Scenic Crystal, Bicycles & Baroque Palaces, Day 2

How much is that doggie in the pram?

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 Qwic electric bike, on board Scenic Crystal for guests to use free of charge.

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.

With a fully charged battery, I could ride up to 100 kilometers at 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 through forests along the Rhine was exhilarating.

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.

Scenic operates its own motor coaches.

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.

We had free time to walk through Rastatt, Germany

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.

Welcome to the Baroque period.

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.

Open only to us on Thursday: Rastatt Residential Palace

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.

Scenic guests were treated to an exclusive private tour.

Tapestry in Rastatt Palace

Laying down on the job.

View from the palace

The Concert Hall, where, after dinner, we would enjoy an hourlong performance by two classically trained vocalists.

A wonderful performance highlighted this Scenic Enrich event.

Standing ovation for the lovely duo.