Australian-owned Scenic’s phenomenal success story on the rivers of Europe began with the launch of Scenic Sapphire in 2008. These days, Sapphire shines just as bright as her younger sisters in this luxury, all-inclusive Space-Ship fleet, thanks to a recent makeover that saw her receive brand new fixtures and furnishings including a stunning Port Laurent Marble Bar in her main lounge. Sapphire also boasts Scenic’s signature Sun Lounge balconies, which means passengers can open or close the window on their balcony at the touch of a button.
As an Australian river cruiser, it’s no surprise to learn that Sapphire is very popular with travellers from Australia and New Zealand, particularly on her longer itineraries. Her cruises also attract a discerning, mature clientele from the UK and North America who are keen to experience the gastronomy and wine of France’s wine-growing heartland, as well as its culture and history. All her passengers appreciate the impeccable onboard service that includes the attentions of a butler and the passenger to crew ratio of almost three to one.
Sapphire’s upgrade has brought her dining options up to the same standard as her younger sisters, with the addition of two great new dining spaces, River Café and Table la Rive.
River Café, located on the Diamond Deck, is open from early until mid-afternoon and is the perfect place to enjoy a coffee, healthy snack or a treat from the gelato bar as you admire the view. Table la Rive on the Sapphire Deck is an exclusive venue where just ten Diamond Deck guests a night are invited to enjoy stunning views as the chef prepares a series of delicacies, paired with fine wines, before passengers’ eyes.
Portobello’s on the Diamond Deck is a 32-seater fine-dining option open to all passengers. Here, the delicious five-course Italian menu is paired with fine Tuscan wines and incredible views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. The Diamond Deck is also home to the ship’s main dining venue, Crystal Dining. This elegant, spacious restaurant operates a smart casual dress code in the evenings, but the open-seating policy with tables ranging from two to eight means the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style with the option to order from the menu too, and dinner is a delicious four-course affair. Seasonal French ingredients and flavours influence all menus.
With afternoon tea on the terrace and a late night menu also on offer, passengers are never left to go hungry. They can also request a picnic hamper to take on offshore excursions, or dine in their cabin by contacting the 24 hour room service.
Fine wines flow freely on Sapphire, with Moet & Chandon champagne being available at breakfast and the mini bar being part of the all-inclusive price. Other alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, teas and coffees are always available too.
Sapphire is a ship for those who derive pleasure from food and drink. In addition to her nightly dining options, the ship plays host to a Captain’s Welcome Dinner, and special events like a Seafood Gala evening in Crystal Dining or a Teppenyaki BBQ on the Sun Deck are a regular fixture. There are also chances to enjoy an evening off the ship with the Scenic Enrich programme.
The Sun Deck and Panorama Lounge Bar are popular areas for passengers to meet and mingle over a drink. There are also opportunities to enjoy local entertainers onboard such as a gypsy band or traditional French pipers.
Sapphire’s Sun Deck has a walking track which is perfect for some light activity before settling down to watch the world go by. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available onboard for staying in touch with home - and there is a gift shop.
Scenic’s Freechoice programme offers options for all tastes and energy levels in Relaxed, Moderate and Active categories. These involve activities such as a tasting at the world famous Valrhona Chocolates, joining in a group bike ride along the Rhone or visiting an olive and lavender farm with an experienced, English-speaking guide.
Some itineraries include Scenic Enrich activites such as an after-hours dinner to the accompaniment of live classical music in the famous Pope’s Palace in Avignon. Sundowners events could involve the chance to enjoy a cocktail on the terrace of Tournon Castle as you listen to live music and admire the Rhone.
Scenic Tailormade is a personal GPS device that passengers can programme to personalise their offshore sightseeing experiences or use onboard to listen to information about the area being passed through.
The Sapphire and Diamond Decks are devoted to Suites varying from Balcony Suites to the huge 325 sq. ft. Royal Panorama Suites. All suites on these decks have the Sun Lounge balcony, meaning passengers can let in fresh air or keep out a draught at the touch of a button. The lower Jewel Deck is home to Sapphire’s 160 sq. ft. Fixed Window Standard Staterooms.
No matter which category of cabin passengers choose, a feeling of luxury permeates the private spaces, with the butler service, shoeshine service, 24/7 room service, daily replenishment of the mini bar and nightly turndown coming as standard. This is further enhanced with luxury L’Occitane bath products and deluxe bedding and robes. Practicalities like air conditioning, safe and phone are included too, and the free Wi-Fi comes courtesy of a Mini Mac computer attached to the 32” Samsung HDTV.
The ship has an elevator to assist guests’ movement between decks. There is also a Fitness Centre, a hairdressing salon and a massage salon for taking time out.
Alongside her closest sisters, the Diamond and Emerald, Sapphire sails the rivers of France’s wine-growing landscape on itineraries such as the eight day Idyllic Rhone Cruise that sails from Lyon to Nice and includes opportunities to visit the ancient Roman city of Vienne and historic Tournon with its postcard-perfect castle. A longer Lyon to Nice option is the 13 day South of France cruise that proceeds at a more leisurely pace with added extras like an overnight stay in foodie paradise Lyon. Alternatively, the 11 day Beautiful Bordeaux itinerary is a round trip to and from this lovely city and visits brandy capital Cognac as well as the Medoc wine route.