Emerald Waterways has made a big impression on the river cruising world since its launch in 2014 as a little sister to Australian-owned Scenic. While Scenic offers ultra-inclusive, five-star deluxe cruising, the Emerald experience is supposed to be four-star and priced accordingly, but in reality, its smart new ships with their chic, contemporary design have a distinctly luxurious feel.
Emerald’s original mission was to attract a slightly younger passenger with boutique-style ships, stylish décor and unusual features like an indoor pool that converts to a cinema in the evenings, although the line’s appeal is wider than that. Passengers like the fact that everything from shore excursions, gratuities, speciality coffee and wine with meals is all included – but the prices are kept competitive by offering some of the tours as optional extras and the bar drinks on an à la carte basis.
In Europe, Emerald has five 182-passenger ships sailing Rhine, Main and Danube, with the new 112-passenger Emerald Radiance, launched in 2017, operating on the Douro and the 138-passenger Emerald Liberté, also launched in 2017, on the Rhône. In addition to the pool, each has a good-sized fitness room and wellness area; a putting area on the sun deck; and a walking track for those who enjoy a stroll in the fresh air.
The ships have a variety of cabin grades, from the lavish Owner’s Suites to Grand Balcony Suites and Emerald Panorama Balcony Suites. These have a revolutionary ‘indoor balcony’; a decked area with comfortable seating in front of a window that slides down at the press of a button to let the fresh air in.
Most excursions are included in the cruise price and some are labelled EmeraldACTIVE, which could be something like a guided cycle ride, or EmeraldPLUS, representing a more immersive cultural experience, like a cookery class, or a wine tasting at a private estate.
In addition to its own fleet, Emerald Waterways charters the colonial-style Mekong Navigator in Cambodia and Vietnam for exploration of the Mekong and the 56-passenger Irrawaddy Explorer for cruises in Burma.
New for 2019 is the 36-passenger MV Adriatic Princess II, which will cruise the coast of Croatia – Emerald’s first venture into ocean cruising, bringing its ‘affordable luxury’ style to the Adriatic.