Sailing the Danube aboard Europe’s Newest River Cruise Line

Join us this week as we set sail from Budapest to Nuremberg aboard Emerald Waterways' Emerald Star! Photo courtesy of Emerald Waterways

Join us this week as we set sail from Budapest to Nuremberg aboard Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star! Photo courtesy of Emerald Waterways

Of all the river cruises I’ve taken, one of my absolute favorite destinations is the Danube River. Filled with culture, history and natural beauty, a sailing along the Danube is a veritable wonderland of enjoyment. It’s a good thing I love this part of Europe so much: tomorrow, I’ll board a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and connect on to the historic Hungarian capital of Budapest. Once there, on Saturday I’ll embark Emerald Waterways brand-new Emerald Star for a weeklong Live Voyage Report on the line’s Danube Delights itinerary!

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

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Staterooms aboard Emerald Waterways are crisp and modern. Photo courtesy of Emerald Waterways

Staterooms aboard Emerald Waterways are crisp and modern. Photo courtesy of Emerald Waterways

As wonderful as these ports of call are, it’s Emerald Waterways that truly fascinates me. The company, an offshoot of Australia-based Scenic Tours, only began operations this past spring with two brand-new, custom-made river cruise ships: Emerald Sky and Emerald Star. Both ships are 443 feet (135 metres) in length, and carry a total of 182 guests in 92 staterooms and suites. They’re also trendsetting, sporting a solarium-style indoor swimming pool that can convert to a cinema at night, a Gelateria, and modern, contemporary styling.

Emerald Sky and her sister, Emerald Star, feature a swimming pool that converts into a cinema each evening. Photo courtesy of Emerald Waterways

Emerald Sky and her sister, Emerald Star, feature a swimming pool that converts into a cinema each evening. Photo courtesy of Emerald Waterways

Of course, as river cruising grows in popularity among passengers, so does competition between river cruise lines. Parent company Scenic Tours is designed as a premium, six-star experience, so Emerald Waterways has been created as a lower-cost alternative – but by no means does that mean ‘cheap’. Cruise fares on Emerald Waterways include all transfers from the airport; beer, wine, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; bottled water in staterooms; and – perhaps most importantly – all gratuities for shipboard staff, baggage handlers, and tour guides.

In a nutshell, Emerald Waterways has been designed to compete with river cruising’s reigning heavyweight champion, Viking River Cruises.

In July, we'll join the brand-new Emerald Sky for a trip along the Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg. Photo courtesy of Emerald Waterways

Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Sky and Emerald Star both measure 443 feet and can carry 182 guests. They’re known as “Star Ships” Photo courtesy of Emerald Waterways

Since river cruise lines can’t out-build each other like ocean cruise lines do because of stringent physical restrictions placed on ships, Emerald’s answer has been to ‘out-amenity’ Viking. All staterooms onboard Emerald Waterways ships include niceties like complimentary bathrobes and slippers, as well as luxury amenities in higher-grade suites like iPod docking stations, Nespresso machines, canapés, pillow menus, and complimentary iPads for onboard use.

Our journey with Tauck begins in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Our journey with Emerald Waterways begins in the fabulous Hungarian capital of Budapest. Photo © Aaron Saunders

My eight-day Danube Delights voyage is the shortest itinerary that Emerald Waterways offers for the 2014 season. The line also has an eight-day Rhine Discovery voyage available from Amsterdam to Nuremberg, and some truly interesting longer voyages, like the 15-day Splendors of Europe that sails between Amsterdam and Budapest. Next year, available itineraries will increase from five to nine with the launch of Emerald Sun and Emerald Dawn, allowing Emerald Waterways to expand into Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

Emerald Waterways pre-cruise documentation is attractive and useful. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Emerald Waterways pre-cruise documentation is attractive and useful. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

So far, the line has made a good impression: the pre-cruise documentation that Emerald Waterways sends out is attractive and well put-together. My favorite feature, so far, is the fantastic fold-out map of the Danube that comes complete with city listings, a map, and a kilometre chart (the Danube is measured in kilometres beginning from the Black Sea). The included documents folder is large enough to keep all your necessary information in, but still small enough to fit into a carry-on bag. The luggage tag, on the other hand, is a bit confusing – it has four squares for hotels to write down applicable room numbers, but no overall place to number your cruise stateroom. That, however, is a very minor quibble.

Personally, I don’t know what to expect from Emerald Waterways – and that’s exciting. It’s always thrilling to get in on the ground floor of an emerging cruise line, and Emerald Waterways is the first new river cruise line to be formed in nearly a decade.

They’re the new kid on the block – and I can’t wait to see Europe and the Danube with them! So join us from Saturday, July 12 to Saturday, July 19 as we spend a week sailing through the heart of Europe. We’ll be posting every evening, though please bear with us, as internet on the rivers of Europe is complimentary but temperamental!

Good Morning, Wien! The sun rises on a gorgeous day along the Danube in Vienna, Austria. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Europe awaits! Photo © Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report onboard Emerald Waterways Emerald Star begins on Saturday as we arrive in Budapest, Hungary and embark our ship! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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