Launched in 2010, Scenic Pearl is one of the original luxury, all-inclusive Space-Ship river cruisers owned by upmarket Australian travel company, Scenic. She boasts deluxe interiors and state of the art design, including the signature Scenic Sun Lounge balcony where her cabins’ balconies can be adapted for fine or inclement weather at the touch of a button. With a maximum capacity of 167 passengers across her spacious decks, Pearl never feels crowded, and, thanks to a multi-million pound refurbishment in 2013, she and her identical sisters Diamond, Ruby and Sapphire are every bit as fresh as their younger siblings.
Pearl attracts a mature clientele who are keen to engage with the culture and history of the Rhine and Danube itineraries she specialises in. Due to her antipodean roots, many of Pearl’s passengers are from Australia and New Zealand. However she is also increasingly popular with guests from the UK and North America who are happy to pay for a top of the range experience that includes a passenger to crew ratio of almost three to one and the services of a butler.
The spacious, elegant Crystal Dining Restaurant on the Sapphire Deck is the main dining room on Pearl. Every morning and lunchtime, sumptuous buffets are served with the option to order from the menu too - and this area also plays host to the ship’s gala evenings. Dinner is a four-course event where the dress code is smart casual but the open seating policy at tables seating from two to eight ensures that the atmosphere remains relaxed. Menus are designed to incorporate seasonal influences from the itinerary. On Pearl, this could mean Flemish, Dutch and German flavours.
The Sapphire Deck is also home to Pearl’s most exclusive dining venue, Table la Rive, added during the recent refurbishment. Here, just 10 Diamond Deck passengers a night are invited by the Executive Chef to watch him prepare an exquisite six-course degustation menu paired with fine wines.
The Diamond Deck houses Portobello’s, a 32-seater Italian fine dining restaurant where premium Tuscan wines and stunning floor-to-ceiling views take centre stage alongside the fabulous five-course menu. This deck is also home to River Café, a casual new dining venue open from early in the morning to late afternoon. Here passengers can visit the gelato bar, help themselves to treats or healthy snacks from the buffet or simply enjoy a coffee as they admire the view.
Afternoon tea is served on the terrace and there is a late night menu for peckish night owls. Passengers can order a picnic hamper for an offshore excursion or have a night in courtesy of the 24-hour room service.
Teas, coffees and all alcoholic drinks are readily available onboard and include a great selection of fine wines. Daily replenishment of the mini-bar is part of the all-inclusive price.
The ship’s social schedule is based on its gastronomy, which is enhanced with a Captain’s Welcome Dinner and other special dining events like a Seafood Gala Evening and a Teppenyaki BBQ on the Sun Deck. Evening entertainment off the ship comes courtesy of the Scenic Enrich programme that includes special events like the chance to enjoy a medieval feast at Cologne’s Marksburg Castle, complete with minstrels and court jesters.
The Sun Deck and Panorama Lounge Bar are the ship’s social hubs, where passengers gather in the evening to mingle over drinks.
Pearl’s Walking Track on the Sun Deck is a great place for passengers to enjoy the views as they stretch their legs. Free Wi-Fi is available for keeping in touch with home and there is a gift shop to browse. Occasionally, the itinerary is brought alive onboard with events such as a Dutch clog-painting presentation.
As well as the Scenic Enrich experiences, there is the Scenic Freechoice programme, where guests can enjoy their sightseeing at a pace and in a style that suits them with activities including a canal cruise of Amsterdam or a visit to the Bishop’s Residenz Palace in Wurzburg with a spot of local wine-tasting thrown in.
Pearl’s passengers are also offered Scenic Tailormade, where they can programme their independent sightseeing adventures on their easy-to-use GPS system. Tailormade can also be used onboard to find out more about the landscape being passed through.
Electric bikes are also at passengers’ disposal on offshore excursions. All fees associated with sightseeing are included in the all-inclusive price, as are the services of the best, local English-speaking guides.
Pearl’s lower Jewel Deck is home to her 160 sq. ft. fixed window Standard Staterooms, while the Sapphire and Diamond Decks are all-suite decks, with every suite boasting Scenic’s innovative Sun Lounge balcony, where the sun and air can be let in, or the wind and rain kept out, at the touch of a button. Suites range from Balcony Suites to the enormous 325 sq. ft. Royal Panorama Suites.
All of Pearl’s staterooms and suites come with climate control, safe and phone as standard. The free Wi-Fi is accessed on a Mini Mac computer connected to the 32” Samsung HDTV. The feeling of five star luxury is enhanced with the butler service, 24/7 room service, shoeshine service and nightly turndown. Premium bedding, L’Occitane bath products and robes add to the feeling of pampering.
Pearl has a Fitness Centre for passengers who wish to get active and an elevator for those who appreciate help in moving around the ship. There is also a hairdresser’s and massage salon to take care of pampering needs.
Pearl, along with her close sister Ruby, sails the eight day Dutch Sights & Belgian Delights itinerary, with city highlights including a visit to the cosmopolitan Dutch capital Amsterdam and the chance to explore the Belgian towns of Antwerp or Bruges. There’s also the chance to dine with locals in the sleepy Dutch fishing village of Volendam and visit Zaanse Schans, home of traditional Dutch windmills, clogs and speciality cheese. The Treasures of the Rhine cruise also lasts eight days and sails from Amsterdam to Nuremberg through the fairytale castle landscape of the Rhine Gorge. Here there’s the chance to disembark and take a trip on the Winzerexpress mini train to a mechanical instrument museum, before enjoying a cable car ride to the Niederwald Monument for a breath taking view of the Rhine below.