|Dougie in front of Emerald Star|
For years I’ve wanted to try out a river cruise. Dougie and I promised ourselves that once Rory was at university, we would definitely give it a try. Whilst we we pondering which cruise company and which river to choose, an opportunity arose to review a Rhine cruise with Emerald Waterways for Cruise International magazine. We took our cruise in June this year and my review has been published in the October/November issue of the magazine. You can buy a glossy copy at most branches of WH Smiths or have a look at my review online: Emerald Star sails on the Rhine.
Naturally, I couldn’t resist sharing more about the cruise on my blog so over the next few weeks I’ll tell you more about our trip. Let’s start with the ship itself:
Emerald Waterways is a new cruise line, a subsidiary of Australian-based Scenic Tours. Launched in 2014 its luxury Star-Ships are chic and luxurious. Our ship, Emerald Star, exuded style and comfort when we spotted it for the first time berthed in Amsterdam: sleek and glistening in the hot June sunshine.
On board it was appealing because of its clean lines and contemporary colours: an upmarket boutique hotel on the water: nothing old-fashioned or staid. The reception area was flooded with light, the lounge was airy with plenty of seating and Reflections Restaurant always looked pristine and welcoming.
|Lobby and stairwell of Emerald Star|
Outside, the sun deck was vast with lots of chairs, canopies and a running/walking track. The Terrace was the perfect spot for a morning coffee or post postprandial tipple and, best of all, at the other end (the aft) a swimming pool under a retractable roof. The unique selling point of the pool is the way the floor is raised in the evening to transform into a cinema with popcorn and padded headphones provided for that perfect movie experience.
|Poolside loungers, sun deck games and deck chairs
Most of the rooms on an Emerald ship benefit from a clever indoor balcony system where the upper half of the floor-to-ceiling windows can be lowered to waist height, bringing the air in and allowing guests to gaze out at the passing scenery. We had a fabulous Grand Balcony suite, decorated in light shades of cream and grey. I was most surprised by the storage facilities: a decent-sized wardrobe, deep drawers and hidden mirrored shelves in the bathroom. Add to that a large TV, bottles of water, fabulously comfortable bed and free WiFi and we were very happy cruisers.
|Grand Balcony suite|
All meals are included in the cruise, with complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks for lunch and dinner. Help yourself to coffee and biscuits at any other time of the day. The food was excellent: substantial buffet provision for breakfast and lunch and a more civilised table service at dinner. You can sit where you like so we usually chose a table for two by the window although often got chatting to passengers in the tables of four nearby. The dress code is pretty casual and even at dinner ties aren’t required for men.
|Dessert station for lunch; pudding for dinner|
What else have I forgotten? A small library, gift shop, hairdresser, wellness room and fitness area. But I’m leaving the best ’til last – the people. The staff were a joy: efficient, smart, obliging and full of good humour. Our fellow passengers were a delight: mostly from the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the camaraderie amongst everyone was astonishing. This is obviously why people return to river cruising once they have tried it; it is far more intimate than an ocean cruise so friendships are made easily.
I’ll go into more detail about the itinerary in future posts but, for now, I hope the photos of the ship will whet your appetite.