Howdy! In today’s video chat we are taking a look at the Scenic Group and some of their fabulous cruise offerings. I recently welcomed my colleague, Oya Bekisoglu – previously the Regional Sales Director for Scenic USA, to tell us all about the experience’s Scenic offers on their amazing river cruise options. Are you ready to discover what awaits you on these awesome vessels? Great – grab a chair on deck and come sail away with us!
A Little Background
Scenic Group is an Australian company that started out in 1986 as a tour operator. In the year 2000 they expanded and went global, then in 2008 they actually started building their own ships – putting them into the category of shipbuilders as well. Today they own and operate those ships as Scenic Luxury Cruises, an all-inclusive five star cruise experience complete with butlers! In 2014 Emerald Waterways cruises – a four star deluxe brand known for its exceptional value launched and then in 2018 they launched the Scenic Eclipse – the world’s first discovery yacht and the first ocean cruise ship from the Scenic Group – which holds 228 passengers. After that came Emerald Azzurra which holds only 100 people and cruises only in the Mediterranean, Croatia and the Red Sea. When it comes to Scenic Group brands, Oya raved that they are all about the inclusions – which are exceptional, as well as the innovations and giving their passengers more space and freedom. Plus – their small ship cruising is very diversified. If you want to cruise the rivers throughout Europe and Southeast Asia, you can – or if you prefer cruising on the oceans, you can experience it via their yachts.
So, I am really excited about this is and wanted to share with you guys why I brought Oya in to discuss Scenic Group – and that is because the brands that she represents really are something that have a lot of local touches and for you guys who are very interested in making sure that you have those local pieces – Scenic and Emerald brands both give you that. They actually build their ships purposely for the destination. They have journey designers that handpick all these experiences. And Oya says she doesn’t like to call them excursions because they’re all unique experiences that the guests will have. For instance, on the river cruises you will have an exceptional experience with the locals, and you will have celebrity chef on board. So, in Southern France you will be going out shopping with the chef and when come back you will be cooking with the chef and of course eating the fabulous fare you helped prepare – and don’t forget the wine! Plus, the Scenic brand is all inclusive and all the premium beverages are included – they don’t even ask for a credit card when you’re on board. With the Emerald brand they offer complimentary wine and beer with the lunch and dinner. Sometimes – depending on the destination – like in Southern France or the Douro Portugal cruise – if you are having a special event like a wine tasting they call that Emerald Plus and they’re also included. And Emerald also has some beverage packages that if you wanted to have unlimited beverages you can purchase that option as well.
The Scenic Experience
Oya shared that when Emerald Cruises was launched in 2014 – for five years in a row – every single year – they were awarded for being the best value – and there is no arguing that! As mentioned previously, complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are included with your lunch and dinners. You will have activity managers that will be with you to do yoga and Pilates classes. They have bicycles on board that are included, and the activity managers will take ashore with you to sightsee together. Your active experiences or excursions – one or two in every port of call – are included. And – if you really wanted to explore the destination a little bit deeper – there may be an additional activity you can book – with a small extra fee. However, Oya stated that on any of the Emerald cruises she took part in she didn’t have the need of spending more time because you are really experiencing the destination pretty in depth with the included outings. Also included? All of your tips and gratuities on board and on shore as well as Wi-Fi. Airport transfers are included too – but you don’t have to buy the air through Scenic – you can get your own air and as long as you are arriving and departing on the same day of embarkation and disembarkation, they will include the airport transfers. Oya noted that sometimes people are like what are you NOT including because so much is included! Even though your beverages are not all inclusive on Emerald – and you can make them all-inclusive by buying the beverage packaging – which Oya said is around $14.00 per day per person which you guys is amazing!
As for your crew on board – they are a diverse crew and most of them are from the area that they’re serving – depending on the ship. Let’s say if you were doing a Southeast Asia itinerary the majority of the crew members will be from perhaps Vietnam or Cambodia. That being said they are all English speaking so no need to worry about communication barriers. Or if you are in European rivers, many of them may be from Slovakia – but they too are all English speaking so you will never have any problem there – and Oya added – all with a big smile on their face as they want to make sure they do all they can to make your trip fabulous. And I think that’s a great thing about Scenic because the staff is very local to the region there’s a lot of local cultural immersion that happens within the ship. That’s something that I really like to point out because if you’re looking for that cultural immersion and you think that you’re going to miss out because you’re on a boat, you’re not because the staff is going to make sure that you have that cultural immersion as well. Plus, when it comes to the river cruising you are really in the heart of that city, in the heart of that European country. And in some itineraries in eight days, you will be experiencing five different cultures because you will be seeing five different countries. How cool is that! I mean you wake up and you open your eyes and let’s say you’re in Vienna, Austria. Then the next day you might be in Germany or Strasbourg. Europe is full of little countries next to each other and when you cross the border you feel the difference in the culture – which is amazing even though they’re so close together. And Oya also mentioned that on the lower Danube, there are some places that you really cannot go if you are not on the river making a river cruise the best way to explore that particular part over the world. And while you are there why not extend your stay and go to Istanbul or Turkey!
This is not your grandmother’s cruise ship – in fact they call their ships starships – i.e., Emerald Starship. And Oya related that when she first boarded one of their ships, she realized why they call them that. They are sparkling with lots of open areas and mirrors from floor to the ceiling and stainless steel. In other words, everything is very contemporary, classy, open and shiny – it has a modern feel in the historical old country. One of their very unique innovations has to do with the ships swimming pool. Yes – it has a swimming pool – meaning you can go swimming while cruising the Danube, in a little pool on the ship, and you get to see all these sites as you as you’re relaxing in the pool – so cool! The innovative part – and as we said they are very well-known for their innovation – is the construction of the pool. First of all, it is about the size of a one car garage because when it comes to river ships the space is narrow and small. Then what they have done is put this pool by day into another use at night. The ceiling is retractable so it can be closed for inclement weather and at night they raise it, clean it, dry it out and put chairs out there and it becomes a beautiful cinema where you can watch a movie. Or, there might be some other special events happening there or if you’re traveling with a group of people or your family you can even all meet up together there!
A Bit About Demographics
So, nationality wise you will have a lot of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, people from the UK and of course Americans. However, the majority of guests are from Australia because they’re an Australian company and have been in the business for 36 years now and are a very prestigious and very well-known company there. And let us tell you – Aussie’s are oh so fun and super positive and happy about everything making for an upbeat, beautiful experience. And think about it, if you’re travelling with different cultures on the same river in a small ship chances are you will be making perhaps lifelong friendships. As far as age, Oya noted that the world is changing its tune about river cruising. It used to be widely known as a vacation for the older generation. But we are here to tell you river cruising is very active – and I have done a number of river cruises and trust me it’s super active. You’re out there, you’re doing a lot of things and so I want to emphasize that for those of us who are Gen X’ers or even older Millennials – you will love it too. That being said – Oya said typically you’ll find age 55 and up on the Emerald brand and age 60 to 65 on the Scenic brand because of all inclusivity – the younger generation prefers more of an al a carte option and want to do things by themselves. As for children the youngest age allowed on board with family is age 12 because there is not much to do for children. (Although you know that I would say it’s a living classroom so even at 12 years old you can go, and you can walk in history and make your own opinions!)
On top of all of this Scenic has a great wellness piece. There’s an amazing spa on board where they do offer spa treatments, facials, manicures and pedicures and although there is a cost for these services Oya assures us its minimal. There is even a hairdresser and barber that again are at a minimal cost as they are not to make a profit but rather to offset the service fees.
In addition, there are plenty of activities to help those on board stay fit and healthy – such as the yoga and Pilates classes we mentioned earlier. Plus, the activity managers will be there with you the whole time – not just onboard but on land as well. So, if you’re on shore and you are biking or hiking, they will join you there, as well as on the ship. And if you wanted to have some private sessions, if they are available, they will be doing that too. Once again these are all included as are the bicycles there are on board which are great to take out and ride around in the towns to take everything in.
Now let’s talk about some of the rooms and I know that many of you think because it’s a cruise ship and because it’s a cabin they’re going to be tiny, but these are really well appointed accommodations. The older Scenic brands definitely have the larger suites in the industry. The Emerald Panorama Balcony Suite is 180 square feet and is a beautiful suite with a separate section that Oya said is not a step out balcony, but there is a separate section where the window is horizontal and it’s kind of included in the suite but there’s an area that you can have as a balcony. The Grand Balcony Suite at 210 square feet does have a step out balcony which some people say kind of replaces a French balcony, but they call it a sun lounge because you can close it up and if you close the curtains, you can separate the balcony section and it can be used as a sun lounge. It too is beautiful and is one of Oya’s favorites suites. Then there is the Owners One Bedroom Suite which is their largest at 315 square feet. This suite actually has its own separate seating area like a living room area along with a bedroom and the sun lounge step out balconies. And you guys I love these setups. They are clean and modern with sleek lines, so you don’t feel like you’re in cramped quarters whatsoever.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing – Scenic Group cruises are sailing once again! To ensure the health and safety of yourselves, your fellow guests and crew before your journey with Scenic begins, they will require you to complete a pre-departure medical health evaluation, and they require all guests to have received the required dose(s) of an approved Covid-19 vaccine.For guests who require a Covid test before returning home they will provide a complimentary test on the 3rd last day of the cruise.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date information from Scenic Group about the precautions they are taking click here.
Sound like a fabulous adventure? It is! Now keep in mind that with a lot of these European sailings that we’re talking about, they had to move people who were supposed to sail in 2020 to go in 2021 and some of them had to be rescheduled for 2022. So, what that means is that even though sailing isn’t happening until 2022 or later there’s finite inventory. And when it comes to river cruising some itineraries will hold 120 guests, some 160 – up to 180. So limited space means they sell out quickly and if there’s a really very popular destination and if you really want to be on it – you have to start planning ahead of time as they typically sell out a year ahead. In fact, they are already filling up their 2022 and 2023 sailings! So, if you are dreaming of a beautiful vacation in Europe think about where you want to go and let’s get that conversation started!
For more details on Scenic Group Cruises – including full itineraries, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!