Scenic Diamond – The Full Monty Itinerary

 The itinerary on our recent 10 night river cruise on Scenic Diamond proved  so good that to do it justice, and not detract from the ship itself,  a separate review of the itinerary  is worthwhile.
This itinerary review is an expanded version of the one written in the cruise review…
On most days Scenic offered a number of alternative excursions designed to meet  passengers’ varied interests and individual activity levels.
At the heart of all excursions was Scenic’s  innovative communication device, the ‘Tailormade’…

This exclusive Tailormade GPS touring device allows passengers to easily  customise their cruise excursion experience, whether on board or onshore.

Whether you follow the crowd or steer your own course around the various stops, you can do so with this device. When in a party with a guide its powerful reception allows the passenger to wander and explore at some distance from the  guide and still hear the detailed descriptions of places of interest.

For those who may prefer a bit of DIY the ‘Tailormade’ offers the facility for self guided tours in conjunction with the Scenic provided local maps…

Additionally the ‘Tailormade’ can provide a running commentary highlighting places of interest while simply cruising along the river whilst the  passenger is either sitting on their balcony or on the upper deck…

As with a number of other river cruise lines Scenic operate their own dedicated coaches and  guides…

Meanwhile, for those more active there was also the alternative mode of transport  on certain days, Scenic’s fleet of e-bikes ( electronic assisted bikes)…

…which proved most popular…

 

 

Bordeaux

Having settled onto the ship prior to lunch on our first day I utilised the free  afternoon  time to make some head way into my list of personal choices to see in Bordeaux. Amongst these was to scale  the  free standing bell towers  of the Basilica of Saint Michel

and the Saint-André Cathedral...

The Saint-Michel  tower, which the people of Bordeaux call “La Flèche” (The Spire), is 114 metres high and I climbed the 250 steps for this view over the River Garonne and Pont Pierre

…and this view towards the Grosse Cloche and, in the distance, my next tower, the Pey-Berland St. Andre

The climb offered a golden opportunity to view the bellower’s ‘Le Carillon‘…

The walk along Cours Victor Hugo, between the two bell towers, offered me the great opportunity to see close up the Grosse Cloche...

A bordeaux tourist icon and one of the oldest belfries in France, the building also served as both a city gateway and prison.

Justifiably one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bordeaux is Place Pey-Berland. This large square is home to the Cathedral St. Andre

its freestanding bell tower, the Tower Pey-Berland...

and the Hotel de Ville...

The Pey-Berland Bell tower was built separately from the cathedral to avoid vibrations from its bells. There is a restriction of just 19 visitors at any one time and there are 233 steps to climb to the viewing platform from which I took this picture back towards the Basilica Saint Michel Tower and the River Garonne…

…and just for posterity I persuaded a visiting Spaniard to dutifully record my second climbing achievement of the day…

We departed Bordeaux late morning on Day 2 and headed up the Garonne passing under the Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas Bridge…

At 575 metres long and 77 metres high, it is the tallest lift bridge in Europe and allows medium sized cruise ships to berth at the heart of Bordeaux.

Once under the bridge we had an excellent riverside view of the new Bordeaux Wine Museum...

We cruised along the Garonne for two hours before entering the Dordogne River, stopping for a short time at the medieval village of Bourg

…in order to disembark the excursion parties for the visit to SaintÉmilion…

 

On arrival we commenced a full guided tour where the first point of interest was the iconic wall featured on wine bottles produced at Chateau Les Grandes Murailles...

This majestic ruin is known as the “Great Wall” and is the modest remnant of what was once a huge 12th Century Dominican monastery.

The other ‘wall’ that attracts the attention of visitors is that of the Cardinal’s Palace…

Once a luxurious and comfortable home, it is today known as  “Palais Cardinal”.  The ruins of the facade are all that remains today but once formed  a major part of a wall around the city.

Our tour continued to the Collegiate Church of Saint-Émilion…

The religious community that lived within these walls between the 12th and the 18th century was a college of Canons following the rule of Saint Augustin.  The geographic and spiritual hub for the monastery was the Cloister…

The Collegiate was not just a place of worship but also a real place of life for the community.

Without doubt  the greatest attraction of SaintÉmilion, after its famous wines, is the Monolithic Church…

Dating back to the early 12th century, as its name implies, it is an underground religious building dug into a limestone plateau and whose current structure still forms a single block.

Sitting directly above it is a 68-meter-high bell tower…

Guided tours underground are strictly controlled and we were fortunate in that Scenic were one of the authorised groups allowed. The 45 minute tour covered the four monuments – the Hermitage, Trinity Chapel, Catacombs, and the Monolith church itself.

The underground church itself is 38 metres long and 12 metres high. To assist preservation,  particularly with the weight of the bell tower directly above, the church’s foundation pillars  have been strengthened through the insertion of tensile bands into the pillars…

 

Following the visit to the Monolithic Church we were given free time to explore the town. Needless to say the steep cobbled streets…

…which host a plethora of vintner’s shops…

..are all well stocked with selections of fine wines…

As the reader can tell from many of the photographs, we did have sporadic rain while spending our half day in St. Emillion. During one particular downpour I did manage to make it to the ‘King’s Keep’ from where I managed this photograph looking back at the Bell Tower…

I was also most grateful to ‘Lucy’ who not only allowed me to shelter in her ‘ticket office’ but also turned on the standard heater. Thanks Lucy and good luck with your future studies…

 

Meanwhile Scenic Diamond had sailed further up the Dordogne to Libourne where we  spent a gorgeous evening and witnessed a spectacular sunset on the opposite bank…

 

Day 3 saw us start the day in the town of Libourne from where a choice of excursions departed. We had chosen to take the visit to a unique duck farm, ‘La Ferme de Biorne’, which included a tasting of Foie Gras…

This farm and restaurant is a specialist in  duck products particularly their  Foie gras confit: which appeals to all gourmets.  Their  uniqueness emanates from the fact they reare their duck from an earlier age and their products are prepared in the pure Perigord tradition.

Our tour included the method of raising the ducks, production methods of the numerous products…

and a tasting…

…or two…

The visit  was followed by a drive and guided tour of the picturesque old town of Bergerac

*****

… which sits on the Dordogne …

 

We returned on board in time for lunch and mid afternoon we once again sailed: heading towards the Medoc region and the town of Pauillac on the Gironde River where we would spend the evening berthed…

 

Day 4 saw some serious Chateau visits and wine tastings. Scenic once again organised this just right with different coaches heading to different Chateau in order to avoid  log jams. Our coach was allocated to Chateau Lagrange in the Saint-Julien appellation…

Please excuse my photoshop add on, made purely to illustrate the Chateau’s features on the wine label. The visit included all aspects of wine making at this Chateau including a visit to the cellars…

*****

…and a three wine degustation…

During the excursion we also visited, among others,  the rather grand Chateau Pichon-Longueville...

*****

…and in the Saint-Estèphe appellation, the pretty unique Chateau Cos d’Estournel...

The evening of Day 4 was a special treat when Scenic arranged a visit to Château Giscours for an evening of entertainment and dinner. On arrival there was a reception…

*****

…with classical music…

*****

…and sumptuous canapés…

…before we were escorted to a magnificent Dining Room…

…with roaring fire…

…and an excellent menu…

and meal with our American friends…

What a fabulous evening.

The morning of Day 5 saw us sail back to Bordeaux where, after lunch, a variety of guided excursions were  available. We chose the ‘active’ group in order to maximise the experience.

My wife and I found Bordeaux a fascinating city deserving of a full review. It is therefore my intention that Bordeaux will feature in my ‘One Way to do…’ series and, when completed, a link will be placed on this review.

In the meantime here are two famous Bordeaux tourist sites to give readers a flavour…

Bordeaux’s iconic Grand Theatre...

…and of the most-photographed sites in the city, the Place des Quinconces and its Monument aux Girondins…

 

On completion we were given the option of ‘free time’ which we put to good use in a very aptly named local hostelry…

Who said the French don’t have a sense of humour? 

Day 6 was another excursion day from Bordeaux though this time there was a choice from Scenic’s ‘Free Choice’ selections. We chose to take the coach excursion to the coastal area of Arcachon where we stopped at the famous huitre (oyster) farms at Gujan-Mestras…

Included in this excursion was a fresh Arcachon Bay oyster tasting at the harbour-side restaurant La Cabana 301…

*****

After some free time at Gujan-Mestras, and a short coach drive, we stopped once more at another  seafood restaurant for a full lunch…

Both venues included complimentary wines with the food.

On completion of lunch passengers had the option of either returning to the ship or continuing by coach to the seaside resort town of Arcachon…

Well it was late September so one would expect the beach to appear a little deserted. Arcachon also boasts a chateau style Casino…

Following dinner this evening Scenic Diamond did a night cruise around Bordeaux. Pretty spectacular, here we are passing the famous Bordeaux Bourse

and Pont Pierre…

Day 7 and Scenic Diamond departed Bordeaux at 7.00 am for the town of Blaye, famous for its 17th Century Citadel which was also our chosen guided excursion…

*****

*****

*****

 

Originally the site of a Roman fortification,  the Blaye Citadel we see today, built with the purpose of protecting Bordeaux from foreign naval attacks, was  a major work by the famous military engineer Vauban, and covers a 33 hectare site.  In 2008 it was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The remains of what were the soldiers’ barracks are reasonably preserved…

and one such complex has been converted into an hotel…

 

Early evening we sailed  back along the Gironde and into the Dordogne before berthing at Bourg…

…ready for the following day’s excursions.

Day 8and our chosen excursion was a full day to Cognac. On arrival we had a guided tour of the town before reboarding our coach and heading to the Remy Martin Estate

…for a fascinating private tour followed by a tasting of a number of these legendary Cognac vintages.

The Remy Martin estate is massive and we were transported by buggy…

to reach the older storage cellars…

…with their underground vaults…

….before returning to the more modern areas…

…for a multiple tasting covering different aged Remy Martin Cognac…

*****

This really was an excellent visit and was followed by a short coach ride to a particularly well appointed riverside restaurant for lunch…

*****

*****

…before we returned to the town of Cognac and were then given a choice of either free time or a further guided tour.

My particular interest lay in Baron Otard, also known as Château des Valois or Château de Cognac…

Though not particularly imposing when viewed from across the River Charente this particular Cognac  house was founded in 1795 by Jean-Baptiste Antoine Otard and the company has remained in the hands of the same family since its establishment…

*****

*****

To the right of the Chateau is the well preserved historical Cognac landmark, Port Saint-Jacques and the Hennessy Cognac House…..

Passing through Port Saint-Jacques

brings the visitor to the rear of Chateau Royal…

…which boasts a number of historical features, namely the Fountain and the historic Renaissance window…

*****

*****

Look closely to the left of the window, the central icon…

In the evening we sailed back to berth overnight at Bordeaux.

Day 9 was critical for this was the day in our programme when both tides and water levels would permit  Scenic Diamond to timely navigate under the Pont Pierre and head further up the Garonne to Cadillac.

A pilot  embarked and there was an early start for the keen photographers…

As can be seen from the above photograph, our approach to Pont Pierre was an early one. There was also a bank of river mist/fog the other side of the bridge.

Needless to say the Captain made good headway with often limited visibility which made for a rather eerie transit.

Some 2½ hours later and we arrived at Cadillac. Once again there were a number of activities available including a guided bike tour and visits to Chateaux renowned for their Sauternes wines. For those wishing to DIY locally complimentary admission tickets were available for Château de Cadillac: our chosen option…

Visitors interested in historical detail would be amazed at this particular Chateau and the history that is on display within.

Built during the reign of King Henry IV of France and then King Louis XIII, this French-style château combines splendour and military pomp.  Much of its sumptuous decoration has been preserved, including monumental fireplaces, tapestries and painted ceilings…

*****

*****

 

From the 19th century to the 1950s, the château was used as a women’s prison and the harsh conditions that prevailed are well displayed in one section of the Chateau.

We discovered that cadillac was not all about the Chateau. It had at one time been a thriving port. It has a number of historic gates, firstly the Clock Gate…

…while adjacent to the river, the aptly named ‘Port Gate’

…where, on the inner section,  a barometer of the tidal ranges indicates how the town has been affected over the years…

There is, in the centre, an unusual Hotel de Ville...

…while adjacent to the Chateau is the Saint Blaise Collegiate Church…

*****

Wine aficionados will delight in the dedicated Maison des Vins…

The new Vines and Wines Museum at the Maison des Vins de Cadillac is housed in La Closière, an attractive 18th century manor house. Open daily it delivers full information about of Premières Côtes de Bordeaux  and the more syrupy Cadillac.

All aboard was at 14.30 ready for our delightful gentle sail back along the upper reaches of the Garonne. There’s something particularly delightful  about witnessing typical French river scenery with a glass in one’s hand and cake in the other…

******

*****

*****

During this transit I was delighted to have been invited onto the bridge…

…in addition to  witnessing the Garonne Tidal bore…

We eventually made our timely  rendezvous with the pilot…

…followed by the lowering of masts and deck shades  for the return transit under Pont Pierre…

 

Day 10 and our final full day again saw a choice of some four differing excursions. My wife and I chose the one that offered a visit to Roquetaillade Castle. A 45 minute coach ride from Bordeaux and billed as  unquestionably the most famous medieval castle in the southwest of France, it is effectively a castle within a castle…

*****

It is the only fortress in France approved by the English King Edward I. The castle has been inhabited by the same family for 700 years. In the grounds there is also a chapel, St. Michael’s…

*****

Our guided tour was impressive, particularly as Scenic had managed that the guide on our visit was indeed an English lady believed to be  one of the current owners. As the castle is the current home of the owners we were requested to refrain from taking pictures inside.

I did however manage an internal shot in the chapel…

 

We returned  on board for lunch and the afternoon was dedicated free time. With this in mind I left my good lady to commence packing while I indulged the military historian in me and set off in search of two WWII Bordeaux icons.

The first was a memorial plaque – not too distant from our berth, – which immortalised Operation Frankton –better known as the Cockleshell Heroes, it is dedicated to those brave Royal Marine Commandos who raided German shipping in the port of Bordeaux utilising six canoes…

My second interest was a little further away: a 45 minute walk which took me within touching distance of the Bordeaux Wine Museum…

…before circumnavigating to one of Bordeaux’s water basins which, during WWII, was the home base of the German 12th U-boat flotilla…

Better and more impressively seen from the entrance aspect…

I even managed to cajole two passing tourists to record my visit for me…

The protective U-boat pens,  to protect the submarines from the bombings, were built with slave labour between September 1941 and January 1943 when the U-178 first entered the bunker for refit.

That concludes this Scenic Diamond  full itinerary review and I hope readers have found it enjoyable and informative.

If you have enjoyed this review of Scenic Diamond and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews including  forthcoming cruise reviews of  Seabourn Sojourn, Queen Mary 2 and P&O’s Oceana: plus a return cruise aboard Europa 2 and something a little different, Star Clipper in the Far East …

…  also  port reviews ( which will soon include One way to do Le Havre and Yangon in Burma), why not join the many other followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

You will be alerted by email immediately a new post appears.

3 responses to “Scenic Diamond – The Full Monty Itinerary

  1. Pingback: Scenic Diamond Beautiful Bordeaux | Solent Richard's Cruise Blog·

  2. Outstanding Review which gives an excellent insight in to the real experience one can benefit from joining this Cruise experience,
    Could have been more detail on the Food on offer.
    But 10/10 for an outstanding review”

    excellent

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s