Scenic - a major disappointment


Unregistered, just back from your river cruise? Get published on Cruise Critic; Write a Review!
River Cruising
Find Others on Your River Cruise! River Cruising Roll Calls
All times are GMT -4.
The time now is 02:37 AM.
#1
146 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
I just wanted to provide a review of our recent Scenic cruise to let other people know of our experience. Usually, I am just a casual reader on cruisecritic and don’t contribute much but thought it was important to provide this information.

A little background on us. We have cruised several times on Regent and Seabourn, so we have a certain expectation of what 5-star luxury is. We have also sailed on Oceania, HAL and Celebrity and did a cruise of the Douro River with Uniworld. On all of those lines service was far superior than what we experienced on Scenic.

We were booked on the Gems of the Danube cruise from Prague to Budapest with 3 days precruise in Prague. The cruise was supposed to be on Scenic Ruby but was changed at the last minute to Scenic Diamond because of the German lockworkers’ strike (we were informed prior to departure). We were booked in a Royal Suite.

It started out very well. Because we were in a suite, upon arrival in Prague, we had a private transfer and were whisked to our hotel in a fancy Mercedes. The Marriott was very nice, and we had an excellent tour guide in Prague. A very enjoyable three days.

On the transfer from Prague to the ship in Nuernberg, things started to fall apart a little bit. In a briefing on the first night we were told that we would leave Prague at 1 pm and be at the ship by 4 pm. We were in the first bus and left the hotel about 1:30 pm because the bus had a problem getting to the hotel. As soon as we were on the bus, we were told that the ride would take four hours and we finally arrived at about 5:30 pm. Don’t know why they could not have left earlier since everybody had to check out at noon and was just sitting around at the hotel. Also can’t understand how they did not know when we would be at the ship since presumably they do this transfer every two weeks. We were lucky to be on the first bus, since in talking with others, the last bus did not arrive until 7 pm and people were told to go to dinner before the buffet closed before even seeing their cabins.

Butler: According to Scenic, everyone on the ship gets butler service, but suite guest get a higher level of service. We talked to several people from the “normal” cabins who never saw their butler the entire week. We were privileged because we saw him once. When we boarded, he was there to show us everything in the cabin and explain all the services he would provide. Sounded great, so we asked him to make a reservation in Portobello’s for two days later and he said he was going to take care of it. Two days later came and since we had not heard anything, we called him to ask about our reservation. He said he could not get us anything on the night we requested (I think he forgot) and could only get us a reservation on the last night, which did not work for us since we knew we would be invited to the Captain’s table that night. Then we realized we should just have done it ourselves. We finally were able to get a reservation by going to reception and telling them our story and they were able to squeeze us in on another night.

The other service we were supposed to get was fruit skewers in the early afternoon, canapes before dinner and petit fours after dinner. Worked well the first day although the canapés were not exactly 5-star luxury (piece of bread with a slice of cheese or salami). The next two days we did not receive anything so finally called our butler to see what happened. He was surprised and said that someone else was supposed to deliver the items. We finally got some more the following day (this time ham instead of salami) but that was it for the rest of the cruise and we were tired of constantly having to ask for something. The final two days we did not even get the morning newspaper delivered to our cabin.

In defense of the butlers, I think they really try hard but are spread too thin. There are only 4 butlers for the entire ship (170 passengers) and they also serve dinner in Portobello’s. I see it more as a Scenic management problem of making promises they can’t keep.

Overall service: This is where the problems really were. Overall, with a few exceptions, the staff was abrupt, sometimes almost bordering on rude, and smiles were hard to come by. We felt we always had to conform to their schedule rather than them serving us.

Examples: First lunch we sat down on our table and as usual on our Seabourn/Regent cruises we waited to get a glass of wine poured before we went to the buffet. Waiters were all standing at their station and not moving. So we got a plate of food and thought for sure they would offer us a drink then. When still nothing happened, my husband went over and asked if we could have a glass of wine and was told “No, it’s not time yet”. Apparently, time was when everybody in the room had taken their food from the buffet and sat down. By the time they finally came with the wine, we were done with lunch. We solved that problem by getting a glass at the bar before going down for lunch, but again is has nothing to do with 5-star service.

Same thing at breakfast, you got one cup of coffee and if you wanted more you had to go cup in hand to the station where the waiters were standing and talking to each other. After a couple of days, we learned that there were a couple of waiters who were really good (as well as the omelet guy), so we tried to sit in their sections and things were much better, with drinks refilled and even a smile on the face. Unfortunately, they were the exception rather than the rule.

Back on being on their schedule, we were on a longer excursion one day so came to lunch about half an hour later than the others. Apparently, the staff did not like that. While my husband was still eating, the waitress cleared away everything on the table, including taking the breadbasket. We were almost expecting her to stand there until he was finished so she could grab his plate too. Reminded us of Denny’s or something similar. Then several passengers were looking for some ice cream for dessert, but the ice cream server had apparently left, so we all went behind the counter and helped ourselves. How is that for luxury?

We tried to get some snacks in the River Cafe once but were apparently three minutes after closing time (which was not posted anywhere), so just told “No, we are closed”. With respect to the lounge, you always had to go to the bar to get a drink, nobody would ever take an order at the table as is customary on all the cruises we have ever been on.

On the day of departure, we were scheduled to leave at 7 am with some people leaving as early as 5:45, but guess when they scheduled breakfast: 6:30 am. We were rushing through breakfast and barely made it back to the room before they called us at 6:45 and asked where our suitcases were. Nobody at the gangway to say goodbye, just drop of your card and get off the ship. Another nice private transfer in a Mercedes, though.

Food: I don’t want to talk about taste since that is so subjective, but more about quality and quantity. Overall, food was ok even though preparation was very simple rather than sophisticated and very limited choice at lunch buffets (breakfast was fine, they had everything we needed). They always had a possibility of ordering some a la carte entrees, so we had salmon every day for lunch since they never had seafood at the buffet. We did not see a shrimp the entire trip, again not 5-star luxury and not what we are used to. The size of the entrees was ridiculous, even with several courses (and we are two small thin people). My husband had to order a second entrée almost every time to not leave hungry. The portions of fish or meat were maybe three forkfuls.

Table la Rive we quite enjoyed – good food. Portobello’s was ok and we had already been warned by others about the small portions. Enjoyed talking to the Captain who was quite young but very pleasant. At the Captain’s dinner, we ordered “Chateaubriand”, which turned out to be two paper thin slices of beef.

Tours: Unless you think I am only here to complain, the tours were always good and well organized. The tour guides were universally very good and spoke excellent English. We also really enjoyed the concert in Vienna.

Fellow passengers: I had expected mostly Australians, but the majority were actually Canadians since Scenic has apparently started to heavily promote its offerings in Canada. All passengers we talked to were friendly and we always had a good time at the lounge after dinner talking and dancing. There were two groups of passengers. Those that were well travelled felt the same way we did about the lack of service and food options. Then there were others who had never cruised before (ocean or river), thus had nothing to compare the experience to and thought everything was fine.

Overall impressions: We were very disappointed about the whole experience given the price point (which for a suite was in the range of what we would pay for Seabourn with real service). Given a lower price, we may have felt differently. We felt that promoting this cruise as 5-star luxury was highly deceptive and did not reflect reality.

I think Scenic could improve things a lot by investing in some serious staff training. I realize that East European employees were not brought up in a service culture and a smile does not come as easily to them as some other nationalities, but that is what training is for.

Overall, we think that Scenic overpromises but underdelivers so we cannot recommend them. Experiences may be different on their other ships with different staffing, but for us it is too much of a risk to take.
#2
San Tan Valley, AZ
595 Posts
Joined Jan 2006
Great review.

I have travelled on many river cruise since 1999 but have not tried Scenic. The main reason is that I travel solo and they are out of my budget. The thing about the wine at lunch really is absurd. We always have received our wine as soon as we sat down.
#3
Ohio
775 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
I'm sorry you had such a disappointing time on your river cruise. I'm not sure where you were given the impression that Scenic is considered 5-star luxury. I think had you done some research on this site before your cruise, your expectations would have been lowered and as a result, you may have enjoyed the experience more. I'm surprised that since you had previously traveled Uniworld that you would take this trip on Scenic, since Uniworld does the same trip. Again sorry about your experience, but it seems that had you not had such high expectations, it may have been more enjoyable.
#4
florida
3,686 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
Originally posted by YoungDubFan
I'm sorry you had such a disappointing time on your river cruise. I'm not sure where you were given the impression that Scenic is considered 5-star luxury. I think had you done some research on this site before your cruise, your expectations would have been lowered and as a result, you may have enjoyed the experience more. I'm surprised that since you had previously traveled Uniworld that you would take this trip on Scenic, since Uniworld does the same trip. Again sorry about your experience, but it seems that had you not had such high expectations, it may have been more enjoyable.
all refer to it as 5 star service,so one would naturally expect that.
Re.review here on CC,have been mixed.Even a thread re.luxury river cruises rated Tauck,Scenic,etc.as "luxury".
This is why I too booked cruise with them for next yr.
Unless all the negative comments,problems,etc.are improved on my cruise...I too will be a first and last time cruiser.
I hope Scenic reads,listens,and improves things that seem quite easy to fix.
Spoke with my TA who also said Scenic considered 5 star.So i feel OP review reflects appropriate expectations.Am now reading posts by 2 current Scenic cruisers,and they are NOT complaining about it,but enjoying it.But, a suite should offer a butler whose present and helpful.Wine should be served,food should be good and in good proportions,etc,etc....
I will ask my TA to read this review,contact Scenic,and let you know WHAT the response is.
#5
Tucson,Az,USA
44 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Originally posted by YoungDubFan
I'm sorry you had such a disappointing time on your river cruise. I'm not sure where you were given the impression that Scenic is considered 5-star luxury. I think had you done some research on this site before your cruise, your expectations would have been lowered and as a result, you may have enjoyed the experience more. I'm surprised that since you had previously traveled Uniworld that you would take this trip on Scenic, since Uniworld does the same trip. Again sorry about your experience, but it seems that had you not had such high expectations, it may have been more enjoyable.
We have never sailed on Scenic but I just went to their website and looked it all over and also looked at their brochure. In the OP's defense, Scenic is without a doubt absolutely holding themselves out to be a 5 Star Luxury line. I usually don't pay much attention to these long negative reports, but in this case it looks like Scenic is promising much more than they are able or willing to provide.
#6
SoCal
2,378 Posts
Joined Aug 2004
Originally posted by YoungDubFan
I'm sorry you had such a disappointing time on your river cruise. I'm not sure where you were given the impression that Scenic is considered 5-star luxury. I think had you done some research on this site before your cruise, your expectations would have been lowered and as a result, you may have enjoyed the experience more. I'm surprised that since you had previously traveled Uniworld that you would take this trip on Scenic, since Uniworld does the same trip. Again sorry about your experience, but it seems that had you not had such high expectations, it may have been more enjoyable.
Scenic's website is filled with references to "luxury" and "world class". It is perfectly understandable that the OP's expectations would be as such.

This was a very detailed and thoughtful review. In this instance, Scenic certainly was not "world class". The descriptions of service in the dining room was particularly disappointing.
#7
Santa Paula CA
3,415 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
I think the OP qualified him/herself as a person who does have experience on a number of
" luxury" lines, and did have some expectations which were not fulfilled. Apparently this is due to the advertising by the cruise line.
At lest there was no complaint about "bruising" the wine.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
It serves no purpose to list all the cruises I have been on chronologically. Many of the lines or ships do not exist any more, or have been renamed. I have sailed on NCL,Bermuda Star, Regency, Royal, Silverseas, Mississippi Queen, Vantage, Marco Polo, Scottish Highlander, Princess, Victoria, Hebridean Princess, Paul Gauguin, Regent, Oceania, Cunard, Rembrandt, and Lev Tolstoy.
#8
146 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Scenic definitely represents itself as a 5-star line. All the posters on board say Scenic-5-Star Luxury. Canadians indicated that they attended actual sales presentations where the 5-star aspect was particularly stressed.

We picked Scenic initially because of that aspect and because at the time they were about the only all-inclusive cruiseline. The Uniworld ships for me are a little "over the top" from a design perspective (the Douro one is different).

While I did not think the service and food were anywhere near 5-star, the suite was lovely and we really enjoyed the balcony that could be enclosed at the touch of a button, especially as our cruise had some cool weather.

The poured wines were actually fine, not outstanding, but that is usually not the case in an all-inclusive setting. There was one red which was pretty bad, but overall I would rate them on par with Seabourn. They were of course European, which makes perfect sense given the location of the ship, just our personal taste runs more toward "New World" wines.
#9
florida
3,686 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
and glad to hear that part was fine.But looked forward to BUtler perks,did you ever order room service?Says it inc.for breakfast? The balcony sounds great,look forward to larger bathroom and tub too.
I have forwarded your review to my TA because he also said it was a 5star (luxury) line.Asked him to check out complaints with Scenic and get back to me,we ll see.
Re.this particular itinerary and date was the best for area of all the cruiselines I checked,but sure HOPE the proper changes are made in a yr.to REALLY make it luxury.So far the closest I ve found in 10 river cruises has been AMA.
#10
146 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Alexandra -

we never ordered room service since we prefer not to eat in the room. We considered it on the last day to maybe get an earlier breakfast but given the previous experience with our butler, we decided against it. There is not breakfast card in the room where you can pick what you want like on other lines.

Out of fairness, I have to mention one suite perk that was better than we had anywhere else. The suite includes unlimited refills of Veuve Clicquot. I thought it was only one bottle at the beginning, but they keep half bottles in the minibar that the cabin attendant refills as soon as they are gone.
#11
florida
3,686 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
for choosing a suite.I ll have to ask for details at very first,then follow thru(it seems).Love that perk,need my coffee,haha.
Since we don t drink,wines and etc.not a big deal.
Did look at brochure AGAIN,and it DOES say,,,room service .
Sure hope they really IMPROVE before next June.
Leaving in 2 wks.on Oceania(Penthouse)and SURE HOPE service better.Have been on 2 before.So far my favorite ocean cruises are Regent and Seabourn.Know river cruises can t come up to those standards,but close would be nice(esp.when you re PAYING for it).
Hope you put down these comments on post review cards.
#12
Philadelphia
5,172 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
Originally posted by alexandra cruiser
Leaving in 2 wks.on Oceania(Penthouse)and SURE HOPE service better.Have been on 2 before.So far my favorite ocean cruises are Regent and Seabourn.Know river cruises can t come up to those standards,but close would be nice(esp.when you re PAYING for it).
Hope you put down these comments on post review cards.
Your Oceania butler will bring you all the coffee and just about anything else you may want.
#13
6 Posts
Joined May 2013
Alexandra...

I just returned from the same cruise as the OP. I stayed in a Balcony Suite on the Danube deck.

There is room service...I had it every day. There were two breakfast menus...one for just coffee and tea and the other for hot breakfasts. Different egg dishes were offered as well as porridge, fruit, yogurt, cold cereal, bacon etc. If it wasn't listed, we just wrote in what we wished to have. For example I ordered eggs benedict several mornings. I thought that the quality and taste of the room service breakfast rivaled any ocean cruise that I have taken. The delivery was very prompt each time.

When I read the OP's review I had to check to see whether he was on the same cruise as I was.

We had fantastic service in the dining room...our beverages were at our table just after we sat down. I had unlimited coffee and tea during breakfast and rarely had to ask for it.

If service in the dining room and room service for breakfast is important to you, I think you will find that there is a variance in wait staff, just like anywhere else. But good service does exist, as it did for us.

If you look at the OP's last comment to Franski ( Scenic- Gems of the Danube) you will see that they did, in fact, find a table and server that they considered to be good.

It would have been nice to include this fact in the original post.
#14
New York
8,487 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
When you are leaning toward a choice, you tend to see all the positive reenforcements and overlook anything negative.

As we were approaching our current AMA Waterways cruise, there were some negative posts on CC. It was easy to ignore them by re-reading the positive ones (and thanks to comments from veteran AMA cruisers) and convince myself that the positives outweighed the negatives. Thankfully that turned out good for us, as this cruise we are finishing has been excellent in almost every respect.

But as a dis-interested observer, I believe that I have seen many more negative comments about Scenic than positive ones. This is true especially about their performance during the June floods, but also in general.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Email me: [email protected]
Blogs: Jazzbeaux Blogs

I am not an employee of Cruise Critic and I don't speak for Cruise Critic. All opinions are mine alone. Also, I'm only a Host on the various River forums -- everywhere else I'm "just plain Jazz."

Booked:
Azamara Quest Costa Rica 1-2018
AMA Discover Africa 5-2018
Viking Sun British Isles Explorer 8-2018
Celebrity Edge Caribbean B2B / Celebrity Equinox Caribbean B2B 1-2019 [will choose one!]

Completed:
Crown Princess Classic Canada & New England 10-2017
Norwegian Pride of America Hawaii 10-2016; Azamara Quest Norwegian Fjords 8-2016; Celebrity Constellation Greek Isles 5-2016; AmaDagio Provence 9-2015; Celebrity Xpedition Galapagos 5-2015; Celebrity Eclipse Southern Carib 3-2015; Fresco Tours A Kinder Camino walking tour 9-2014; Crystal Serenity Mediterranean 5-2014; Coral Princess Panama Canal 1-2014; AmaCello Rhine 8-2013; Coral Princess Alaska 6-2013; Ireland Fly-Drive 9-2012; Norwegian Dawn Caribbean 3-2013 / Celebrity Summit Caribbean 1-2012 / Oceania Insignia Mediterranean 5-2011 / Fair Dinkum (Erie Canal bareboat) 7-2003 / Costa Italia Caribbean 5-1974
#15
florida
3,686 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
Originally posted by Motowner
Alexandra...

I just returned from the same cruise as the OP. I stayed in a Balcony Suite on the Danube deck.

There is room service...I had it every day. There were two breakfast menus...one for just coffee and tea and the other for hot breakfasts. Different egg dishes were offered as well as porridge, fruit, yogurt, cold cereal, bacon etc. If it wasn't listed, we just wrote in what we wished to have. For example I ordered eggs benedict several mornings. I thought that the quality and taste of the room service breakfast rivaled any ocean cruise that I have taken. The delivery was very prompt each time.

When I read the OP's review I had to check to see whether he was on the same cruise as I was.

We had fantastic service in the dining room...our beverages were at our table just after we sat down. I had unlimited coffee and tea during breakfast and rarely had to ask for it.

If service in the dining room and room service for breakfast is important to you, I think you will find that there is a variance in wait staff, just like anywhere else. But good service does exist, as it did for us.

If you look at the OP's last comment to Franski ( Scenic- Gems of the Danube) you will see that they did, in fact, find a table and server that they considered to be good.

It would have been nice to include this fact in the original post.
and surprised such a difference in same cruise.
And to poster re Oceania,yes, know room service there is great,was referring to Scenic.And did get PH for hot,complete breakfast///not just continental like many rooms.To me having coffee on the balcony before getting dressed for day is luxury.
Re;negative Scenic reviews.Yes, have been worried about them too.Thats why I m following current cruisers so carefully.
#16
146 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Interesting - there was no breakfast menu in our suite. There was a 24-hour menu but it had only about 5 items on it, a couple of appetizers, sandwiches, dessertsI belive I stated in my review that some servers were very good, just pointed out that they were in the minority.

I made detailed comments on my comment card but I don't know if that will have any effect. We talked to a travel agent from Canada who had about 20 clients on the cruise and she sent off an e-mail with her complaints to Scenic Australia headquarters after the first day, so senior management was apprised.
#17
11,438 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
Originally posted by alexandra cruiser
and surprised such a difference in same cruise.

Re;negative Scenic reviews.Yes, have been worried about them too.Thats why I m following current cruisers so carefully.
I have been following them as well, as we are booked on a Scenic Danube cruise in October.

Clearly the OP had a very bad experience, as did others, and I have some concerns about how Scenic responds when things don't go as planned based on what happened to them.

I'm also aware that people post on these (and other) boards when they are unhappy but not as frequently when they have been satisfied, so I know that there is no statistical importance to the number of happy or unhappy comments we read here. I'm not, therefore, terribly concerned about our upcoming cruise with Scenic because (1) the odds of a series of weather and labor issues happening together again are very small and (2) I'm willing to assume that Scenic has done some post-mortem and have incorporated learnings that will improve how they react in future situations.
#18
Sunshine Coast Queensland
324 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
We finished our Scenic cruise over 4 weeks ago and we are still in the UK but will post a full report with CC when we get back.
We had full room service in the mornings, you just had to write what you wanted on the card in your room. It was always fresh and hot and came on time. Our waiters in the dining room were fantastic and coffee and tea were always being topped up if wanted.
I hope more people who are happy with their cruise will post and tell everyone about it, it seems that the ones who arn't as happy are the ones to post.
We had 166 people on our cruise and I think we met one couple who were not happy. I must admit we did not speak to everyone but you get the picture.

Cheers
#19
Milton On Canada
938 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
I just finished my second Scenic cruise (south of France) and had absolutely no issues or problems with any service or staff. Everything was better than expected including the food. I know there were no water level issues or lock strikes in France that affected the cruise so no additional bus trips. If the OP is used to Seabourn for their ocean cruises, I do not believe there is any river cruise line that would meet their expectations. 5 star river cruising is not the same as 5 star ocean cruising. While I was in Aquarium class on Scenic, we did have a butler although I never used her at all. Other folks that I spoke to that were on the other decks or in suites had no complaints. I am sorry that the OP did not enjoy their first river cruise. It really sounds like their Butler was not up to par with the other service providers and their comments on their exit survey will go a long way to either have that person removed from the position or be better trained. Scenic does review all the comments and acts upon them when appropriate.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Judy

Carnival Pride-Western Caribbean Feb 2015
Scenic Emerald-Paris to Barcelona Sept 2013
Freedom OTS-E. Caribbean March 2013
Scenic Emerald Amsterdam to Budapest Sept 2012
Emerald Princess-S. Caribbean Jan 2012
AMA Amalegro Prague to Paris Sept 2011
Oceania Insignia Venice -Barcelona -September 2010
Coral Princess Panama Canal FLL to LA Dec 2009
Emerald Princess Baltic Aug 2009
Caribbean Princess S. Caribbean B2B Nov 2008
#20
146 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
I really do not want to belabor this but I do not like it if incorrect information is given. It was not our first river cruise and we don't cruise exclusively on Seabourn; I mentioned Oceania, HAL, and Celebrity.

I hope you are right about the comments. We left extensive comments and also left our e-mail address. We have not heard a word from Scenic. Other cruiselines have always contacted us to address issues we may have mentioned in the survey.