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Scenic is redesigning its France-based ships, reducing the passenger capacity of each from 167 to 155, while keeping the crew numbers the same for individual service. Scenic Diamond in Bordeaux and Scenic Emerald and Scenic Sapphire on the Rhone and Saone rivers in the south of France are each getting two new, 510-square-foot Royal Owners’ Suites, along with an expanded wellness center and a vitality pool. Additionally, each of the three ships will feature a new element that’s unusual for river cruise vessels: Scenic Culinaire, a dedicated space for an onboard cooking school.
The schools — which will offer courses in the culinary style of the regions in which a ship sails — will have individual cooking stations and real-time cameras and screens so that every participating guest can have a clear view of the demonstrations. Each ship’s culinary center will have its own cheese and wine cellar, and fresh ingredients will be sourced from local markets. Scenic’s cooking instructors will introduce participants to regional recipes in a number of sessions on each cruise. The cost of the culinary classes is included in the cruise fare, but passengers should register early to ensure space.
In addition, new Scenic Enrich experiences for 2017 — exclusive to the line — will include gala spectacular Scenic Rouge in Lyon. Guests can watch a traditional French cabaret performance, including the can-can, under a large tent. Another new addition is a four-course dining experience with matched vintages at champagne house Maison Mumm in Reims.
There are also active shore excursions under the Scenic Freechoice activities, including a Tournon vineyard hike and wine tasting, as well as new cycling options in Caudebec-en-Caux, Arnhem and Bordeaux.
Itineraries include the eight-day Idyllic Rhone between Chalon-sur-Saone and Tarascon (with overnights in Lyon and Avignon), which features wine tastings; walking tours of ancient towns; and visits to historic abbeys, olive farms and monasteries Vienne and Viviers. Guitarists will serenade guests as they enjoy drinks at the Castle of Tournon, and there is a guided bike tour to Lyon’s Botanical Gardens and Zoo.
The region lends itself to combination cruises; among the most popular are the Seine and Bordeaux, and the Seine and Rhone. The new 10-day Douro River cruise also easily combines with French itineraries.