Note: Yesterday’s story was delayed because of poor internet connectivity while cruising. While Scenic Cruises offers free Wifi, the line does note that connectivity can be an issue due to availability along certain stretches of the river.
Mannheim, Germany — On Thursday, Scenic Crystal offered guests two complimentary tour options in the morning and a special afternoon and evening tour, also included in the cost of the cruise.
The morning tours were a walking tour of Heidelberg or a hosted home visit and walking tour of Speyer. I did neither, not for lack of want but for lack of will. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed.
A few of us who had flown to Germany from the United States were jet-lagged and slept in on Thursday. While I regretted missing the morning tours, in fact, I’m glad I did. I couldn’t imagine having a better experience than I had after waking on Thursday morning.
My morning began with room service. I really appreciate not having to show my face before that first cup of coffee, and it was nice to sit on my balcony and enjoy a plate of fresh fruit along with yogurt and muesli.
After breakfast, I slipped on my tennis shoes and asked to use one of the bicycles that Scenic makes available to its guests. A few minutes later, a crew member delivered one to the gangway, handed me a helmet and wished me a good ride.
The bicycles are electric-assisted, meaning that they are outfitted with electric motors that assist in pedaling. A fully charged battery can take an average-sized rider about 100 kilometers at speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour.
The bikes offer six levels of assist, or you can switch it off altogether and pedal under your own power. I rode 12 kilometers in one direction using the electric assist, and 12 kilometers back without it.
My ride was nothing short of exhilarating. In only a few minutes, I was out in the forests alongside the river, birds chirping, spring flowers blooming and the smell of April in the air.
After lunch on Scenic Crystal, guests boarded four motor coaches, which the company owns and operates, for a 75-minute transfer to Rastatt. The busses are extremely comfortable — and with clean bathrooms on board.
Australia-based Scenic Tours was founded more than 25 years as a tour company, entering the river cruise segment in 2008. The company hangs its hat on offering exceptional tour products, and much of the emphasis on its fleet of river cruisers is on the shore offerings, so-called Scenic Free Choice tours and Scenic Enrich events, all offered at no additional charge.
Our Scenic Enrich event took place in Rastatt Residential Palace and featured a palace tour, dinner with wine included, and a wonderful performance by two classically trained vocalists. The event is an exclusive for Scenic Cruises, which hosts similar events in palaces throughout Europe, such as a a medieval banquet in Marksburg Castle on the Rhine.
Inside the palace, which dates from the 1700s, we toured the spacious rooms in four groups. As the oldest Baroque residence in the Upper Rhine Valley, the palace was regally impressive.