SAPPHIRE On The Rhone, Part Two

Knego’s recent Rhone Cruise aboard Scenic Cruises’ deluxe Star Ship MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE continues with a visit to Vienne, an overnight in Lyon and a look at more of the “Star Ship” class vessel’s public spaces and suite accommodations.

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.

Friday, May 27, 2016

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Tailormade headsets.

After breakfast, I returned to Suite 225 to collect my rechargeable Tailormade headset (a nice gadget provided by most river cruise lines to allow guests to hear their tour guides in crowded venues) and joined fellow passengers in the lobby for the Hiking Tour of Vienne.

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Viienne street medallion.

As we made our ascent into the hillside town, our guide was quick to indicate the bronze medallions in the asphalt representing Vienne, which was founded by the Gallics, then conquered by Julius Caesar in 47 BC., when it was transformed into a Roman provincial capital. Much of the Roman foundation and some of the key Roman monuments survive to this day, although a good deal of it was pillaged when Vienne was sacked by the Franks, Lombards and Moors during the dark ages.

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Cathedral at Vienne.

Our first stop was the Gothic former cathedral of St Maurice, which was built between 1052 and 1533.

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Temple of Augustus and Livia.

Even more spectacular, especially with its setting in the midst of an otherwise typical European city square, was the Temple of Augustus and Livia, a Corinthian temple built by Claudius. It would have most likely been torn down by latter occupiers were it not converted into “Notre Dame de Vie”, a church.

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Roman amphitheater and Vienne overview.

While the hiking tour was a bit more intense than the standard “walking” tour of Vienne, calling it a “hike” was a bit of a misnomer. We did ultimately scale the monastery-topped Mt. Pipet but via a winding residential road, versus a proper trail. From there, the view of Vienne, its Roman amphitheater (still in use for concerts and festivals) and the river bend was quite breathtaking.

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Pyramid of Vienne.

After the tour, I headed off on m own to the Plan de l’Aiguille, a truncated obelisk set atop a base with four arches that the locals call “La Pyramide”. Modeled after a similar structure in Rome’s Circus Maximus, it dates to the 2nd Century AD.

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Vienne wake.

It was a gorgeous day, so after my brief encounter with La Pyramide, I headed back to the SAPPHIRE to don some jogging gear, then ran downstream along one of the Rhone’s nicely shaded promenades for a couple miles, returning to the ship in time for lunch. At 3:00 PM, with her top Sun Deck collapsed to clear upcoming bridges, the SCENIC SAPPHIRE pivoted into the Rhone and began her next journey, a short cruise to Lyon.

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Panorama tea and other matters.

We would enjoy a leisurely afternoon on the river as the scenery gradually morphed from pastoral to suburban and occasionally industrial. A variety of on board activities included a French culinary demonstration (sampling cheeses, olives and tapenades), a galley tour and tea. Fellow tea buffs should note that Scenic not only provides a great assortment of bagged teas but no less than nine varieties of loose leafs in its 24/7 tea and coffee-making stations in the Sapphire Lounge.

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Jewel exchange: SCENIC EMERALD switches berths with SCENIC SAPPHIRE at Lyon.

During dinner, we watched from the comfort of our window seats as the SCENIC SAPPHIRE maneuvered into a cluster of river cruise ships at Lyon, then switched slots with her twin, the southbound SCENIC EMERALD, which would be leaving in the early morning.

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Evening in Lyon.

With a bit of a cold encroaching and a full day of exploring ahead, I chose to spend a low key night on board, catching up on rest. That said, I couldn’t resist a short stroll along the Rhone riverfront to marvel at Lyon on a late spring eve.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

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Notre-Dame de Fourviere.

The included Scenic guided sightseeing tour of Lyon began with a visit to its most prominent monument, the soaring Notre-Dame de Fourviere basilica, is a melange of medieval, neo-classical and Asiatic architectural styles.

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Overview of Lyon from Jardin du Rossaire on Cathedral Mount.

Services in Notre-Dame were going on, so it was very crowded and there was not enough time to visit the crypt. However, we did get a chance to enjoy the view from the Jardin du Rossaire.

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Vieux Lyon to Cathedrale St. Jean.

Our next stop was charming Vieux Lyon, with its restaurants, cafes and shops, where we were given a guided walking tour and then had some time to wander on our own.

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St. Jean’s Cathedral.
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Stained glass panels in Cathedrale St. Jean.

A few steps away, I found the famed Cathedral St. Jean, a Gothic/Romanseque structure built between the 12th and 15th centuries.

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Notre Dame, the Metal Tower and Palais du Justice.

I worked my way back via the Saone River and the famed Palais du Justice with its 24-columned facade.

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“The Weight of One Self”.

In front of the Palais du Justice on the banks of the Saone, there was a provocative sculpture by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset depicting a man carrying himself, entitled “The Weight Of One Self”.

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Suspended over the Saone.

I rejoined the coach near one of the handsome bridges linking Vieux Lyon with Presqu’Ile, the portion of Lyon that lies between the Saone and Rhone rivers.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Diamond Deck foyer, facing aft.

Back at the mostly empty ship, I had a short time to do some more documenting between lunch and heading back ashore.  I particularly like the SCENIC SAPPHIRE’s Carrara marble lobby on Diamond Deck (3) with its stark, polished surfaces and chrome accents. It is both simplistic and striking with sort of a late 60s/early 70s “A Clockwork Orange’ vibe.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Panorama Deck, facing port.

For a rare moment, there was no one on the Panorama Terrace on forward Diamond Deck. The sheltered al fresco space is probably the ship’s most popular outdoor vantage and is only steps away from the popular Panorama Bar.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Panorama Bar, facing forward.

Day and night, the Panorama Bar serves complimentary beverages (except for top shelf drinks and rare wine vintages) and snacks. Continental breakfast and light lunch are also served here.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE, Panorama Bar, facing aft from port.

On either side of the Panoramic Bar, there are handsome seating areas with views through full length windows. Directly aft is the Sapphire Lounge (see part one).

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Forward Sun Deck, facing aft.

For most of the week, due to the high river levels, the uppermost Sun Deck had been in “collapse mode”, so it was nice to see it set up with furniture once again. The forward portion is like an outdoor living room with cushioned settees followed by dining tables and chairs that are handy during the usually once-per-cruise deck barbeques.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Aft Sun Deck, facing aft.

Aft of the wheelhouse, which can be lowered to clear bridges. there is more open and shaded deck space as well as a walking track. After the ship’s next refit, a Jacuzzi will be installed here.

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Lyon flower tree sculpture.

On my return to Lyon, I decided to cross the Pont de la Guilotiere, where I encountered a fascinating sculpture by Jeong Hwa Choi called “Flower Tree” on the edge of Place Antonin Poncet. I continued onward to Place Bellecour and along the Saone, where I found a magasin du creme glacée (ice cream parlor) that had my fave green tea gelato and, just steps away, a friendly pharmacy selling an herbal throat spray that would hopefully nip my blossoming sore throat in the bud.

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Hotel de Ville.

On my return, I had time to ogle the gorgeous Hotel de Ville de Lyon, the stunning city hall with twin domes and a bell tower, whose current incarnation dates from 1674.

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Fountains in Lyon.

Near the opera house, there were some fascinating sculptural fountains…

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Palestinian protest in Lyon.

…and on one of the main thoroughfares, a sobering dose of reality as Palestinian protesters staged a rally.

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Memorial to the underground resistance.

Before I crossed back over the Rhone, I came across a plaque memorializing the brave World War Two resistance fighters who were crushed by the Nazis, many of whom suffered unthinkable horrors at the hand of Klaus Barbie.

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Waiters on parade in the Crystal Dining Room.

Back aboard SCENIC SAPPHIRE, there was a farewell cocktail party in the Sapphire Lounge followed by Farewell Dinner in the Crystal Dining Room and a crew show. Our scheduled evening departure from Lyon was postponed due to a storm up river, so we remained at our berth.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Balcony Suite 225 window ajar.

Alas, my cold was worsening, so I ditched plans to head out on the included wine tasting excursion to Beaujolais. Instead, I slept in, then caught up with work on the near empty ship as she began the last leg of her voyage to Chalon Sur Saone. For most of the day, there was intermittent rain. Midway to Chalon Sur Saone, we pulled alongside a small town to retrieve the excursion guests.

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Our final dinner was in L’Amour, the nightly French-themed eatery in the forward portion of the Panorama Bar. Dining in L’Amour is complimentary but restricted to 22 guests per night, so reservations are required. The menu is fixed and paired with local wines.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE L’Amour chef prepares.

All of the artfully prepared courses in L’Amour are cooked to order by the ship’s chef in an open setting adjacent to the dining area.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Diamond Deck passage, facing forward.

With afternoon flights out of Lyon, I was able to linger on the ship after most of the other guests disembarked so I could take photos of the various stateroom categories.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Royal One Bedroom Suite 315, facing aft.

The SCENIC SAPPHIRE’s four Royal One Bedroom Suites are the ship’s largest staterooms at 325-square-feet.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Royal One Bedroom Suite facing forward.

The Royal One Bedroom Suites are located on midships Diamond Deck.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Royal One Bedroom Suite Sun Room.

All suites on the SCENIC SAPPHIRE, except the few Standards on the bottom level have Sun Rooms/Balconies that can open up to the elements via a picture window that slides down with the push of a button.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Royal Panorama Suite, facing aft.

The next-to-top level of accommodation, the Royal Panorama Suites, measure 305-square-feet and have picture windows that overlook the ship’s wake.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Royal Panorama Suite, facing inboard.

Royal Panorama Suites have Sun Rooms/Balconies on their outer sides and large bathrooms with a rainforest shower.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Junior Balcony Suite, facing starboard.

A pair of 250-square-foot Junior Balcony Suites are on the forward end of Diamond and Sapphire Decks and feature semi-disabled access bathrooms with a shower tub combo with a door.

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MV SCENIC SAPPHIRE Standard Suite 106, facing port.

160-square-foot Standard Suites are located on the lowest level, Jewel Deck and feature rectangular windows instead of balconies.

Although SCENIC SAPPHIRE was just refitted last year, she will undergo an even more extensive renovation next winter, which will see the addition of a larger spa and gym on Jewel Deck and that Jacuzzi on Sun Deck.

End of SAPPHIRE on the Rhone

Special thanks: Lauren Frye

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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