ABOARD THE SCENIC OPAL – This is the morning of our third day aboard the brand new Scenic Opal river ship. We boarded as planned on Wednesday, taking the shuttle from the Doubletree Hotel in Amsterdam. It was good that we did because it turned out that our ship was docked 15 minutes from town in a new facility at Coenhaven.
The first night was quiet as passengers filtered aboard throughout the afternoon and early evening and dinner was a buffet. Many had flown in that very morning so everyone headed to bed early.
Yesterday was really our first chance to begin meeting fellow passengers and take in all the aspects of this lovely vessel. We have discovered that the majority of the 157 passengers are from Australia although there are Brits, Canadians, New Zealanders and 14 Americans as well. The ship itself, just two weeks old, is lovely. Everything is brand spanking new and seems to be working well…and the crew, many of whom we met on the Scenic Jade last year, is top-notch.
We have learned that this 85-cabin ship will be christened during this cruise, on June 17 in Cochem, Germany. It will be fun to observe the festivities and the company’s founder and chairman, Glen Moroney, will be here.
The décor is modern and the colors are simple: Grey, black and beige predominate. The exterior is also very sleek. Just last month the parent company, formerly Scenic Tours/Scenic Cruises of Australia, introduced new branding for the entire company: So now it is just the single word “Scenic” in gold outline lettering against a black background and you see it everywhere on the ship from the towels, to the passenger nametags to all of the literature in your stateroom. Most of the Australian passengers have traveled with Scenic before, both on cruises and land tours, but for most of the Americans we have met this is their first Scenic experience.
The ship is designed pretty much like most river ships: With a large lounge and outside terrace toward the front with the dining room (everyone can dine at one seating) below. The staterooms are on three levels aft. There is a small fitness center with five top-of-the-line machines, a hair salon and massage room below. There is a small heated “vitality pool” on the Sun Deck.
But where Scenic really distinguishes itself is by being really all-inclusive. All drinks, tours and gratuities are included. Want a mimosa for breakfast? The champagne bottle is there, chilled in a silver bowl, right next to the orange juice. Butler service is provided to every stateroom. The bicycles aboard are electric-assist and bike tours are offered in almost every port.
We are currently sailing on the Dutch rivers that are tributaries of the Rhine and we did our first tour yesterday afternoon, to the lovely Belgian city of Bruges in Flanders. This day was particularly significant to us because Chet’s father was from this part of Belgium and today was the first day that Chet ever set foot in Belgium. It was a long time coming!
We really enjoyed Bruges but the tour did involve a lot of walking over cobblestones and we arrived back at the ship just after 7 p.m., and dashed to be at the captain’s welcome reception at 7:30. That was followed by a delicious six-course welcome dinner and live entertainment by a piano group. A very full first day!
We are enjoying the fact that again this morning we are sailing slowly and we will not have tours until this afternoon. A great pace for a river cruise!
June 12, 2010