Cinderella Cruising along the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers

“In my own little corner in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be,” sang Lesley Ann Warren in the 1965 television production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. She knew romance is seeded with the eyes and fertilized by the heart.

My love affair with Scenic Cruises started when I looked at their web site, and it blossomed onboard the Jade “Space Ship” as we sailed along the Rhine, the Main and the Danube rivers.Scenic-Jade-River2

And just in case you’re one of those savvy travelers who speculates television overplays the hype of European river cruising, let me assure you the commercials are if anything, understated.

In fact, Scenic Cruises elevates the concept of river cruising to the five-star category with their “Ultimate Luxury Experience.”

For starters, it is a fully-inclusive experience (repeat that phrase over and over if you travel with or are married to a receipt collector) where the only extra costs are for spa services and personal items such as gifts.

“All inclusive” also means a magical level of luxury that includes personal butler service for every guest. There’s even a pillow menu to help make your dreamy sleep sweeter.

On top of that, stack on multiple five-star dining choices – the most of any European river cruise ship.

Scenic-Jade-foodThe Crystal Dining Room, for instance, features a variety of menu choices – from-the-buffet plus from-the-menu, including options for those passengers with dietary preferences – accompanied by high-end wines selected by the company’s sommelier.

Alternatively, Portabello Restaurant provides Italian-themed dining in an intimate setting toward the bow of the ship by reservation only.

As an exclusive dining experience, Table La Rive is a chef’s degustation table for 10 where all six courses are paired with wines chosen by the head chef.Scenic-sommelier

On the casual side, lighter fare – including an assortment of breakfast foods, sandwiches, soups, burgers, fish, custom pizzas, delicate pastries and rich gelatos – are available at the River Café.

Sometimes, the Sun Deck is converted to open-air dining space for a cruising-style picnic, complete with moving scenery that includes everything from flowers to forests, cows to castles, monuments to mountains.

Prefer a quiet night for solo dining on your balcony or breakfast in bed? Yes, room service is available, 24 hours a day.

In every case, Scenic’s “all inclusive” program includes all drinks, all day. For passengers like me who don’t drink alcohol, there’s a high-end coffee machine that is so spectacularly specialized, it shouldn’t even be called a machine. I kept looking for a hidden human barista behind the mirror!

It also includes all gratuities – not only for dining services, but also for butlers and cabin stewards. In fact, 85 percent of Scenic passengers end their cruises with a zero balance on their bills, so your nervous partner can bring a passport and forget about the wallet once you’re onboard!

Scenic Space Ship StateroomWorried about being cramped in a tiny stateroom? The roomy cabins and suites on Scenic’s “Space Ships” offer walk-out glassed-in balconies that convert to fully enclosed, all-weather Space-Lounges with the touch of button. And the same push-button technology that opens your room to the balcony also enables you to lower the top half of the glass enclosure for unobstructed views of the riverbank. (One night at dinner, I joked that next time, I should pack travel rod to take advantage of early morning casting opportunities from my cabin balcony. From the corner of my eye, I saw the sommelier smile ever so slightly.)

And to balance the walk-out balcony, each room features a glass walk-in shower outfitted with what has to be the coolest touch of all: a colored lighting system that sometimes inspires more than singing. Bowl sinks, lighted makeup mirrors and French brand L’Occitane amenities round out the luxury amenities.

Beyond the obvious benefits of having to unpack only once to settle into one of 169 rooms aboard a floating five-star luxury boutique hotel, you’ll enjoy a variety of exclusive events designed to give Scenic passenger privileged access to some of Europe’s historic and cultural highlights: from private ballet, opera and classical music performances in historic palaces and castles to artisan classes and home-hosted meals.Scenic-al-fresco

Apparently I’m not the only one who has been blown away by a Scenic Cruises experience. Recently named “Top Luxury Cruise Line” by the New York Travel Writers Association, Scenic also received an “Award of Excellence” from renowned guidebook author Steven B. Stern after achieving the highest rank of any river cruise company in his book, Guide to European Riverboats and Hotel Barges.

Scenic Tours, parent company of Scenic Cruises, offers all-inclusive escorted tours in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas and elsewhere.

Now, whenever I sit in my own little corner in my own little chair, I dream I am back on the Scenic Jade, cruising the “Jewels of Europe.”

Scenic Jade