By Bob Hoelscher
The Scenic Tours Group has announced the creation of Emerald Waterways, the first new European river-cruise company to set sail in more than six years. The company is aiming to build upon its luxury Scenic Cruises brand with a “four-star” line that will be marketed and sold separately from the land tours.
Emerald will reportedly target experienced travelers as well as the younger demographic that is seeking value and attractive pricing, plus expanded ship amenities and fare inclusions. Four itineraries from eight to 15 days are scheduled to launch in April 2014 at fares from $2,230 per person, double occupancy.
Two new ships — the Emerald Star and the Emerald Sky — will each carry 182 guests in 20 staterooms (two for solo passengers) and 72 suites. All berths will range from 162 square feet to 210 square feet. Onboard amenities will include a heated swimming pool with a retractable roof that will transform into a movie theater in the evening, plus two restaurants. A new type of cabin design will replace the French balcony common to many vessels with an indoor balcony that features a decked area and an innovative system that allows guests to push a button to retract the upper half of a floor-to-ceiling window for an open-air opportunity. Top suites will separate the balcony from the cabin with sliding doors. A hairdresser, a massage therapy room and a fitness area will also be available.
Emerald Waterways fares will include all transfers to and from the ships; all onboard and most on-shore meals; unlimited tea and coffee; wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; and bottled water in the cabins. Also featured will be complimentary Wi-Fi onboard the ships, at least one included shore excursion almost every cruise day, visits to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and significantly, all gratuities and port charges.
Signature EmeraldPlus excursions are being created to offer special experiences, such as glassblowing demonstrations, the Winzerexpress minitrain, and a night of dancing and entertainment at a local Czech tavern, rather than just standard attractions. Furthermore, itineraries are being designed to allow greater flexibility for guests to explore Europe as they wish, with the assistance of a cruise director and crew prepared to offer advice and help plan the independent time.