked directly to the ship without delay! Show me another cruise line that offers that included in the price! Since we arrived two nights early, we simply took a taxi to the port.

Boarding Ship:

Upon arrival at the Scenic Crystal, staff came off the ship and grabbed our suitcases for us and took them onboard the ship. We climbed the gangway and entered the lobby of this amazing new river ship and met with the staff. They quickly introduced us to Igor, the Hotel Manager and he offered my wife a single rose. We were given our room keys and they ushered us to our stateroom. This was the quickest and hassle-free boarding experience I’ve ever encountered in all our travels!

The Butler:

Once in our stateroom, we were met by our butler who explained the room and services. In 2013, all three passenger decks will receive butler services included in the price! She made sure our devices were hooked to the internet and made us reservations for Portobello’s Restaurant at my request.

The Stateroom:

Deluxe Balcony of Scenic Crystal. Photo © River Cruise Guru

We had stateroom B205, which is a Deluxe Balcony, mid-ship on the middle (Rhine) deck. This is a nice sized room with closets, safe, Apple TV, mini bar, hair dryer, bottled water, two-twin beds configured into a queen sized bed with suitcase storage beneath. A sliding glass door opened onto a full outdoor balcony with glass/wood rail. There were two chairs and a small table. Scenic calls this area, the “Scenic Sun Lounge” because at the push of a button, a window slides up (just like a car window) and encloses the deck from noise, wind, rain and cold. You can enjoy your balcony at anytime! This is a great new feature and we used it a lot. You will need an electrical adapter/converter to power your electronics as they use European electrical plugs.

The bathroom. Photo © River Cruise Guru

The bathroom was the best I’ve had on any ship. It was larger than most ocean-going ships and it featured modern sink with LED down-lighting and a glass-walled shower that had three heads and an LED colored lighting display in the upper showerhead! It gave you a SPA-like experience right in your own stateroom. Unbelievable.

Noise and vibration:

Now you sometimes read reviews about ship vibration on certain cruises. On river cruises, the ships are smaller and follow a very winding river. These ships will sometimes make more noise during turns as they use side thrusters. The engine noise will be heard no matter where your cabin is located but it never seems to bother me. I know I’m on a moving vehicle  and when going in and out of locks there will be some bumping and engine noise. Is this something that ever kept me awake? No. I rather enjoyed the hum of the engines.

Daily Program:

The Daily Programme. Photo © River Cruise Guru

Scenic Tours leaves a DAILY PROGRAMME on your bed each day so you will know the schedule. The ship was to depart Amsterdam at 17:00 hours. (yes, they use the 24 hour/military time) Shortly before sailing, they gathered us for a Welcome Reception and safety briefing. Scenic Tours CEO/Managing Director came onboard and gave us a nice welcome speech and the ships Captain then took over the safety briefing. An actual ‘safety drill’ was held the second day and we all put on life-vests on the Sun Deck. There are no lifeboats on a river ship so you simply go to the upper deck when the alarm is sounded and they hand you a life-vest.

First Thoughts:

My first thoughts were WOW! The ship is brand new and pristine. I’ve been on a lot of ships before, but none that smelled of new paint and carpet. I expected the crew to be a bunch of inexperienced employees thrown together at the last minute not knowing how to do things. Boy, was I wrong! They were all spectacular! Like a well-oiled machine. Polite, knowledgeable and accommodating.

Crystal Lounge:

The Crystal Lounge. Photo © River Cruise Guru

This is a great space and well used. From reading a book, having coffee or a cocktail to having some lunch or dancing the night away this room delivers. Beautiful furnishings that are comfortable to eat lunch in or just sit and watch the scenery go by through the large windows.  There are coffee and tea stations here, available around the clock and the new lunch venue, The River Café. A light lunch fare is served there and it also houses appetizers and desserts as well. Forward of this area is the Portobello’s Restaurant (only set up in the evening, otherwise its an extension of the lounge) which is a special place to have a 7 course dinner. The dinner is special and the service is incredible. There is no extra fee for any of these dining venues. In 2013, drinks will be included as part of the cruise fare. That’s right, all-inclusive!

Portobello’s Restaurant:

This is considered to be a ‘special’ dining experience and will require a reservation due to limited seating area. There is no extra charge to dine here which is incredible. The staff is ‘extra-attentive’ and greets you with a flute of champagne upon arrival. There are many sized tables and we were seated at a table for six. We shared dinner with four other passengers and found them to be very fun and interesting. Dinner served was seven courses of delight. Several choices of regional wines were offered and each course was presented by the chef with a story. The meal was great, the service spectacular and the experience  was memorable.

Observation Deck:

Forward Observation Deck. Photo © River Cruise Guru

Forward of Portobello’s is a small but covered seating area right near the bow. It offers a fantastic forward view of the area you are traveling. It offers some sun or rain protection and even has some radiant heaters overhead which helped on a blustery day. A great spot to view the transit through one of the many river locks.

The Sundeck:

The Sundeck of Scenic Crystal. Photo © River Cruise Guru

A great big area to socialize, watch scenery and catch some rays. On our cruise, it didn’t see the use it would during the summer months but we still found it a great place to take photos and watch as we passed under low bridges. During nice weather it also serves as another alternate dining venue. The wheelhouse and the upper railings on the very top deck are sometimes put down. The wheelhouse is able to be lowered and the deck rails and canopies fold down. This makes it possible to fit under lower bridges on the river. We were allowed to sit forward of the wheelhouse during the passing of low bridges, but were ordered to stay seated. It is quite amazing how they scoot right under these bridges with very little clearance. There were only two areas to smoke onboard; one was the furthest point aft on the Sundeck, the other was right near the middle stairs/wheelhouse on the Sun Deck. The Captain said, “if you don’t see an ashtray, you cannot smoke there.” No smoking was allowed on the balconies either.

The Crystal Dining Room:

The Crystal Dining Room. Photo © River Cruise Guru

A very nice restaurant for all three daily meals right at water level. Many different sized tables to choose from and It operates with an open-seating policy. A great place to meet old friends or to discover new ones. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet-style. Mornings saw an omelet station and afternoons usually had some sort of carved meats available. Regional wines, beer and soft drinks are complimentary at lunch and dinner. In 2013, these beverages will be complimentary around the clock! We enjoyed the local Riesling wines very much. There was usually a choice between a couple of different wines with each meal. The food was served up in courses; appetizer, soup/salad, main entrée and dessert. I found each dish I had ordered to be very good. Sometimes they had a theme, like on German day the staff was dressed in lederhosen, German music was played, they served authentic German dishes and trays of bier!

The Staff/Service:

I found the staff to be very accommodating at all times. Whenever I had a question, they were there with an answer. The Cruise Director, Sylvie, was very good as running things. She gave the port talks each day in the Lounge and also took care of us when it came to tours and on debarkation day. Service staff were excellent both in the lounge and dining rooms. Stateroom staff were also very good. All gratuities are included with Scenic Tours/Cruises which is very nice and convenient.

Entertainment:

If you are the type that needs constant entertainment, you may be a bit bored on a river cruise. Entertainment usually consists of a piano player/singer/entertainer, dancing , local musicians brought onboard, lectures or a glass blowing demonstration. I found it to be a nice distraction in the evening when you could not see the scenery.

Internet:

The internet is a fee for service program now, (about $30 Euros/week) but in 2013 it will also be complimentary…and it should be. I found the internet to be very frustrating. It’s satellite -based so connections are horrible through the river valleys and locks. It seemed you could never get connected and once you did it didn’t last. I told the ship staff that if I had to pay for internet…I wouldn’t have. It just wasn’t worth the aggravation in my opinion.

Onboard Dress:

Casual elegance for the most part. Several of us men wore sport jackets during the more dressy nights, like the GALA dinner and in Portobello’s Restaurant. Most men wore collared shirts or polo’s and women wore dresses or pant suits.

Overall the dress code was not something to worry much about. As long as you look presentable, everything is fine. Yes, people were wearing jeans in the dining room. Women may need a shawl or sweater for the dining rooms or lounge as the air conditioning can be quite chilly inside.

Weather:

We had cold, rainy weather. Dressing in layers works very well on a river cruise. As the day heats up you can strip layers or the opposite if the temperatures drop. Rain was a big factor, so a raincoat was perfect as it also offered protection from water and wind. Scenic provides each stateroom with a large umbrella to use on excursions as well. These are great  for taking pictures when its raining so your camera doesn’t get wet.

Next Up:

The next sections (part 5) of this review will cover our Shore Excursions and tours followed by the naming ceremony and some other thoughts and tips. Stay tuned!

www.RiverCruiseGuru.com
Posted on Leave a comment

Cruising: The Benefits

If  you’ve never taken a cruise before, consider the benefits of taking a cruise vacation:

  • Getting there is have the fun! Cruising allows you to enjoy the ride to the destination! Nonstop deck activities, lounging by the pool, dancing the night away, hitting the SPA or a quiet spot with a book. You choose!
  • Cruises are all-inclusive! (or nearly) The price of your cruise covers your lodging, transportation to the destinations, all your food, non-alcoholic beverages and even your activities and entertainment. Some luxury lines include even more, such as alcoholic beverages.
  • On a Cruise You Unpack Once! If you want to visit more than one place, but you can’t imagine lugging around your bags,  packing and unpacking everywhere you go then a cruise is for you. Your stateroom is your floating hotel. You unpack and then you can leave everything on the ship while you explore the latest port of call and then come back on board for dinner, a show, or to rest and relax. Hit the casino, go to a movie under the stars, take in the sunset with your significant other. It’s all about choice…YOUR choice.
  • A cruise gives you a sample of multiple destinations! A cruise is a great option if you are not sure where you want to go. You can choose a region and then narrow it down to one that stops at a few places you may be curious about and have a small taste of the region as a whole instead of being confined only to one country. Get a variety of cultures and scenery all in the same trip.

A vacation is a great way to relax, get away from your stresses, have fun, bond with family and friends, pamper yourself, learn new things, and explore cultures while seeing the world. Whether you spend it on land, or on the sea…it’s all about getting away. A cruise vacation can be a great way to do it.