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When describing a river cruise boat experience, the terms “elegant,” “fine dining,” or “sophisticated” might not always come to mind. They do, however, if you're talking about Scenic Opal or one of the others vessels that are part of Scenic’s latest generation of Space-Ships.
In terms of onboard amenities and services, Scenic sets standards other lines are hard-pressed to match. Onboard the Scenic Opal, guests enjoy fine dining; room service; butler service; a minibar that is refilled daily; and excellent guides on shore excursions. Also available is a variety of electronic devices including in-room internet, e-bikes when onshore and a Tailormade handheld device equipped with GPS to permit a passenger to hear details on points of interest wherever he or she is. Service staff — all English-speaking and uniformly personable and efficient — is composed mainly of younger east Europeans and Indonesians.
To accommodate its maximum capacity of 169 passengers, the Opal offers a selection including two panorama suites, four royal suites, four junior suites, 18 deluxe balcony suites, 43 balcony suites, one single balcony suite and 13 staterooms.
Opal's onboard entertainment goes beyond the ubiquitous lounge pianist. On one evening while docked, passengers were entertained by a talented violinist as a solo performer. At another stop, a pianist, violinist and cellist presented a program of classics.
Then, while in Mannheim, Germany, passengers were bused a short distance to the Mannheim Palace for a reception, followed by a guided tour of some of the 400 18th-century salons. The evening concluded with a concert of excerpts from operatic arias, presented by two outstanding singers who were accompanied by a pianist.
Although regular dinner menus and dish presentation are uniformly attractive, passengers clearly enjoy the special attention they get at Opal's intimate alternative Italian restaurant, called Portobellos. Since seating is limited to 36 diners, passengers are invited individually, which ensures that everyone onboard gets invited at least once. Passengers staying in suites will be invited to the exclusive Table La Rive that seats just 10 to 12 guests. Here, an elaborate degustation dinner is served with wine appropriate to each course.
The preboarding materials sent to passengers include a section on dress code that specifically suggests coats and ties for gentlemen and dressy attire for ladies during various evening events. On this cruise, at least, the suggestion was distinguished by being generally ignored.
Almost without exception, menus and food presentations as well as other onboard activities are determined by Scenic’s management and apply to all its “Space-Ships.” A small possible exception was the Opal's cruise director's policy of “no public announcements” except, of course, as required to carry out the emergency safety drill and on the rare occasion when there was a slight change in docking location. Given the availability of the Tailormade, he felt no reason to advise passengers that “on the left is such and such castle” or “on the right you can see a statue of”
Despite all the attention to high-tech features provided in staterooms and suites, clients need to be aware that each stateroom or suite has four 220- volt power outlets that take Australian and European plugs, but none accommodates conventional 110- volt American plugs. The only 110- volt outlet available is inside the vanity cabinet in the bathroom for electric razor use.
A passenger needing 110 volts to recharge devices or to power some other appliance can, however, borrow a converter from the front desk.
A special incentive to travel with Scenic is its all-inclusive policy; once onboard, everything is included. That means all meals, of course, but also all beverages, all shore excursions and all gratuities. Unless a passenger opts for a spa treatment or a visit to the ship’s mini beauty parlor, there's never a need to open wallet or purse.