One of the standout features of sailing with Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours is that its version of "all-inclusive" goes beyond what many products that say the same actually include.
Those who have already traveled with Scenic on its river cruises know that virtually the only things not included onboard are spa treatments, gift shop items and some rare wines and spirits.
That concept extends to the Scenic Eclipse, the brand's first oceangoing ship, where the list of what's not included is basically the same, the only additions being rides on the ship's helicopter and submarine.
One of the more impressive of these inclusions is the tour selection available to guests. On the recent Eclipse sailing I did, a cruise from New York to the Canadian Maritimes, I fully expected that the list of free tours would maybe include a bus tour and a walking tour, based mostly on other products that include some excursions.
I was surprised to see that the Scenic excursions go way beyond that.
In Martha's Vineyard, there was a boat ride to an oyster farm to learn about shellfish aquaculture and do an oyster tasting.
In Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, a photography tour, an arts and crafts workshop at a local arts school and a guided kayak tour through Blue Rocks village were among six options.
Bike tour participants pedal past the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston. Photo Credit: TW photo by Johanna Jainchill
Phil Nuttall, owner of the Travel Village in Blackpool, England, said the four-plus hour Boston bike tour, which included a lunch stop at the Harvard University student cafeteria, was one of the best cycling excursions he and his wife had ever done.
"It was fabulous to be able to get fresh air and exercise and learn and see everything," he said.
The guide, he said, was "one of the best I've ever had. He was brilliant and engaging and conscious about the group."
Nuttall appreciated learning more than history, such as who had "bombed out" of Harvard.
"On some cruises, even the luxe ones, you get a substandard excursion even though you paid a high ticket price," he said.
Scenic is aiming to bring to the Eclipse the level of tours found on its river ships. Tours are so integral to the Scenic product that in some destinations, such as Portugal and Southeast Asia, instead of having one cruise director they have multiple tour directors who lead shore excursions using branded Scenic coaches following the ship.
Each itinerary includes different categories of tours. Scenic Freechoice tours are divided into active (biking or hiking), moderate (a comfortable walking pace) and relaxed (a slower walking pace).
Scenic Enrich experiences are what they describe as being "exclusive to Scenic." On river cruises they include a private dinner and concert at the Pope's Palace in Avignon, France, or a Best of the Sound of Music show and lunch in Salzburg, Austria. On the Eclipse cruise, it included an Anne of Green Gables musical in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.
Being that the Eclipse is an expedition ship that will spend a lot of time in polar regions, Scenic will offer Scenic Discovery excursions, those taken on its fleet of Zodiacs, e-bikes and kayaks.