In Bordeaux, What Scenic Does Differently


Scenic Diamond sailing the Garonne River in Bordeaux. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

Five companies operate river cruises in Bordeaux: AmaWaterways, CroisiEurope (with two ships), Scenic, Uniworld and Viking. All five companies run similarly sized vessels, similar itineraries and similar land programs, and visit more or less the same destinations. Those destinations are:

  • Libourne, with excursions to nearby Saint-Émilion;
  • Pauillac, for outings in the Medoc region;
  • Blaye, with its impressive fortress;
  • Bourg with its equally impressive fortress;
  • Cadillac, gateway to the Sauternes wine region and the historic Roquetaillade Castle;
  • and, of course, Bordeaux, the beautiful city that serves as the hub for these wine-and-chateaux-centric river cruises.

All river cruise companies operating in Bordeaux also offer visits to vineyards, tours of wine cellars and abundant wine tastings, with many of the latter taking place in the beautiful chateaux along the rivers. In fact, there are two rivers here, the Dordogne and the Garonne, along with the Gironde Estuary that washes into the Atlantic.

With so much being the same, what does Scenic do that others do not do on Bordeaux river cruises?

What Does Scenic Do Differently In Bordeaux?

First off, it’s important to identify competitive sets. Scenic and Uniworld are in the same competitive set because of their prices and their all-inclusiveness programs. That said, a Bordeaux river cruise on either Scenic or Uniworld will cost you considerably more than a Bordeaux river cruise on AmaWaterways, CroisiEurope and Viking, as indicated in the table below.

Bordeaux 2018 River Cruise Price Comparison

  AmaWaterways CroisiEurope Scenic Uniworld Viking
Rate $4,348 May 31, 2018 $2,946 June 1, 2018 $5,590 June 7, 2018 $5,999 June 3, 2018 $3,849 June 2, 2018
Number of days 8 8 8 8 8
Category/Square Footage Category C, 170 square feet, with French Balcony 140 square feet, with window that opens Category C, 205 square feet with Sun Lounge balcony Category 1, 140 square feet, with French Balcony Category B, 205 square feet with balcony

Comparative spring 2018 pricing for Bordeaux eight-day river cruises in similar staterooms across the five operators in the Bordeaux region. I looked for staterooms of equivalent size and features, namely those with balconies, French or step-out balconies. One exception: CroisiEurope’s two ships in Bordeaux feature only 140-square-foot staterooms with fixed windows that open, which for some travelers, would suffice.

On the other hand, Scenic and Uniworld include more complimentary inclusions than does AmaWaterways, CroisiEurope or Viking. Scenic and Uniworld, for example, include all spirits, champagne, wine, beer and soft drinks, with the exception of a few premium beverages (the really expensive stuff). Both companies also include prepaid gratuities  that AmaWaterways, CroisiEurope and Viking typically do not include.

Beyond the inclusions, there are at least eight things that Scenic does differently in Bordeaux.

Eight Things That Scenic Does Differently In Bordeaux

1. Scenic boasts the most recently updated ship in Bordeaux. Having the most recently updated ship may not seem like a big deal, but Scenic Diamond’s spring 2017 refurbishment was huge. Scenic started by removing six cabins to reduce the passenger count from 167 to 155.  Two suites were added (see below), an enlarged gym (with four cardio machines and a mini-trampoline) and a two-bed massage treatment room (pictured) along with a Salt therapy room. Built in 2009, Scenic Diamond isn’t an old ship, but the updates transformed it remarkably.

Expanded spa on Scenic Diamond. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

2. The largest suites on the rivers of Bordeaux. Two super-sized Royal Owner’s Suites were added during Scenic Diamond’s spring 2017 renovation. I had the opportunity to step inside one of those suites, and it was spectacular. My favorite feature (also the favorite feature of the guest who occupied the suite) was the balcony. Occupying a large space between the living room and bedroom, the balcony was glass-enclosed, with Scenic’s innovative Sun Lounge system. Behind the balcony was a connecting hallway flanked by a bathroom that featured a shower and a huge soaking tub. Measuring 47 square meters (510 square feet), Scenic Diamond’s Royal Owner’s Suites are more than twice the size of Uniworld’s largest suite in the Bordeaux region.

The balcony, one of my favorite features of the Royal Owner’s Suite on Scenic Diamond. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

3. Scenic Culinaire. On paper, it’s an onboard cooking school. In practice, it’s a lot of fun. On Thursday morning, ten of us went out with Scenic Diamond’s French Chef, Jerome, to Bordeaux’s most popular food market, Marché des Capucins. I’ve been to markets before but it was fun to go with Chef Jerome to learn more about the local produce, cheeses (oh the cheeses), seafood and meat — and to sample and learn what we were going to do with those back on the ship. After about 45 minutes of shopping, we had a bagful of fresh food to take back to Scenic Diamond and prepare in the dedicated Scenic Culinaire workspace. We prepared a Fried Camembert with a Compote of Red Onions and Mesclun. It was fresh, light, delicious and something I’d consider preparing at home, but the real fun was going to the market and shopping with the chef, then coming back to create beautiful dishes.















4. Scenic Enrich. Scenic bills its Scenic Enrich activity as an exclusive and unique experiences that takes guests behind the scenes to enjoy moments inaccessible to ordinary travelers. For us, that was an evening in the Medoc countryside at Chateau Giscours, where we dined at an 18th-century farm and enjoyed classical music played by two lovely French musicians.










5. Five dining venues. This claim may be a little dubious. Yes, Scenic Diamond has five dining venues, but one of them, Table La Rive, is in the main dining room. Table La River, which can comfortably accommodate 10, is a multi-course, wine-pairing degustation dinner that is exceptionally well done. In front of the lounge is L’Amour, which serves French food. Both Table La Rive and L’Amour are reservations-only but at no extra cost. There’s also the River Cafe, which serves light snacks during the day as well as room service with a good selection of dishes.







6. Butlers for every stateroom. Having a butler may not be a big deal to some, but others will find the butler’s services indispensable. What sort of things did the butler do? Delivered tea or coffee (or breakfast) to the room.

Ever attentive and professional, Gabor, the head butler on Scenic Diamond. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

7. Ebikes on board for guided and independent touring. Other river cruise companies offer bike tours as well as bikes for independent touring. Scenic carries a fleet of ebikes onboard Scenic Diamond.

We enjoyed guided tours on Scenic’s bikes. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

8. Scenic Sundowner. Toward the end of our day in Saint-Emilion, we toasted the evening at Chateau Siaurac, recognized as a National Heritage Site because of the estate’s architectural and cultural heritage. Scenic features its so-called Sundowners on all of its river cruises. I have found them to be a nice way to end the day and to celebrate the region.

One of the many beautiful chateaux in the Bordeaux region. © 2017 Ralph Grizzle

9. Longer Bordeaux cruises. I was on Scenic’s eight-day Bordeaux Affair. Others on my voyage stayed on to complete an 11-day Beautiful Bordeaux itinerary. There are some exceptional values for the longer cruises. As one example, the September 17, 2017 departure of the 11-day Beautiful Bordeaux program begins at $4,205 per person. That’s a per-diem of less than $400 per person, a bargain on Scenic.

Scenic offers much more to differentiate itself in Bordeaux, but these nine things are the major factors.

Is A Scenic River Cruise In Bordeaux for you?

Scenic is for those who appreciate refined elegance, yet with a personal touch. I found the staff to be professional, always intent on providing the best experience possible, yet easy to laugh with. I felt more like a guest in someone’s home, or chateau perhaps given the region where we were cruising. Some of the dishes were among the best I ever had on the rivers – the tortellini in L’Amour comes to mind – while the wines were regional. Scenic Diamond itself was a virtual palace. My stateroom wasn’t any more spacious than on Viking or AmaWaterways, but I did appreciate the stocked mini-bar.

Check out this fun video that I shot from Scenic Diamond, surfing the Mascaret from Ralph Grizzle on Vimeo.

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