Scenic Tours is an Australian land tour company that got into the European river cruise business in 2008. The company now owns and operates 16 river ships that sail in Europe, Russia, and SE Asia.
The Scenic Crystal was launched in April 2012, and the Scenic Jewel followed in 2013.
The company uses the name "Scenic Tours" throughout most of the world, but markets the river cruises under the "Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours" name in the USA. All of Scenic's river ships are all-inclusive.
I sailed on the Scenic Crystal and appreciated the contemporary, sleek decor and spacious cabins. The primary purpose of this article is to provide a tour of the Scenic Crystal. Since the company plans to retrofit four of the older ships to the Scenic Crystal standard, this information will also apply to other Scenic Cruises' ships.
The Scenic Crystal sails itineraries on the Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers in Europe. The ship is 135 meters (146 yards) long, and about the same width and height as other river ships due to the low bridges and narrow canals of Europe. She carries 171 passengers in 86 cabins and has 48 crew.
Interior Common Areas
The interior common areas of the Scenic Crystal are contemporary and comfortable. Starting at the front of the ship on the Danube Deck 3, the Panorama Lounge has several comfortable seating areas, along with a nice bar. I thought the decorator's use of black, gray, and blues was relaxing. The Panorama Lounge has 24-hour, self-serve tea and coffee service, and usually there are cookies placed out for snacking, along with daily news briefs from Australia, the USA, Great Britain, and Canada.
Aft of the Panorama Lounge is the reception area, small gift shop, and elevator that travels between decks 2 and 3.
A small fitness center and wellness area for massage and hair appointments are located on Moselle Deck 1.
Exterior Common Areas
The sun deck on the top of the Scenic Crystal is quite large, with several seating areas, some covered and others in the open. The wheelhouse is also on the sun deck, and it retracts into the ship to pass under low bridges, just like those on other river ships. The sun deck also has a walking track, but it's about 32 laps per mile. Walking or riding one of the ship's electric bicycles ashore are probably better ideas for exercise.
The river ship has an open-air Observation Lounge all the way forward on deck 3 in front of the Portobello's Restaurant and Panorama Lounge. It's a good place to watch the sights along the river with a cup of coffee or a drink.
Dining and Cuisine
I thought the food on the Scenic Crystal was good overall, with some excellent items, especially those served at the Portobello Italian Restaurant. The Scenic Crystal has six dining options:
- The Crystal Dining Room has traditional river ship dining, with three open-seating meals each day. Breakfast is primarily a buffet, but guests can also order some items from a menu. Breakfast includes a varied cuisine, catering to all English-speaking guests. Such items as breads, fresh fruits, omelets made-to-order, baked beans, and that Australian favorite Vegemite are found on the large buffet table.Lunches in the Crystal Dining Room are also served buffet-style. Some days include local favorites from the region, like a Bavarian lunch in Germany. There's always a salad bar, pasta selection, and a carving station with roast chicken, beef, or pork. The lunch buffet usually has two main courses, but guests can always order grilled salmon, chicken breast, hamburger, cheese burger, or a beef fillet from their waiter. After filling up on the salads, soups, and main courses, passengers will be happy to find a good selection of desserts.
Dinner selections in the Crystal Dining Room are made from a menu. There's usually a selection of two starters, two soups, and three main courses. Dinner ends with dessert, fresh fruit salad, or a cheese tray. The alternate main course menu selections available at lunch are also available at dinner.
- The Portobello Italian Restaurant is located forward of the Panorama Lounge and is open for dinner without an extra surcharge to guests holding reservations . Although dinner in the Crystal Dining Room is good, it's always nice to have variety, and Portobello's is excellent. The meal is a selection of Italian specialties and is a real treat. The seating is limited, so I recommend you get a reservation soon after boarding.
- Table La Rive is the Chef's Table in the Crystal Dining Room. The table is located near the galley and has a view of the galley area through a large window. The meal is a six-course degustation with wine pairings for each course. Reservations are required, but there is no surcharge.
- The River Cafe is a takeaway bar in the Panorama that serves casual fare all day long. Continental breakfast is followed by a light lunch of sandwiches, salads, soup, and pasta. Snacks are available in the afternoon.
- The Sun Deck is used for outdoor barbecues and high teas. Dining outdoors is always fun, and the river scenery is perfect for dining alfresco.
- In-Suite Dining at breakfast, lunch, and dinner is available for Royal Suite guests. Junior Suite guests can enjoy breakfast in their suites, and other guests on the Danube Deck can get early morning tea and coffee service.
Cabins and Suites
The Scenic Crystal cabins are particularly exciting, since the innovative balcony has a huge glass window that can be opened for fresh air, or closed by pushing a button. The balcony becomes a cozy sunroom when the window is closed.
More on the Scenic Crystal Cabins and Suites
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.