At an increase of 6% last year river cruising is now the fastest growing segment of the cruise industry and having just spent 5 days aboard the new Scenic Jasper it is not difficult to see why.
Having said goodbye to my suitcase on arrival at Schiphol Airport it was in my cabin on arrival and what a cabin, a deluxe balcony on Sapphire Deck. Light, airy and oozing quality. Hanging and shelf space behind large sliding doors that will easily accommodate clothing for a 14 day cruise. A well stocked mini bar for that relaxing drink on the large glass balcony which although enclosed against inclement weather has the top section of glass that electronically slides to the floor transforming it into a conventional balcony. The bed was the usual configuration of two singles pushed together making a King size. Flexible bedside reading lights and a novel clock that looked like a grey wooden cube until it detected sound when it showed the time, date and temperature plus at least 7 easily accessible plug sockets that take continental plugs. The bathroom has one of the largest glass enclosed walk in showers you will find at sea. 3 water jets from different angles, button operated for ease. L’Occitane en Province toiletries, large fluffy towels and flannels, hand held hairdryer, magnifying mirror and more. A safe comes as standard as do umbrellas, walking poles and flat screen television which also acts as a computer with keyboard supplied. WiFi is complementary. Every cabin has its own butler to ensure that everything you need is attended to, even in suite dining.
Scenic Jasper is new and it shows incorporating fresh ideas and raising the bar on luxury. Wood veneer replaced by chrome, use of light pastel colours making the ship feel very spacious which is maybe why it is referred to as a ‘Spaceship’. 85 cabins accommodating 169 guests are spread over three decks, Diamond, Sapphire and Jewel with a balcony cabin for solo travellers on Sapphire Deck. Standard staterooms, the entry level of cabin, on Jewel Deck have only a window but share the same amenities as others including butler service. Balcony Suites are situated on Sapphire and Diamond Decks with top grade suites, Royal and Royal Panorama boasting 33 and 44 square metres respectively making Royal Panorama Suites the largest on any European river cruise ship.
There are six on board dining options, Crystal Dining the main dining room, River Cafe, Portobellos, River View Terrace for when the weather is warm and sunny, dining in your cabin arranged by your butler and Table La Rive that is reserved for the suite passengers on Diamond Deck.
‘Table la Rive’ is a delight. Enjoy a 6 course meal beautifully presented and each course paired to a selected wine. Lemongrass creme brulee to start, appetizer of beetroot graved lax, scampi with mango and rucola for salad, mushroom cappuccino soup, the main of beef filet ‘Scenic’ with foie gras, diamond vegetables, potato gratin and truffle jus and to end a desert of chocolate cake with balsamic cherries and vanilla ice cream.
Portobellos, the other speciality venue situated at the front of the ship gives outer views on three sides enabling the passenger to take in the ever changing scenery whilst enjoying a 6 course meal attentively served by polite and experienced waiters. Minestrone soup made from 8 kinds of whole roasted vegetables, stuffed veal loin with mushroom risotto, grilled vegetable and barolo jus are just two of the sumptuous dishes on offer.
The breakfast selection deserves special mention. Whatever your favourite, it is there. Be it smoked salmon washed down with a glass or two of chilled Moet Chandon champagne, fresh fruit, traditional English or Continental you will find something to suit all tastes. An omelette station cooks to order so no disappointment there.
Jewel Deck houses the fitness centre to help you shed any unwanted pounds, massage parlour for soothing tired muscles and a hairdresser to assist with those special occasions.
Sun deck is what it says, a place to be when the sun is shining, for relaxing on those summer days as the ships glides silently along the rivers of the world. Here you find the heated Vitality Pool, a plunge pool with one end dedicated as a bubbly jacuzzi. Grass covered with awnings under which you can relax in a comfortable sun chair/lounger after a dip in the pool and admire the scenery. Definitely the place to be on a hot summer’s day.
Forward of this finds you on Riverview Terrace, an area of comfortable chairs and tables, have something from the BBQ, order a drink from one of the waiters, a place to meet friends whilst the scenery is constantly changing, oh this is the life, another gin and tonic please.
Entertainment is laid back and provided in the main by Pavol, the very versatile resident pianist who is also an accomplished saxophonist and clarinet player. Local bands and entertainers are sometimes brought on board when overnighting in port. Background music is played but at such a volume as not to be intrusive but relaxing.
The advantage of river cruising are the variety of venues you can reach both large and small. The following is a brief taster of the tours which I will cover in separate articles.
Day 2 was first by coach into the main city of Amsterdam where we transferred to a glass top boat for a tour of the city by canal. The guide spoke very good English giving a history of the city, pointing out the places of interest as we glided along passing churches, monuments, house boats, bridges and rows of bicycles showing how much the bicycle is used in Holland. Arriving back at the departure point it became a walking tour of the city and a chance to try out the ‘Tailormade’ a device that has several channels and allows you to listen to the guide’s commentary through an earpiece. Also loaded onto these devices are details allowing you to go on self-guided tours. Ingenious idea and they work well. First stop, a cheese shop to receive an explanation of how various cheese’s were made and matured followed by a tasting of the finished products with flavours of ginger, fruit, coconut and many more. Then onwards through the old streets to a stall selling fish and sea food. Raw herring was offered for trying and indeed most of the group tried it although with mixed reactions. The time passed quickly and soon it was back on the coach and returning to the ship.
That afternoon we sailed for our next port, Antwerp where we arrived the next morning to blue sky, sunshine and a chilly wind.
Day 3 gave a choice of tours for Antwerp and I chose the trip to one of my favourite cities, Bruges. Following a 90 minute coach trip we arrive in Bruges and are given a guided tour of the city taking in many of the famous buildings and its history. Finally free time for buying the chocolates that Belgium is famous for and sampling some of the 1,200 beers for which it is equally famous. Time for a quick coffee before boarding the coach and the trip back to the ship. Early afternoon we sail for our final tour port, Hoorn.
Day 4 and we notice that instead of being in Hoorn we are back in Amsterdam. The captain explains that the gates of the Hoorn lock which by necessity we had to pass through had been damaged so it was not possible to go there by boat. However coaches had been arranged to get us there for the activities. A walking tour, cycling tour on the ships electrically assisted bikes or clog painting were the options. As the weather was back to rain and cold clog painting seemed the best option which turned out to be very informative and you get to keep the clog you painted. Dinner that night was a definite highlight. The church of Oosterkerk having been cleared of pews had been reset with tables and chairs for a community hosted evening. The inside of this old church is beautiful with the stained glass windows and 1,000 pipe organ. Dinner of vegetable soup, followed by meat and scoops of mixed carrot, onion and potato with ice cream to follow made a memorable last evening meal of the cruise. Soon it was back on the coach and to the ship, a final glass of wine , goodbyes said to new found friends, it was time for bed as the clocks went forward and we had an early start to the airport and home.
This is definitely a ship for the Silver Traveller. A beautiful ship with meals, drinks, mini bar, gratuities, airport transfers, butler service, excursions all included in the price. Luxury cabins with comfortable beds, balconies, flat screen TV, safe, umbrellas and that wonderful shower with quality toiletries all go to make this a memorable experience for the right reasons. A laid back atmosphere with a smart casual dress code thus avoiding having to take evening dresses and dinner suits. For the disabled traveller there is a specially designed lift operating to all floors, for a solo traveller there is a balcony cabin. Was there anything I didn’t like? Yes, saying goodbye to the ship and I know others will feel the same. Thank you Scenic Jasper.
Scenic Jasper is the next-generation Scenic Space-Ship, which will launch on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers in April 2015. Continuing to push boundaries with cutting edge design and enhanced features, Scenic Jasper will be one of the most spacious and luxurious ships to sail through Europe. The eleventh of the renowned Scenic Space-Ship fleet and the newest to be sailing the waterways of Europe, the 85-cabin ship features a heated vitality pool for guests to enjoy on the panoramic Sun Deck plus the largest suites on the rivers with the ultimate in private balcony accommodation – the 44m2 Royal Panorama Suites and the opulent Royal Suite which boasts 33m2 of space. 7 night all-inclusive cruises start from £2,145pp departing in July 2015.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Scenic Tours