Emerald Waterways cruise review:
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ABOVE: Emerald Star is moored in
downtown Koblenz, where the Rhine meets the Moselle.
Emerald Star: the ship
was the second of four identical "Star-Ships" to be built for Emerald Waterways.
It has been cruising in Europe since 2014.
(A fifth Star-Ship, Emerald Destiny,
will enter service in 2017, and two slightly smaller vessels are being
custom-built to fit the locks of the Rhône and the Douro.)
Emerald Star has a capacity of 182 passengers in
92 staterooms and suites. Cabins and public rooms are located
on three enclosed decks:
(directly below the Sun Deck), which houses the main lounge, the reception
area, the fancier suites, a number of panorama balcony suites, and a pool
that converts into a cinema at night.
Vista Deck, where
you'll find the restaurant, most of the ship's panorama balcony suites, a
small spa, and a fitness room.
the lowermost deck, which
has 20 staterooms and a hairdresser's shop.
addition to the enclosed decks, Emerald Star
has a large Sun Deck
(see Other Amenities)
and an open-air foredeck called The Terrace
which offers great views when cruising on the river and going through locks.
(The Terrace came in handy during the first half of our itinerary, when low
bridges made it unsafe to use the Sun Deck while cruising.)
Emerald Star's design theme is contemporary, with large
expanses of glass and the use of stainless steel, mirrors, and white surfaces to
maximize light and a feeling of openness.
It has the vibe of a modern design
hotel, and a spiffy one at that: We often saw crew members polishing the
mirrored columns and other shiny surfaces, which were impeccably clean at all
Horizon, Vista, and Riviera Decks are served by an elevator, but the Sun Deck is
accessible only by stairs.
Gangways are sometimes level and sometimes steep,
depending on the port. Emerald Waterways states that, "under appropriate
circumstances, guests are welcome to use collapsible wheelchairs on board."
Emerald's ships have flat decks (unlike the split-level
decks on many older river vessels), but it's worth remembering that, on a river
cruise, your fare includes shore excursions.
If you can't manage steps on buses
or aren't able to keep up with a "slow walking" tour group, you'll probably end
up staying on the ship, and you won't get full value for your money.