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Scenic cruises review
All-inclusive small-ship cruising with an industry leader.
When you cruise with Scenic, you don’t have to worry about the details — or bringing along your wallet. Though fare is pricier up front than what you’d pay for a mid-tier cruise, literally everything is covered.
Amy Stoltenberg is a staff writer covering all things travel, shopping and lifestyle. After earning a BA at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked as technical designer in corporate fashion before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop's closed, you can find her wandering around Los Angeles looking for hole-in-the-wall eateries and plotting her way to all 50 states (she's currently at 28).
Scenic offers classic, small-ship luxury cruising — imagine a floating hotel filled mostly with well-traveled retired folks. Your cohorts — predominantly Aussies and Brits, with a few Americans and Canadians — will likely be friendly, active and curious about the destinations you’re traveling to. Still, it’s not over-the-top glamorous. Decor is elegant and tasteful, but these aren’t glitzy, high-maintenance trips.
Scenic’s flexible yet complimentary shore excursions set it apart. At each port, you can choose between its more structured Enrich activities or relaxed Freechoice option.
Freechoice excursions let you explore a city at your own pace by foot or bicycle, while Enrich experiences may include concerts, cooking classes or guided tours. That’s a neat deal, because you don’t have to worry about wasting the all-inclusive value if you prefer to explore more independently.
This cruise line isn’t for people looking for parties or constant entertainment on deck. Since Scenic was originally launched as a land tour company, it focuses on helping you make the most amount of time in each city or town that you visit. So time spent sailing will be a bit quieter.
Choose Scenic if one of its itineraries strikes your fancy and you don’t mind paying more to cover alcoholic drinks and gratuities. Folks who aren’t so big on the booze may want to choose a budget line instead.
Where do Scenic cruises depart from?
Scenic’s cruises depart from all over the world. Here’s where you can begin your voyage:
Amsterdam, Athens, Bordeaux, Boston, Broome, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Cartagena, Copenhagen, Lyon, Nuremberg, Porto, Rio De Janeiro, Rome, San Diego, Valparaiso, Vienna, Yangon
Scenic cruises destinations
Scenic curates unique itineraries near and far. You’ll find routes along America’s east and west coast, as well as river cruises along the Volga River in Russia, the Irawaddy in Myanmar and many more. Here’s a taste of where Scenic sails:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Baja Mexico, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland and Norway, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, United States, Uruguay, Vietnam
What’s included in my Scenic cruise?
Scenic cruises are truly all-inclusive. Here’s what your fare covers:
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
Alcoholic beverages, soda and specialty coffee and teas
Gratuities for the crew
In some cases, your fare will cover plane tickets to and from the departure port — but only if included as part of a special offer.
On river cruises, it also provides insurance against unexpected events. “On every Scenic river cruise you’ll be automatically covered once you commence your cruise for any delays or cancellations that occur due to weather, natural disasters, mechanical breakdowns or strikes,” according to its website.
Scenic cruises vs. Viking cruises
Whether you’re considering a river or ocean cruise, Viking is considered to be one of Scenic’s top competitors. Rates tend to be similar, so it’s important to compare what is and isn’t included before taking your pick.
The biggest difference between the two: Scenic includes gratuities and all alcoholic drinks in the fare, and with Viking you’ll pay extra for gratuities — almost $20 per day — and wine and beer are only complimentary at lunch and dinner.
However, Viking’s reputation for gourmet food and its emphasis on sommelier-paired wine is hard to beat. Scenic’s food can be so-so, even if regionally inspired. While Viking devotes significant resources to bringing onboard experts and historians along to help educate passengers, Scenic shines when it comes to enriching land tours through destination ports.
That said, both Scenic and Viking have a reputation for well-curated itineraries and 5-star service. The choice may come down to your desired destinations and how much you plan to enjoy those boozy beverages. We recommend comparing day-to-day itineraries and price to see which suits you most.
Keep in mind that kids under seven years are not allowed on Scenic river cruises, and it doesn’t recommend bringing kids under 12 — except on Christmas cruises.
Still not sure whether Scenic is right for you? Consider the benefits and drawbacks.
Most sun decks have pools.
Known for excellent shore excursions
Fare is pricier up front — and may not be worth it if you don’t drink alcohol.
Fewer onboard entertainment options than larger cruise lines
Frequently asked questions
Scenic suggests casual sportswear for day, with warmer layers for mornings and nights. Don’t forget comfortable shoes and sunglasses. Its website states that “women require a minimum of one skirt or a dress,” presumably for shore excursions or events where dressing up a bit is appropriate.
Note that if you’ll be visiting churches or monasteries, Scenic asks passengers to dress modestly.
The staff, crew and tour guides on Scenic cruises all speak English.
No. The dining rooms are open so you can sit wherever you’d like.
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