Emerald Waterways operates a fleet of 15 ships that sail itineraries in Europe, France, Portugal, Egypt, Asia and Russia. I sailed on the 182-passenger river ship Emerald Destiny on a “Legends of the Moselle, Rhine and Main” voyage and learned what the line is all about.
I discovered that Emerald Waterways offers its passengers a fun experience with a great variety of activities — all while sailing on a ship that features friendly and attentive service and ample spaces to relax and enjoy the views offered on your journey.
I’ll break down this trip with the key things you should know about a cruise with Emerald Waterways along with information about the destinations you visit while sailing on these rivers in Germany.
We embarked in Bernkastel on the Moselle River. (This small port is reached after a two-hour bus ride from the Frankfurt airport.)
Bernkastel is a quiet little village and a popular vacation spot for Germans in the summer. The town is located in the heart of a respected wine-growing region in the Moselle Valley and features a Medieval Marketplace, historic town center, a picturesque bridge and the Burgruine-Landshut castle ruins (looming high on the hill).
After an overnight, it was time to sail. On this itinerary, the ship visited Cochem on the Moselle before stopping at Koblenz, which sits at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. This was our lone stop on the Rhine, but we had an overnight visit and a morning of touring the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress before a long stretch of scenic sailing in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. This is always a highlight of Rhine cruises. We were fortunate to have sunny weather as we gazed upon vineyards, castles, ruins and steeple-filled villages for miles.
Then, we entered the Main River and Main-Danube Canal portion of the trip, which visited Miltenberg, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Bamberg and Nuremberg, where we disembarked at the end of our voyage.
Cruisers looking at this itinerary should know that once your journey reaches the Main River and Main-Danube Canal, access to the sun deck is severely limited because of the numerous locks and low bridges that the ship must traverse (over the course of three days on my sailing).
Emerald Destiny and the other Emerald Waterways’ “Star-Ships” make this inconvenience tolerable, though, with a few key design elements that I outline in the next section.
The spacious top Sun Deck is the place to be during periods of scenic sailing when the weather and other conditions cooperate. Canopies offer shade, and seating is available the full length of the ship on a soft green turf surface. The Sun Deck also offers putting greens and a walking track (6.5 laps to a mile).
Emerald Destiny is unique among river cruise ships in that is has a large pool (the water is 4.5 feet deep) at the back of Deck 3, and this area offers 270-degree views through floor-to-ceiling glass, a retractable sun roof, dozens of cushioned chairs and loungers and a bar area. This is an amazing place to sit back (or swim up) and watch the world glide by. Additionally, this pool area is converted to a theater (seating up to 24 people) on certain nights to show movies on a big screen.
Inside, Emerald Destiny has a large lounge area with a library nook offering books, games and magazines as well as a bar, coffee machine and dance floor. This is the main hub of the ship where passengers gather to grab a coffee, tea, wine or cocktail and chat or read a book. Regular enrichment and entertainment activities take place here, too, along with the cruise director’s daily port talk. For examples of enrichment, we saw dance and glass-blowing performances on our sailing.
The lounge is designed with glass throughout for constant views of the outdoors, and at the very front of the space, you can sit at a long bar-top surface looking straight out over an outside deck at the bow. Head out to the deck to enjoy the fresh air or an up-close look at the operations within a lock. These main lounge spaces and the pool area at the back offer fine alternatives for when the Sun Deck is closed to passengers.
Standard cabins on Decks 2 and 3 are designed with a flexible indoor/outdoor “balcony” space that converts with the flip of a switch to drop down a large window to a fixed railing. The interior space is comparable to that of most river ships i have sailed on. Closet space is tight, but dressers offer a large amount of drawer space for clothes. Trekking poles and umbrellas are provided. Bathroom space is tight.
Cabins are also available on Deck 1, and the ship features two cabins built specially for solo cruisers. There are 92 cabins in all, for up to 182 passengers.
Wi-Fi service is included in your fare, and service was spotty on our itinerary. The ship has a small fitness center with a recumbent bike, rowing machine, hand weights and yoga mats but no treadmill. Emerald Destiny offers massage treatments and a hair salon.
Entertainment and Activities
Emerald Waterways has Activity Managers on their ships as part of their relatively new EmeraldACTIVE program. The position serves as a sort of co-cruise director, and our Activity Manager Harry Jordan oversaw a whole host of fun events that gave passengers a nice mix of things to do onboard and onshore.
The EmeraldACTIVE program replaces some of the traditional fare that we have seen over the years on river cruises, primarily the piano player in the main lounge. Instead, Harry, a trained singer and dancer, gave thrilling cabaret performances of classic songs by Neil Diamond and members of the Rat Pack during performances on two separate nights. He also led dance classes and yoga, stretching and Pilates classes.
Passengers are also able to jump into the pool for water aerobics or take part in golf putting competitions and games of soft petanque on the Sun Deck or trivia in the lounge. Our cruise culminated with an epic Disco Night, with more than 70 passengers sharing the dance floor when DJ Harry spun especially popular tunes from that era.
Shore excursions included the traditional city tours to see the castles, fortresses and visit wine cellars in our destinations. But the EmeraldACTIVE options offered more challenging hikes, bike rides (the ship carries a fleet of cycles) or walks in some of these spots, including a morning nine-mile ride followed by an afternoon hike to Burgruine-Landshut in Bernkastel to see the amazing views over the Moselle Valley.
Emerald Destiny offers an early-risers and late-risers light breakfast, as well as a lighter lunch option in the main lounge. The main dining room features a buffet breakfast and lunch. Lunch also includes a selection of daily specials and everyday menu items (seafood, steak, chicken and vegetarian) that can be ordered from the kitchen. Lunch was my favorite meal because of the live cooking station that served up fresh pasta (it offered omelets at breakfast) and the fresh-made ice cream available every day.
Dinner is a seated and plated meal ordered from a menu in the open-seating venue. The chef and his team prepared four-course meals that included items like beetroot carpaccio and veal meatballs as appetizers and Chateaubriand and sliced duck breast and leg as main courses. Each dinner also offered a fish and vegetarian dish.
The same everyday items also available at dinner, and I really enjoyed the steak and fries when nothing appealed to me among the main menu choices.
Emerald Waterways cruise fares include beer, wine and sodas during lunch and dinner in the main dining room. Drinks ordered elsewhere are charged to your account. Drinks packages are available.
The Bottom Line
Emerald Destiny offers cruisers a good value proposition, with a casually elegant feel (not luxury) in sleek and attractive spaces that connect you well to the outside views. The best part of my cruise was the fun vibe that emanated throughout the week as passengers — a mix of North American, U.K. and Australian cruisers — quickly bonded over a range of fun activities. The friendly crew played a big part in creating the proper mood for fun as we explored Germany.
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