Scenic Sapphire in Avignon will be renovated.

Luxury river cruise brand Scenic has this week launched its full season of river cruise itineraries in Europe for 2017, with the season featuring a number of enhancements including the rebuild of three of the line’s ships and the introduction of an onboard cooking school.

In time for the season, which peaks during the summer months in Europe but runs in its entirety from early March to November, three Scenic ships sailing in France will undergo a major rebuild to improve the experience for guests. The affected ships will be Scenic Diamond (which sails in Bordeaux, France); Scenic Emerald and Scenic Sapphire (both of which cruise the Rhône and Saône in the country’s south).

The three ships will see one of the onboard dining venues modified into the Scenic Culinaire cooking school, which will offer a variety of tailored demonstrations and hands-on sessions for guests, using fresh produce sourced from local markets in destinations visited by the ship. Scenic Culinaire will feature a number of cooking stations, a cheese and wine cellar and the expertise of talented chefs and instructors guiding passengers step-by-step through recipes, with each step taken slowly and helped by a camera and screen everyone can see.

Cooking classes will take place regularly across many Scenic cruises, however guests are encouraged to register their interest in attending early to improve their chances of securing a place. Sessions will be offered as a Scenic FreeChoice activity if guests either don’t wish to disembark a ship in a particular port or only spend a short time exploring a port.

Cable car tour can take place over Porto, Portugal.
Scenic guests can enjoy activities such as a cable car tour over Porto, Portugal.

Each of the three ships will have their overall passenger capacity decreased from around 170 to 155 across 78 staterooms and suites. With the extra space, the company will increase the available space in its onboard wellness centre and gym plus add an indoor vitality swimming pool. Further, two Royal Owner’s Suites will be added to the cabin selections on each ship, each 47 square metres in size – among the largest on river vessels in Europe. While guest numbers will slightly decrease, staff numbers will not, meaning guests will have greater access to crew members attending to their needs.

A further innovation in Scenic’s new program is the introduction of insurance coverage to cover guests if their cruise or tour is interrupted or cancelled due to circumstances outside their control such as inclement weather, natural disasters, mechanical breakdowns or a number of other possibilities.

Situations where passengers can be paid a claim include where a ship is unable to sail and shore tours cannot be carried out except with a coach ride of three hours or more. So in other words, if your cruise is interrupted but a shore tour can still be reached with a bus ride of up to three hours each way, no claim will be paid. Other caveats include if an itinerary is delayed by more than 24 hours but a passenger can be transferred to another Space Ship or if industrial action in a town prevents a ship from being able to pass through one of the locks.

Cover is automatically included in the price of each holiday. A claim can only be made once a holiday has started, not in advance and will be paid to the traveller in cash, rather than future cruise credits.

Scenic has added insurance coverage for natural disasters.
Natural disasters do strike but Scenic now has you covered if your holiday is interrupted.

Other features of the new Scenic season include the development of six new combination itineraries where travellers with more time at their disposal can extend their holiday with two Scenic cruises back-to-back. An example is the new 27-day ‘European Sojourn’ holiday which begins with a cruise along the Rhine-Main-Danube before connecting to another cruise into France along the Rhone and disembarking in Nice.

Earlybird offers are now in market for Australian travellers ready to book their 2017 holiday with Scenic. On sale until 30 September or sold out prior, a number of booked itineraries will come with free or discounted flights from Australia to Europe or a special upgrade price if you wish to fly in Business Class.