Full disclosure: I was invited to try this gluten free afternoon tea for the purposes of this review. All opinions on how fit it is are my own (and Lizzie’s) If there’s three things on a weekend that I love, it’s a day out in Liverpool, a cheeky gin & tonic and on an ideal… Read More
Oliver Wendell Holmes
A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.
We all know I’m a cruise fan, both for the incredible itineraries and for the gorgeous ships, but generally I only get super excited about ocean cruises…but that’s only because I haven’t given river cruising a go…yet!
I actually have had a tiny taste of what it might be like, sailing up river to Bordeaux on my first Adonia cruise *sobs*. Our journey up the river gave us a morning at sea, and I spent my time sat on the balcony watching the French countryside go by – it was so relaxing! Once we got into Bordeaux, we were right in the city centre – no need for buses or taxis to where we needed to be! Its the sort of thing you often don’t experience in Europe – lots of ports dock you in industrial areas, or at least areas where it’s just a bit too far to walk – especially in summer!
My other river cruise experience was down the River Amazon – now that’s a unique trip – such fascinating scenery!
As much as I loved these two experiences, I’m sure these are two rare ports where ocean cruise ships can fit, and even then it was a small R-Type. By venturing onto a smaller river cruise boat though, you can see so many amazing place inland that you perhaps wouldn’t have visited, plus you get to take in all the gorgeous countryside!
Fun fact, I actually went for an interview earlier this year at a river cruise company. Obviously I didn’t get it (no grudges!) but I’m forever lusting at their instagram along with a couple of other river cruise lines!
With that in mind here are a few reasons I’m loving the look of one particular cruise line, Emerald Waterways.
Now remember, these are river boats, not cruise ships – so they don’t have any of the expected features like multiple dining options. cinema, swimming pools…oh, wait a second – YES THEY DO!
I was majorly surprised to see just how many amazing features the ships have – Emerald Waterways fleet are rather snazzily referred to as Star Ships, and are basically the limousines of river cruising. They combine modern design with a style and elegance, whilst keeping the luxury you’d expect of a river cruise.
The thing that surprised me was the pool – there’s a gorgeous heated infinity pool at the back of the ship that you can relax in and watch the world go by – and get this – the floor rises up so it can turn into a cinema in the evenings! The fact that that is even physically possible absolutely blows my mind!
But surely there’s not much room for other leisure facilities? Well, the Emerald Star Ships feature a top Sun Deck, a space that includes space to relax and watch the world go by, as well as a walking track, putting green and games area!
On Board Entertainment
Here’s another thing that I didn’t figure would be part of a river cruise, but Emerald Waterways actually offer after dinner shows! Sometimes they have local entertainers come on board, while they also have quizzes and a crew show on the evening of the Farewell Dinner – just like on an ocean cruise!
Some evenings, you can actually go ashore and enjoy a local performance – from a traditional band to dance performances – this is certainyl an advantage pretty unique to river cruising, at least I’ve never experienced it on a ocean cruise.
It goes without saying that on a cruise as luxurious as this, it’s going to be top quality food. The day starts with a buffet breakfast, and ends with a dinner offering a selection of local cuisines, accompanied by wine, beer and soft drinks. And all of this is included in the price of your cruise! Plus, if you’re somewhere sunny, they hold BBQs on the sun deck of the ship!
I came across a CruiseCritic post commenting on how wonderful the food was, and it mentioned that buffets are marked up with allergens and there is always gluten free bread available on request – perfect!
After a day of exploring and with a belly full of fine food, you’ll want a good night’s sleep in a comfortable cabin. I was under the impression that river cruise cabins would be almost boxed in – after all, there’s no balcony cabins, right?
Wrong again! The Emerald Star Ships feature amazingly stylish suites and staterooms with everything you’d expect plus some luxurious extras – there’s an ensuite bathroom, a comfortable Queen size or twin bed set up and in-cabin entertainment – the flat screen TV is packed with on demand films and channels – perfect if you just want some relaxing alone time.
As for the balcony – rather than sliding doors from side to side and stepping out onto a balcony, the window opens up to create a unique open air situation – I could happily sit there for hours watching the scenery!
I need to give myself a slap on the hand for this one – I gues I only thought the river cruises travel through Europe. Well, Emerald’s various Star Ships do see much of Europe, exploring the Danube, the Main, the Rhone, the Douro and the Rhine – all gorgeous regions with a ton of gorgeous scenery to gaze at. However, did you know you can also explore Africa and Southeast Asia?
Emerald Waterways even have ships specially designed and designated to these regions. You can cruise down the Nile, exploring Egypt and Jordan on the MS Hamees.
Meanwhile over in Southeast Asia, the Irrawaddy Explorer travels along…well, the Irrawaddy! This route takes you through Myanmar, a vibrant country that Rudyard Kipling described as ‘unlike any land you know about’. Meanwhile, sister ships Emerald Harmony and the Mekong Navigator explore the Mekong river, winding through Vietnam and Cambodia.
Much as you get themed ocean cruises, river cruises often offer speciality itineraries – for example wine lovers can enjoy The Flavours of Burgundy and Provence – a cruise from Arles to Lyon accompanied by some wine experts (I mean proper wine experts who’d probably scoff at my 90 cent wine from Mercadona…)
Other speciality cruises include itineraries that coincide with Pride events throughout Europe! Emerald actually launched the UK’s first LGBT cruise, and were shortlisted in the 2018 Diva Awards. It won’t be for everyone but how fab to step off your river boat and join in with the street parties and other events! Some of the Prides Emerald join in with are Amsterdam, Berlin and Budapest.
One day – I hope!
There is so much to love the look of – river cruising is something I haven’t experienced yet, but definitely something I’d love to try! I love the idea of watching the world go by, seeing fields, castles and villages go by.
Luxury travel is something that I absolutely love. I hope to one day take to the Caribbean on a yacht charter; can you think of anything more stylish or luxurious than being on board a beautiful yacht on the Caribbean sea? See here for more information – https://www.northropandjohnson.com/destinations-yacht-charter-in-the-caribbean
Would you give river cruising a go? Which region would you like to explore?