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From: European Cruise Guide

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Scenic Jade photo

ABOVE: Scenic Azure cruises under the Dom Luis I bridge in Porto at the end of a cruise to the Douro wine region of Portugal.

Scenic is an Australian company that entered the European river-cruise market more than a decade ago with what it described as a "five-star" standard of accommodations and service.

More than 80 percent of suites and cabins have balconies, all guests have personal butler service, and passengers can choose among several restaurants at dinnertime--including afternoon tea and barbecue dinners on the Sun Deck when the cruising schedule and weather permit.

The company has a growing fleet of  new "Space-Ships," which tend to be larger than most river ships in Europe. Itineraries on these ships include cruises on the Rhine, Danube, Moselle, Rhône/Saône, Seine, Garonne, and Douro. (Other itineraries combine cruises with touring by bus.)

Fares include airport transfers, unlimited complimentary beverages, free Wi-Fi, and  all gratuitites. (Even tips for local tour guides are included in the fares.)

The line's newest amenities are electric-assist bicycles for DIY shore excursions and the Scenic Riverview personal GPS commentary device, which is said to act like a "personal tour guide" while the ship is cruising.

New from Scenic: saltwater cruising.

Scenic recently introduced a built-to-order oceangoing vessel, Scenic Eclipse. The 228-passenger, Polar Class 6-rated "discovery yacht" cruises in the Arctic, the Antarctic, Europe and the Mediterranean, and other locations.

Cruise line's Web sites:

Scenic (USA)

Scenic European River Cruises (Australia)

Scenic River Cruises (UK)

Scenic River Cruises (Canada)

See all ocean and river cruise lines

Photo courtesy of Gillies & Zaiser.