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Luxury began almost instantaneously onboard Scenic’s Scenic Emerald, one of the line’s popular “Space-Ships” that sails the Rhone River in the south of France. As soon as I arrived to my cabin, my personal butler made himself — and his intentions to attend to my every need — known. Though I didn’t want my shoes polished for dinner, I was glad to know he could do it, along with other tasks such as ensuring that my complimentary minibar contained refreshment choices tailored to my liking.
Design-wise, Scenic Emerald is sleek: There aren’t many decorative flourishes, but it’s modern and bright. All accommodations come with an Internet-enabled Mac computer that also doubles as a television. For those staying in a suite, one of the most thrilling in-room amenities is the Sun Lounge balcony. With a touch of a button, part of the window can retract and transform the cabin into an indoor-outdoor hangout. Specially made Scenic Slumber Beds are extra-comfortable and set with Egyptian cotton linens, while a pillow menu has options from synthetic to goose down. Additionally, bathrooms are stocked with sumptuous L’Occitane products.
But there are many public spaces that will entice cruisers to stray from their cozy rooms. An onboard lounge offers plenty of tables and seating, plus an open-until-late bar where passengers can order drinks and small bites such as salads, sandwiches, cakes and ice cream. It’s also a lively spot to meet the exceptionally friendly crew and fellow travelers, many of whom are from Australia, Great Britain and America.
Scenic Emerald’s sun deck is comfortably outfitted with lounge chairs and tables — as well as a giant, life-size chess board — so it becomes the perfect spot for an afternoon aperitif. It can also be a quieter place to eat lunch if the main dining room is a bit too buzzy; though, when the sun is shining, the sun deck is the vessel’s most popular social setting. Also, while there is workout equipment in the onboard fitness center, the walking track is a better option for keeping up with your exercise regimen.
The toughest part of each day was when I had to choose from a selection of shore excursions (usually around three). Foodies will love the visit to a boutique, family-owned olive oil farm just outside Tarascon, as well as the Avignon market visit with Scenic Emerald’s executive chef Tamas Kiss. History and culture buffs, however, may prefer to marvel at Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct from the first century that is now perhaps more famous for gracing the 5-euro note.
One of the beautiful things about river cruising is that you’re perfectly positioned to do some independent exploration, if so desired. While Scenic Emerald was docked in Lyon, I skipped a visit to a silk loom known for producing Hermes scarves and, instead, cycled through town on one of the ship’s easy-to-use electric-assisted bikes. I popped into bakeries for pastries, stopped at cafes for some people-watching and shopped for souvenirs, all while listening to my Scenic Tailormade GPS device that includes audio destination commentary for solo exploration (it works on guided tours, too).
Clients looking to return to Scenic Emerald won’t want to miss what’s next: The ship is now being redesigned for 2017 to carry 155 guests instead of 167. There will be two new 510-square-foot Royal Owners’ Suites; a private culinary center called Scenic Culinaire for complimentary hands-on classes; an expanded wellness center; and a vitality pool.