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The Ultimate Guide to Booking the Best Christmas River Cruises in Europe

Christmas is a time for joy, celebration, and family. And what better way to celebrate the holiday season than with a river cruise through some of Europe’s most beautiful cities? From the Danube to the Rhine, there are plenty of options for those looking to experience a festive and luxurious river cruise this Christmas. Here’s your ultimate guide to booking the best Christmas river cruises in Europe.

Choose Your Destination

The first step in booking your Christmas river cruise is deciding on a destination. Popular destinations include the Danube, Rhine, and Main rivers, as well as the Seine in France. Each offers its own unique sights and experiences, so it’s important to consider what type of experience you’re looking for before making your decision. Do you want to explore historic cities like Vienna or Amsterdam? Or perhaps you’d prefer a more relaxed journey through picturesque countryside? Once you’ve decided on a destination, you can start researching different cruise lines and itineraries.

Compare Cruise Lines

Once you’ve chosen your destination, it’s time to compare different cruise lines. There are many different companies offering river cruises throughout Europe, so it’s important to do your research before booking. Consider factors like price, amenities, and itinerary when comparing different companies. It can also be helpful to read reviews from past passengers to get an idea of what their experience was like.

Finally, it’s important to book your Christmas river cruise as early as possible. Many cruise lines offer discounts for early bookings, so it pays off to plan ahead. Additionally, popular routes tend to fill up quickly during the holiday season, so booking early will ensure that you get the best price and availability.

Christmas river cruises are a wonderful way to experience some of Europe’s most beautiful cities during the holiday season. With this guide in hand, you can be sure that you will have an unforgettable experience this Christmas.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


scenic rhine river cruise reviews

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Scenic Tours River Cruise - River Rhine

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  • Germany    
  • North Rhine-Westphalia    
  • Dusseldorf    
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  • River Rhine

Scenic Tours River Cruise

This was our second River cruise but our first with Scenic. After our other river cruise I wasn't sure we would try it again but Scenic has changed our minds. We did the Christmas Markets in Germany and had a wonderful experience. The best part though was Scenic, the tour is all inclusive and when they state that, they mean it. There were NO extra charges at all. The staff were extremely friendly and efficient, the food was excellent and we enjoyed everything they had to offer. If I had to make one negative comment it would be that the ship wasn't decorated for Christmas although it was a Christmas cruise. We would certainly travel with them again

My wife and I took the Rhine river cruise with Viking from Basel to Amsterdam. slightly under 200 passengers were on the boat. We were met at the airport and promptly transferred to the boat. A lunch was served very soon afterwards and our room was quickly ready. The room was small but quite comfortable. Meals were very good and a great time to socialize. The passengers were mostly older, retired, generally quite pleasant and friendly. Viking worked very hard to accommodate them. No children on board. Didn't have the facilities for them I guess.Excursions, one choice of beer, red wine, white wine were all included. Extra excursions were available for an extra price. Unlike larger ocean cruises, nighttime entertainment was at most 2 musicians and a couple of nights trivia contests. There was no 24 hour buffet, but only coffee and cookies available all the time. The excursions were nice, but my wife found them too slow paced. They were rather short. Viking does go out of its way to accommodate, furnishing bottle water when you leave for an excursion and a small treat when you return. Besides Basel, we visited Breisach, the Black Forest, Strausborg, Heidelberg, Cologne, Rudesheim, Koblenz and Kinderdijk (a site in the Netherlands where old windmills are preserved). Amsterdam was directly to the airport unless you had added an extension. The main attraction-a cruise of the romantic Rhine from Rudesheim to Koblenz, with castles and vineyards. Excursions were half a day, but for Strausborg and Cologne Viking provided shuttle service all day. We chose to go at the end of October; some days had low clouds and fog and cold weather. The Rhine cruise was in such conditions, but we convinced ourselves the castle ruins were more romantic in the clouds. Think I would prefer to go when the weather is warmer and the days are longer. Viking sometimes offers specials-2 for 1 cruises and free airfare. Vikings offers extensions before and after, but they seemed expensive to us. We stayed on in Amsterdam on our own at a more reasonable cost. After being told Viking charged extra for merely delaying your return flight, we found when we got our reservations Viking had delayed it at no cost. Viking provided transport to our hotel, but we were on our own getting to the airport two days later. Found Schipol Airport and getting them confusing, but that was not Viking's fault. Viking was great.

This was our first river cruise and our first with Viking. We chose this based upon the recommendation of friends who have cruised with Viking. The itinerary was well planned and we only did one optional excursion during our week. All excursions were included in the price of the cruise except for our optional tour of the Audie Murphy memorial. The staff, crew, and local guides were all first rate and on par with Tauck personnel if you are familiar with them. The food was excellent and included a choice of wine with lunch and dinner. There were plenty of choices on the menu and those who needed special diets were accomodated. Access to the ship was always easy and it was usually berthed close to the attraction/city so that long bus rides were not needed. There was usually some type of musical entertainment nightly. The cabins were modern and comfortable although a bit "tight". My wife and I are average to small build and it was sometimes hard to pass by each other in the confines of the cabin. The bathroom had a heated floor which was a very nice touch. All of the cities and sites that we toured when ashore were very interesting and our guides were very knowledgeable. We look forward to another river cruise in the future with Viking.

scenic rhine river cruise reviews

This being my second trip in 2 years on the Scenic Cruises 14 day Basel to Amsterdam Rhine and Moselle Rivers. This itinerary is my favourite as it includes the most beautiful of all the rivers - The Moselle. Plus you visit Germany, France, Belgium and Holland all very unique with lots of variety along the way. Subtle changes to the itinerary gave us more daylight cruising and longer periods in each port which was a plus compared to previous years. The big surprise was introducing the industrial town of Duisburg as one of stops of interest - this exceeded all expectations another great improvement. An eye opener. Scenic's level of service was still one of the best on any of the cruise companies. The staff being a real asset to Scenic as they make your holiday and they never lowered their high standards of service even though this was the last cruise of the season. Being all inclusive is also the big advantage that Scenic have over their competition. And when you add it all up you are actually paying less than some other cheaper cruises simply because there are no hidden costs. All excursions, meals, drinks (24 hours), entertainment, tips, butler service in your cabins, airport transfers even flights and much much more are all included in the initial price. Excellent value for money. This time I was escorting a group of senior clients and we had a ball thanks to the staff on board our Scenic Jade Space Ship. Everyone of us had a great time. My only criticism being no time is allocated for Basel and Amsterdam unless you take add-on extra nights pre/post cruise. Both of these cities have a lot to offer any visitor. Will definitely be taking another Scenic Rhine River Cruise next year - possibly Amsterdam to Budapest. Come and join us in 2016 - you won't be disappointed.

scenic rhine river cruise reviews

My wife and I took the Rhine River Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam and this was our first river cruise and the first with Viking. We could not have had a better experience. The stops on the tour such as Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Cologne really give you a good view of these famous cities and their cathedrals. The tour guides and the transportation are excellent and make this a comfortable experience. Very well done. The staff on the Viking ships could not be more professional and service oriented. Everything requested was provided and any needs can be met. Our program director, Chris, was terrific. Very informative about our trip with great sense of humor. We can attest that no matter what Viking ship you are on, you will get the same quality and level of service. Because of the low water level on the Rhine, we had to switch ships from the Kvasir to the Idi. This was handled in a very efficient manner, no disruption and the bus transport from Kehl to Cologne was an added attraction to see more of the German countryside. I liked this rather than just see the river banks from the boat. The food and drinks were also of high quality. The complementary wine at lunch and dinner were excellent. My wife enjoyed having champagne for breakfast as well. Our waiter, Yani, on the Idi learned my wife liked to have expresso rather than the usual coffee and always served this at breakfast, lunch and dinner in typical European style. I don't think you could beat the quality and service offered by Viking and we look forward to another cruise with Viking. No reason to look at other cruise lines as far as we are concerned.

Summary: City of Lights Cruiseon Viking Odin with time before and after in Prague and Paris. Poor Value for Money primarily due to maintenance issue with the ship, and poor customer service. Would recommend travelers considering a river cruise seriously consider Viking competitors such as Avalon or Grand Circle. Travel Dates: 29-July-15 to 10-Aug-15 with pre-cruise in Praque, 8 day “cruise” and post-cruise in Paris. Our cruise was booked at the same time as my in-laws with our reservations cross referenced using the same departure and return cities. This was done so that we could assist these other two travelers, both in their eighties. FIRST SURPRISE: After paying in full, but months before departing, we were notified that we would now embark at Bamberg (normally the second port) rather than Nuremberg. SECOND SURPRISE: When notified of our flight details we discovered that Viking had placed us on one airline and my in-laws on a different one. The cost to get the same flights would cost hundreds of dollars above what we had already paid. THIRD (and Biggest) SURPRISE: We were informed upon our arrival in Prague, Thursday 30-July, that our ship had broken down the day before. We were not notified of this problem prior to our departure from the US. Passengers on the cruise prior to ours were stuck at an unplanned location from Wednesday to Saturday. We were informed on Friday night that we would be bussed an additional distance to the ship on our schedule embarkation day on Saturday, and that we would be staying onboard even if the ship wasn’t capable of moving. Viking would attempt to keep as much of our itinerary the same even if it was by bus versus a river cruise. Mega bus ride: Because of the additional distance to be covered, our time in Nuremburg was shortened with the time for lunch and our tour very rushed. Some guests missed have a lunch for fear of missing the bus departure and ate at street vendor stands. We spent over 8 hours on a bus that day. Arrival at the Odin: When we reached the Odin, the good news was that the air conditioning was functional in our staterooms. The bad news was that the ship was still incapable of moving, with no firm projection on when things would be fixed. Additional problems persisted with air conditioning in the dining and common areas, and no TV or internet service. More Busing: We were given the option (but declined) to spend about 4 hours on buses to see some our planned itinerary. Some guests did that touring while we remained in the local town where the boat was stuck. The next day, Monday, the ship was able to start moving, but time wouldn’t allow it to reach the intended itinerary location of Bamberg, so we were bussed the remaining distance. We spent a total of nearly 4 hours on a bus, and due to time constraints had less than 2 hours in Bamberg. The first stop in Bamberg was waiting in line for a pay toilet. On the bus ride back to the ship the Viking representative apologized and said that because the problems that day we would be treated to an open bar. With about 15 minutes to spare before our delayed dinner (due to bus delays), I attempted to get a free drink at the open bar and was informed that it wasn’t going to be a free open bar until after dinner. Positives: Once the ship was actually moving and we were having a “River Cruise”, the sites from the river were as picturesque as the commercials and brochures. A few more scares: Even once the ship had been “repaired”, there were a few instances of brief power and water outages. Follow-Up: We handed in a cruise evaluation to Viking at our disembarkation where we asked to be contacted by Viking. I waited several weeks and made my own attempt to contact Viking via email. After waiting weeks for a response to my email I attempted to reach customer service by phone. The representative I spoke with apologized for our cruise issues and offered a credit for future travel. I indicated that I believed that their offer was too small based on all of the problems. She said she would investigate the possibility of a larger credit (a refund of any money was out of the question), and that she would get back to me within a week. A week later I called again, to have her apologize for not getting back. Viking offered a 25% credit on the cruise portion of our bill. She mentioned that this credit might not apply to offers already heavily discounted by Viking. That is a terribly stingy policy. It means that a prior customer with a poor experience due to Viking performance can possible get no better pricing that anyone without a voucher. It has now been over a month since the verbal communications and STILL NO COMPENSATION. Viking certainly knows how to contact me as they have sent over a dozen emails offering new cruise deals since our return home.

scenic rhine river cruise reviews

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This Australian luxury cruise and tour operator was launched 30 years ago and has expanded to become one of the leading river cruise lines in Europe — and it's now also creeping across Asia's waters, with cruises in the Mekong and Myanmar on new purpose-built ships designed to fit right into the setting. All of Scenic's ships, in fact, are company-owned and constantly renovated so they maintain a modern look that's luxurious and elegant, without being too over-the-top. 

In addition, Scenic is also scheduled to launch their first ocean and expedition ship, the 228-passenger  Scenic Eclipse , in August 2018. Designed with two helicopters, a seven-seat submarine, five restaurants, a movie theater, a deck-top teppanyaki grill, and a 5,000-square-foot spa, the ship will sail to the polar regions of Antarctica and the Arctic as well as Europe and the Americas.

All-Inclusive Really Means All-Inclusive:  Once you arrive, everything is taken care of for you, starting with your airport transfer. This means all meals, butler service, open bar with top-shelf liquor, in-room minibars, entertainment, excursions, and even gratuities are included in the fare.

Butler Service for All:  Each floor has its own dedicated butler ready to help with any request, from restocking your minibar with soft drinks and chips, to packing your bags before you disembark, bringing you pillows from the pillow menu, shining your shoes for you before dinner, and delivering 24-hour room service to your cabin.

Gorgeous Spas: These ships include steam rooms and saunas, but most passengers spend so much of the day sightseeing on land that you may never see another person there if you take advantage of these features. (The pool and laundry room are more popular amenities.)

Five-Star Luxury:  The river vessels — which Scenic calls "Space-Ships" — are like high-end floating hotels, with amenities that include pillow menus, 24/7 room service, and a chef's table with a six-course tasting menu.

Top-Notch Excursions:  Scenic began as a tour operator, so it's no surprise the tours aren't your typical shore excursions. All of the coaches and guides are part of the company, and you can choose from a selection of free daily excursions that range from active to slower-paced to suit all types of travelers. In addition to cultural tours and museum visits, look for cooking classes and even trips to temples to receive blessings from monks.

Energetic, Well-Traveled Retirees:  While the ships skew slightly on the younger side of the typical river cruise demographic, the average age still hovers around 65 — but don't let that fool you. These baby boomers have traveled the globe a few times over and lead the pack on the more active excursions.

English Speaking Travelers: While you may find more of your fellow cruisers are Australian or British, everyone onboard is likely to speak English on your sailing.

These Cruises Are Expensive: That said, you do get what you pay for. Once on board, you don't have to worry about whipping out your wallet for anything — from wine to WiFi and laundry detergent — unless you book a spa treatment.

scenic rhine river cruise reviews

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This is never a 5* experience

This is never a 5* experience Beer and wine tasting at 10am😳 If not for the staff I’d have come home early The entertainment director was more like a bingo caller! Food average noisy night time sailings and the smell of waste NEVER AGAIN

Date of experience : September 25, 2023

Our 2022 Transparency Report has landed

Worst vacation.

First of all this was advertised as having beautiful scenery and an intimate experience.. We floated along a muddy river and the ports were poverished run down villages with nothing to do .. When we entered the boat we did NOT get the room upgrade we paid for .. The boat was full of over 70 year old people with mobility issues .. Advertisement said average age 55 ! The excursions were short and boring took longer to drive there then the actual excursions! Then everyday back to the boring boat .. The pool was actually a hot tub , the gym had 3 treadmills and 1 bike ..we were very bored ! The evening meals were awful ( frog legs ) no thanks and the alternate meals were burgers , a cheap quality steak and chicken which got really old after a few meals .. The chef was not accommodating until we emailed scenic then they had an attitude because of the complaints. In the evenings it was so bad corny cruise director jokes and music trivia from my great grandmothers era .. We made the decision to leave the boat on day 4 of a 10 day vacation . Huge waste of our money . Would never recommend this cruise through Boudreaux .. It wasn't beautiful it was boring !

Date of experience : September 20, 2023

Flights cancelled on way out to our …

Flights cancelled on way out to our jewels of the Danube and Rhine trip. The good points were generally the staff on board were good. Food very good. Main complaint is the customer service. Nothing was their fault, although we missed a full day of our cruise, plus all the orientation. We're told I was lying when I complained about some aspects! It's taken since we returned in June to get a response out of Scenic. And like others offers of vouchers off next trip only compensation. We can't afford to go with them, even if we wanted to. I would avoid unless you can guarantee all goes well with your trip. Don't expect help from Scenic if things go wrong.

Date of experience : June 14, 2023

We took the river cruise from Budapest…

We took the river cruise from Budapest to Vienna and enjoyed every minute of it. J-J and his staff were so kind,from the moment we boarded to the moment we left. The food was very good and the city excursions were so good with very informative guides. A big thank you to all of you. We are now about to book for next year!!

Date of experience : September 24, 2023

Appalling company

Appalling company. Booked a trip to Aus/NZ in Feb 22 to travel in January 23. They Cancelled the trip due to low numbers and booked us on November 23 trip. This too was cancelled last week. Had monies from us and wasted 18months of my time. Now had to rebook using a different company at a premium. They refuse any sort of compensation just £500 voucher to use on a future holiday. As if.

Date of experience : August 26, 2023

Went on gems of danube river 1 star not 5 star

Went on gems of danube river cruise.home 6 days ago One and half days before start of cruise told by email water levels low so had a much longer journey to boat and 2nd day extra journey to do excursions in Nurumberg. Was kept waiting 3 hours at Munich Airport before our journey to the boat, without any proper explanation from scenic staff and rude when pressured. Only after phoning emergency uk number was travel resolved and eventually arrived at boat nearly in tears and nearly missing dinner. Two and half days moored overlooking dusty towpath out of a 7 day cruise. Once sailing things improved as food, cabin and staff good. Our journey home was awful. Delays, delays , long check in , racing to gates to catch flight from Paris then delays again,and heaven knows why but we had to fly to Paris then onwards to home airport in uk instead of a direct flight. Horrendous and stressful journey and then no cases when we arrived. This was not a 5 star holiday. No contact from scenic since arriving home , and no customer phone number or email on website to resolve complaints. We have been very let down by scenic.

Date of experience : August 17, 2023

Went on Bordeaux cruise

Went on Bordeaux cruise. Terrible food One morning for example had a boiled egg served with fried bread which had been cooked in the chip fryer , raspberry trifle with one raspberry, barbecue food had been sitting in Bain Marie for hours All food grey , fish frozen and not even from France . Ran out of gin on second day, We paid a year in advance £9.500 for two only to find other people had only paid £1000 each . The response from Scenic was £100 voucher each for booking again . We had been twice with Scenic before and were delighted with the food. Obviously Scenic does not want to retain customer loyalty . The staff tried their best whilst working for a company that really doesn’t care

Date of experience : June 11, 2023

Barcelona to Rome cruise…first rate

We went on the Barcelona to Rome cruise on the new Eclipse 2 and it was all but faultless. Check in was almost a delight! We liked the light airy public areas, the great crew from serving staff to the guys on the tenders. The cabins were of high calibre but fairly standard in design. Food was great, we liked the Asian fusion the best and the "posh" Elements was over-hyped and the sommeliere over-bearing. The "entertainments" were not too great but the organisation of the excursions were very good. A most enjoyable experience.Would go again like a shot!

Date of experience : June 06, 2023

Where's our refund, 8 weeks late?

We were offered a refund for a missed trip during our Cruise, which we thought was generous, however we are still waiting 8 weeks later and 8 weeks of emails chasing. It doesn't take 8 weeks for an electronic transfer, when they have confirmed all of our Bank details. Apparently they are receiving a lot of emails in Finance, causing a delay, but how can that be when there was only 160 people on the boat? Mostly couples, so 80 emails in 8 weeks? It is seriously reducing their chances of us re-booking with Scenic.

Date of experience : October 05, 2022

Not to be Trusted

After a problematic Rhine cruise, Scenic offered compensation thro a third party they use to handle complaints. A partial refund was agreed and all went smoothly until until it came to Scenic actually making payment. Three months later they are still making excuses about non payment. Suspect they are trying to wear me down - unfortunately for them I about to recover through the small claims court. Its a shame they are so difficult to deal with.

Date of experience : September 06, 2022

Exceptional staff made the cruise - ship spotless

Scenic Jade - Great river cruise but made exceptionally so by the brilliant staff who couldn't do enough for us. The ship was spotless. We were spoilt by the staff who catered to our every whim. Alex was the Hotel Manager - he was the BEST!!! He looked after me (I'm vegan and partially disabled) and he gave me 5 star treatment every night. He treated everyone with a smile and courtesy and made us all feel special. The restaurant ran like a dream and the chef cooked me lovely vegan meals. Jeaday (probably wrong spelling) the Cruise Director, again made us feel special and was always on hand with a smile looking after us. Our beautiful butler - Viktorya - always serving us breakfast in our room with a smile and getting anything we needed. Nothing was too much trouble. Vuk and Marko, the barmen, again always there to serve us and smiling all the time. Marco the manager of the speciality restaurant again looked after us and nothing too much trouble. If I have a criticism it would be that most of the excursions started too early in the morning. Scenic should consider giving a choice of times as other river cruises do. We definitely looking to go on another Scenic cruise,mainly due to the staff and cleanliness.

Date of experience : July 24, 2023

3 years and still no refund

I've been awaiting a refund for three years. YEARS. We had a trip booked for May 2020, and of course that was cancelled due to covid in March 2020. We had already paid thousands of dollars toward our trip, and as of March 2023 we are STILL awaiting our reimbursement. I've tried at least a dozen times to get in touch with their customer service and am always tossed around from office to office, auto response to auto response. It has been such a headache. We had really been looking forward to our trip but will unfortunately never book with them again.

Date of experience : March 16, 2023

Superb Cruiseline

The staff on the Scenic Gems of the Danube cruise are the best we have ever experienced on a cruise. Attentive and so thoughtful. They attend to your every need with a smile. The food has been delicious and the chefs have to be commended on the quality of the food. The ship is superb and the suites delightful. The cruise and destinations have been fantastic. Highly recommended.

Date of experience : July 10, 2023


We are on a cruise round the Artic islands of Svalbard , Greenland and Iceland in 2023. Flight for our homeward journey from Reykjavik to Heathrow should take three hours and twenty minutes, As Scenic can’t get a direct flight we have to go via Frankfurt making our journey EIGHT HOURS , LEAVING REYKJAVIK 13.50 arriving HEATHROW 22.10 , just dreadful if we known no way would we have booked

Date of experience : October 16, 2022

We went on Scenic Diamond River Cruise to Bordeaux

We went on Emerald River Cruise on the Douro River in Portugal in 2022 and were so impressed that we decided to do another cruise in 2023. We have just returned from 11 days aboard the Scenic Diamond Cruise to Beautiful Bordeaux. 18--28 July 2023. The experience on the ship was 110%. We had 114 passengers with approx 30 crew. It is pretty obvious that the whole Team on board thoroughly enjoy working together to make the service given to passengers , of the highest order. The facilities on board are unlimited and the daily information given out by the Cruise Director (Yvonne) every evening were extremely helpful. Ryan covered much of the evening entertainment and daily tour arrangements with very accomplished Guides, Morgan & Natalie. Our only disappointment was the facilities at the French Railway Stations, but this is obviously out of the hands of Scenic. We are already planning our River Cruise with Scenic next year. Laurie Day.

Date of experience : July 18, 2023

no communication, poor service, failed promises.

Patchy but well meaning on board experience, until the engine failed (on their second trip since lock downs) and bags packed and outside our 'luxury' ship cabin at 7am to be herded onto a coach with no idea or reassurance of where a hotel would be or at what comfort/standard. A long coach journey ahead, no info on where we would be put up, herded, refusal to answer questions. Hardly the 'luxury' experience we had booked and paid for. Promises that scenic would contact us within the week broken, e mails not answered. Scenic is among the most expensive river cruise companies, but what do we get for our money? Beware, as they are also Emerald another river cruise company.

Date of experience : April 29, 2022

Delightful Douro

My wife and I have just returned from a 7 day Douro cruise on Scenic Azure.. This was delightful in every way. The river was enchanting, the ship was spotless and the crew and staff were uniformly caring, helpful and patient. They take pride in their work and went the extra mile when required. Food was of a high standard (barbecue apart) with a good range of choice at every meal. Wines were generally local but good. The bar was well stocked with a good range of cocktails on request. The cabins were compact but well thought out. We particularly liked that the balcony opened onto the cabin. The daily excursion programme was varied and enjoyable. One point of warning. Carefully select the tours that you want to make when booking. The ship travels full and you may not be able to change on board. The evening classical music concert in the magnificent St Francis Church in Porto was a highlight. The Scenic price point is high but worth it. Nothing was too much trouble for this wonderful crew and staff. As an example, my wife and I were responsible for our own flight arrangements. Our flight home to Manchester did not depart until 21.10. Scenic allowed us to stay on board until 15.00. providing us with lunch and drinks and a limousine to the airport at their expense. We could not have asked to be better treated. This was our third cruise with Scenic and we will come again. P.S. From reading other reviews, there seems to be a disconnect between poor on shore administration and outstanding on board service. If you select a travel agent with a large Scenic account, you will get a hassle free experience !

Tried to pay final balance for cruise…

Tried to pay final balance for cruise with sister company Emerald Cruises and what a SHAMBLES.Tried 3 times with 35 minute wait 1st time,38 minute wait 2nd time and 3rd time a message stating 'we are currently experiencing technical difficulties please try again later' and then I was cut off.WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THIS COMPANY? TERRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE-I SHALL NEVER USE AGAIN. SUGGEST YOU AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE

Date of experience : February 14, 2022

Absolutely useless.

Scenic are absolutely useless. They are very good at selling you a holiday and taking your money but thereafter they just don’t care. Trying to contact them is hopeless and usually involves waiting up to an hour on the phone before speaking to anyone. I will never travel with them again and suggest you look elsewhere if you want a river cruise holiday.

Date of experience : June 22, 2022

Noisy cabin

We were in a cabin (C235) which suffered from excessive noise and vibration during the night. On going to reception staff they said there were no free cabins and that nobody had ever complained about it before. Reading these reviews I see that that is not the case! Lies, lies, lies. Eventually, after 4 nights we were moved to a different cabin. The passenger opposite us spent 3 nights sleeping in the lounge before being moved. This is a five star company (well 5 star prices) which seems to have no regard for its customers.

Date of experience : September 21, 2022

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Scenic River Cruise – Scenic Azure – Expert Review

Apr 13, 2023 | CRUISE TIPS , REVIEWS , SCENIC | 0 comments

Scenic River Cruises Review Scenic Azure

Scenic River Cruises – Scenic Azure Review

If river cruising is your thing, then you are part of a demographic that’s getting younger, more active, more adventurous – and more demanding.

These are the big takeaways from a gathering of 400 travel agents and cruise executives at Vienna’s recent CLIA RiverView convention.

River cruising in Europe is back after the pandemic. All cruise lines are reporting surging demand, back to the levels of 2019 before the world locked down.

With such a choice of great River Cruise companies, it is sometimes difficult to determine which is the most suitable choice for you. There are so many things to consider, but we are here to help.

In this post, we review our Scenic River Cruises trip on the five-star All-Inclusive Scenic Azure on a 7-day exploration of Portugal’s Douro River.

Table of Contents


Many regular cruisers had talked to us about a river cruise on the Douro in Portugal, so it became one of our must-do cruises. Being wine lovers, being able to sample the unique Wines and Port Wines of Portugal would be a perfect fit for us.

As we prefer to cruise on an All Inclusive basis, we eventually chose to sail with Scenic River Cruises ‘Space Ship’ on a 7-day Porto round trip.

We have found the Berlitz Cruise guides a real boon and would highly recommend the River Cruising in Europe and the US book if you are serious about River Cruising.

Insight Guides River Cruising in Europe & the USA (Berlitz Cruise Guide with Free eBook)

Our Voyage Itinerary

We flew from London to Porto, where we joined the ship.

Our exploration of the Douro River on our Scenic River Cruise included passing through many of the enormously impressive locks on the river, which included the Crestuma and Carrapatelo locks, before arriving in Lamego. Thereafter we transited the Bagauste and Valeira locks before arriving in Vega de Terron. From here, you could take the optional coach trip to Salamanca, returning to the ship now berthed in Barca d’Alva.

From here, the ship started its return journey up the Duoro to Porto. The next port of call was Pocinho, and then on to Pinhao and Regua before arriving for an overnight in Porto.

Scenic Azure Introduction

Launched in 2016, Scenic Azure was purpose-built for Portugal’s lock-filled Douro River.

The ship is shorter and narrower than Scenic’s other vessels to navigate the winding Douro and its many locks, but it still feels spacious and easy to get around. Despite the smaller size, Scenic Azure does not lack any frills to which past passengers may have become accustomed.

It has a vitality pool on the sun deck, butler service for all cabins and five dining options.

The vessel features 48 cabins/suites carrying up to 96 guests and a crew of 38; Scenic Azure offers guests a nearly 1:2 staff-to-guest ratio.

Related: Staff to Guest Ratios explained

Scenoc River Cruises review

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Pre Cruise Experience

We booked through a travel agent specialising in River Cruises as we found that booking directly with Scenic was difficult and offered none of the savings provided by the travel agent.

It did prove almost impossible for us and our travel agent to get the final details of the cruise and flight information. Trying to contact Scenic directly proved a complete waste of time, with Emails ignored and phone calls never answered.

The other big attraction for us was the complimentary Luxury Door-to-Door chauffeur service. However, this was another letdown as our driver was late arriving at the agreed pickup time, and when he did arrive, it was a small Uber Taxi for our 100-mile journey to the airport. As this was our first experience with Scenic, we could have been more impressed.

Related: Why use a Travel Agent to Book your Cruise

Scenic River Cruises Review

We’re on our Way

Scenic River Cruises Review Coaches

Scenic has their own fleet of coaches for Shore Excursions

Scenic Azure Suites / Staterooms

Almost all staterooms (87%), or suites as they are known, feature Scenic’s “Sun Lounge” open-air balcony concept for better views of the wine-producing Douro River Valley. One interesting feature we loved was the king-size adjustable beds, which turn into recliners for watching TV and movies at the push of a button. Touch another button, and the cabin’s floor-to-ceiling window opens to a small private sun terrace.

The staterooms come in four separate categories:

  • Standard Suites feature fixed picture window views and measure 172 square feet.
  • Balcony Suites are located on Sapphire and Diamond decks. These suites measure 215 square feet. They feature a full-length outdoor balcony, an expanded living area, and bathrooms complemented by a luxury vanity, sink area, and a separate shower.
  • Junior Suites are on Sapphire and Diamond decks, measuring 247 square feet.
  • Royal One-Bedroom Suites are the most spacious suites on the ship at 420 square feet apiece. Situated at the vessel’s rear, they have separate sleeping and living areas, a private outdoor Scenic Sun Lounge balcony, and an enlarged bathroom featuring a separate tub and shower.

Our Balcony Suite was on the Sapphire Deck (B Grade 206) and was ideally situated close to the stairs, allowing easy access to various parts of the ship. As with all River cruises, suites are small compared to ocean cruises. We knew what to expect and were satisfied with the size.

The bed was large and very comfortable, and we had a small seating area, sufficient storage space for a seven-day cruise and a small mini-bar. The bathroom was well equipped, boasting a walk-in shower, and well-stocked with complimentary premium bathroom products from L’Occitane. It is a one-person bathroom!

Scenic River Cruise Review

Our Balcony Grade B Suite

Scenic River Cruises Review

The Balcony of our Suite

Scenic River Cruise Review

Our Bathroom on Scenic Azure

Scenic Azure Review

Storage and Mini- Mini-bar

Public Spaces and Bars

The ship’s decor is clean and contemporary, with lots of black, white and gold. Watch for the Portuguese sardine Wall in the main dining room. These works of art are available to purchase from the reception.

The Panorama Lounge and Bar is the ship’s social hub, where you can enjoy a drink, read a book, or participate in daily lectures and briefings from the ship’s Cruise Director.

Scenic River Cruise Review

Interior Decor along the Corridors

Scenic River Cruises Review Sardine Wall

The Sardine Wall in the Crystal Dining Room

Dining Options

The Crystal Dining Room is the main restaurant for most dining but also features Scenic’s signature Table D’Or speciality dining experience. Restaurant tables are set for two, four or six, allowing couples or solo travellers to sit together or move around daily.

The food was generally OK but lacked vegetarian options. One of our party, who was vegetarian, even had to design her meals some evenings.

Positioned in the forward part of the Panorama Lounge, Portobellos provides an intimate environment and an area where you can watch the staff prepare some meals. The Portuguese-style cuisine is unique and delicious, but you must book as space is limited.

Room service is available for those who wish the chill-out and enjoy a meal in the comfort of their stateroom. The adjacent River Café is informal and offers light bites throughout the day, which you might want to take up to the expansive Sun Deck, which guests retreat to on most days to admire the scenery.

Silver Moon Review Atlantide Resturant

The Crystal Dining Room – The Main Restaurant

Silver Moon Review Kaiseki

Portabellos Resturant


Service & Butlers

Most of the crew on the vessel are Portuguese, very friendly, passionate about their country, and willing to share information. Their friendly nature bolsters the relaxed ambience onboard, and the welcoming smiles instantly put you at ease with the crew. Service in the bars and resturants was slow at times and almost non existent when the captain hosted a table.

Included in the cruise fare is a butler which we like and has always worked well for us on Ocean cruises; we enjoy the pampering and being spoilt. Unfortunately this didn’t happen for us on this Scenic cruise, as our butler didn’t seem interested and needed help understanding what he had to do.

Others in our party had excellent butlers, so as we reflected afterwards – the butlers were a bit of a lottery.

Portugal can be hot, and passengers dress to keep cool. When we were there, temperatures were above 40 degrees C on most days. Men wear shorts and T-shirts but are asked to wear trousers at dinner; a short-sleeved shirt is OK, and jackets and ties are not required. Women dress casually during the daytime and might change into something smarter in the evening. There is definitely a casual/smart casual vibe in the evenings.

A light cardigan or shawl is recommended to cope with the chilly air conditioning. A sun hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are essential for tours. Take your swimwear if you plan to take a dip in the ship’s vitality pool.

Scenic River Review

The Vitality Poole on The Sun Deck

Silver Moon Ship Review

Passenger Mix

Other facilities.

Scenic Azure also has a small Fitness Center and Wellness Area, Self Service Laundry, and a Reception Lobby, which can handle any questions about your voyage.

There is also a small selection of items for sale from the local area, which are on display on the Sapphire deck.  These can be purchased from reception. The unique collection of famous Bordallo Pinheiro Porcelain Sardines is simply stunning, all of which are for sale.

What’s Included in Your Cruise Fare

  • Meals at all restaurants onboard
  • All beverages and Beers Wines & Spirits from the complementary list
  • Shore excursion per port
  • Evening Cruise Update
  • Most daily activities, unless otherwise noted
  • Use of the fitness centre
  • Butler service
  • Limited WiFi for one device
  • Wetbar and minibar setup
  • Self-service laundry
  • 1KG Bag of laundry per day
  • Door to Door Executive private transfer service
  • International roundtrip flights, with business class upgrades, in selected destinations
  • In-country flights (when required by the itinerary)

What’s Not Included in Your Cruise Fare

  • Premium WiFi (depending on suite category)
  • Premium Wines and Spirits not on the complementary list
  • Spa treatments

Who Is This Cruise For?

As an Australian company, Scenic attracts a lot of Australian passengers along with Americans, British, Canadians and New Zealanders. Many are retired couples in their 60s or 70s. On the Douro itinerary, it is usually the passengers’ first time in Portugal, but they have likely taken several other river cruises.

Scenic Azure would suit couples, especially those enjoying retirement, who appreciate good food, exciting wines, views of the vineyards and a relaxing pace. This is not a ship for families, as no kids programs or facilities exist.

Final Thoughts

River Cruising is a different experience when compared to Ocean cruising. We often have to remind ourselves that the onboard facilities and facilities are limited due to the small size of the River Ships. We have completed several River Cruises, but this was our first experience with Scenic, who had been recommended to us by friends; plus, the marketing hype is quite appealing.

The reality was that this was an alright cruise, but we were disappointed with the food at times, and the onboard service could have been better. Also, our pre-cruise experience trying to deal with Scenic was very poor. To be fair to them, they had just had a major cyber attack on their systems and were trying to rebuild them, plus they were still dealing with the after effects of the pandemic. There is no excuse, though, for never returning calls or emails.

Would we travel with Scenic River Cruises again?

Yes.  We will try again as we like some of their exciting itineraries, plus convincing messages that the service levels are back where they should be. We are already booked for later this year!

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Hi, I’m Mike, a passionate cruiser with over 400 days at sea! This blog is dedicated to all those who love to cruise and are looking for a place to explore, learn and enjoy our tips, insider secrets and money-saving ideas about cruising.  Happy Cruising!! Find Out More

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