Emerald Waterways’ fleet, which Lisa Norton, the line’s v.p. of brand management, N.A., groups & charters, likens to “a W hotel” is not resting on its laurels. Europe’s newest river cruise line is investing heavily in the river cruise market, with a new ship later this year, and two more in 2017, including one sailing a new itinerary on Portugal’s Douro River.
Pause—did Norton really refer to a river cruise ship as a W? Indeed, because, she says, “the ships are very contemporary,” with lots of mirrors, pops of vibrant colors in the form of throw pillows and furnishings, chic lighting fixtures, and sleek architectural lines. In fact, it’s undoubtedly one of the most modern-looking fleets sailing the rivers of Europe today. No wonder, as Norton points out, it attracts passengers who skew a little younger than the average river cruising clientele, from about the “mid-50s to mid-60s.” This is also a clientele that fits nicely into what the line calls Emerald Active, featuring guided bike tours and hiking tours, instead of just the traditional walking tours.
And because the river cruising market does not look like it’s slowing down anytime soon, for the aforementioned age group or otherwise, Emerald Waterways is launching the Emerald Belle this year, sailing on Europe’s Rhine and Danube rivers, and in 2017, the 138-passenger, 70-suite Emerald Liberte in France and the 112-passenger, 56-suite Emerald Radiance in Portugal. This will bring the fleet total to seven, although the new ships will be smaller versions of the original design in order to best take advantage of the rivers’ structures. The difference for the ships will be on the Radiance, which will have its pool on the top deck and not have a cinema, although it will debut a new category of staterooms with 330 sq. ft. of living space and panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. The Liberte will have the Emerald signature onboard heated pool, with a retractable glass roof, which transforms into a cinema in the evening. And that pool, emphasizes Norton, is “an actual pool you can swim in, with a resistance lap pool in the center.”
And these new ships are definitely needed, because this year Emerald Waterways, which offers near-all-inclusive pricing, is at 96 percent capacity. Best part is that 70 percent of those bookings, says Norton, are through travel agents, which, she points out, “offer clients an unbiased opinion.”
Emerald Waterways’ new itinerary on the Douro River, which the Radiance will sail, offers an intimate, up-close experience, with stops in Porto and Regua in Portugal, and Vega de Terron and Salamanca in Spain. Highlights include visiting the Roman ruins in Lamego, Portuguese cooking and cocktail demonstrations, tapas tastings, dinner at a traditional local wine estate, and a day trip to Spain’s Roman city of Salamanca. Rates for the 7-night Secrets of the Douro sailing start at $2,195 pp dbl.
The Liberte, meanwhile, will sail from Lyon to Arles along the picturesque Rhone and Saone rivers, passing through Chalon-Sur-Saone, Tournon and Avignon, and visiting country villages, castles, and palaces along the way. Rates start at $2,695 pp dbl.
Cruise fares include all transfers to and from the ship; all onboard (and some on-shore) meals; unlimited tea and coffee; wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; bottled water in the cabins replenished daily; continental breakfast, pre-dinner canapes and after-dinner sweet treats served in the top suites; complimentary WiFi on board the ship, a shore excursion daily; and more, as well as all gratuities on and off the ship. For more information, visit emeraldwaterways.com.