It’s one of those moments that bring back an almost-forgotten child-like excitement. No matter how many times you have packed for a trip, a holiday, or a global experience, booking your first big river cruise brings many exciting expectations.
The Danube was first consideration, but there was that decade-ago declaration of a return to France and Paris to properly enjoy everything. Cumulative research of the internet, some brochures, along with all-important recommendations from experienced travellers efficiently honed the options.
The “been there, done that” conversations carry the decision, and it’s the ‘South of France’ package aboard Scenic Emerald that fits perfectly.
The initial – and understandable – reaction, due to sheer weight of numbers, media and marketing, is that it’s the famous Amsterdam-Budapest cruise on the Rhine and Danube rivers.
There’s a raised eyebrow of curiosity when I declare it’s the Saone and Rhone rivers with Scenic. “Didn’t know they did much river cruising in France” … is the follow-up comment.
Well, Scenic does plenty of five-star, all-inclusive river cruising in France on the Seine in the north, the Saône and Rhône in the south and Bordeaux in the south-west through some of the most spectacular and memorable scenery on earth.
Sailing south with Scenic. Taking The River South With Scenic
France is for child-friendly. Kid-Friendly France
River Cruising In Style
The Rhone, with its source in the Swiss Alps and flowing through historic and picturesque areas of south-eastern France, at 812 kilometres was, in the Middle Ages, Europe’s principal commercial route.
With Australian companies dominating the river cruise market, Scenic does it in style with all-inclusive luxury services and fully escorted ‘Enrich’ and ‘FreeChoice’ tours.
Scenic’s 11 ‘Space-Ships’ feature full-sized private sun lounges in the upper decks with queen-size bed, pillow options, Egyptian cotton linen, L’Occitane amenities and Mac mini infotainment system.
The private butler service is something every traveller should experience at least once and there’s unlimited complimentary beverages, three outdoor viewing decks, a personal GPS commentary device (Scenic ‘Tailormade’) for the organised daily tours and personal shopping sorties, complimentary Wi-Fi internet and on-board entertainment presenting national and regional cultures.
Scenic’s “all-included” cost package was another decision “game-changer”.
In fact, many of our Emerald shipmates said that being able to sign off on the round trip cost and not having to consider “extras” during the voyage was a significant influence in their choice.
The progressive enhancement of the on-board social network is a highlight, along with the consistently impressive standard of wining and dining. However, like most consumer experiences, the customer service standard is world class.
Another surprisingly impressive aspect of the cruise is the number of Scenic’s repeat customers and their “loyalty” to the brand.
When our Scenic cruise tickets and backpacks arrived, I thought it would be akin to a common passport for shipmates ashore and connecting to the cruise. However, most guests were carrying or trailing a range of Scenic-branded baggage that indicated their tours of duty with Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Emerald levels of “experience”.
Most shipmates are Australians who are repeat cruisers and have connected pre-cruise, or are connecting post-cruise, to or from a Scenic land-based tour. “Would not travel with any other company,” say Maree and Kevin, who are Platinum-level travellers from Collie in Western Australia.
Those Romans Laid The Touring Groundwork
There are nine ports on the South of France cruise, with relatively short “hops” between the towns and sightseeing opportunities at some of France’s iconic destinations.
This proximity is down to the Roman armies capable of covering up to 30 kilometres in day’s march and establishing camps that became towns and cities.
Lyon and Avignon are the highlights with imposing Roman architecture, history and, for those keen to venture ashore for a meal, some of the best dining and wines in the world.
Once ashore, a flexible itinerary along with ‘Scenic Enrich’ and ‘Scenic FreeChoice’ tours and expert local guides bring life to the destinations and allow guests to choose the most attractive activities.
There are up to six dining options aboard Scenic Emerald with casual dining at River Cafe to Table La Rive degustation for Diamond Deck guests.
Nightly bookings are available for the L’Amour French fine dining experience.
On-board culinary opportunities included a tour of the galley, where more than 1,000 meals are prepared daily, pastry and French cooking demonstrations, a French cuisine master class and afternoon wine and cheese tasting events.
Another memorable dining experience was the three-course – millefeuille de tomatoe; dos de saumon roti a la courgette or piece de veau (comme un roti) farcie aux herbettes; and poire ‘Bel Helen’ with Crozes Hermitage (red) and Les Jalets (white) local wines – in the Great Hall of the Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) at Avignon.
For the technically inclined, 15 locks allow Scenic Emerald to navigate both rivers, dropping exactly 174 metres from Chalon-sur-Saone to Tarascon.
All locks are 12 metres wide – with less than 60 centimetres for Captain Dario Leleu to manoeuvre his vessel each time – and 195 metres long.