A review of Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star BY JILL SAYLES
Emerald Star was launched in May last year by Australian-owned river cruise company, Emerald Waterways. It is part of the latest generation of 135-metre long Star-Ships by the company.I experienced part of the Delights of the Danube river cruise from Budapest to Vienna during three nights. All meals, onshore excursions, travel and transfers were included.
There are 92 cabins – 90 doubles and two singles – all river-facing and spread over three decks. Horizon, the upper deck, has 35 suites in total, eight 210sq ft Grand Balcony Suites, four 315sq ft Owner’s Suites, plus 23,180sq ft Panorama Balcony Suites – a new type of cabin (also to be found on the middle Vista deck), of which there are 37. Further accommodation is on the lower deck, Riviera, where there are 20 staterooms. These include 18 double cabins which are 162sq ft and two single cabins at 117sq ft each.
There’s access to the three decks via a lift as well as the staircase. My Owner’s Suite on Horizon deck had a separate bedroom and lounge, a shower room, and walk-in wardrobe. The indoor balcony in the lounge area had a floor-to-ceiling window the same as in the bedroom. The upper half of the windows lower revealing a good view. I also had the use of an iPad, complimentary wifi, an espresso machine, and TV.
There were daily deliveries of complimentary fruit, water, pre-dinner appetizers and after-dinner sweets. Continental breakfast was offered in the room if required and Owner’s Suite guests can have four items of clothes washed for free per day.
The Horizon bar and lounge has wifi access, a 24/7 coffee machine and teamaking facilities. There’s also a very small library area. It is used for activities, lectures, daily port talks and evening entertainment. Apart from the resident pianist, during my stay entertainment and activities included a Hungarian folklore show and a glassblowing demonstration.
The Terrace at the front of the lounge offers comfortable seating and a light breakfast can be eaten there.
Reception and shore excursions desks are in the middle of the boat on Vista deck. Also on board is a small shop and a pool. It the evenings, the pool area becomes the Emerald Café offering a quiet place to sit and it also becomes a cinema on certain nights of the cruise. The top Sun Deck contains a seating area, a mini-golf course, a walking track and the Navigation bridge.
FOOD & DRINK
The main Reflections restaurant on Vista deck serves buffet breakfasts, lunches and three course dinners, with good choices for vegetarians. As well as the international cuisine, there are regional dishes. Emerald Classics are available each evening as alternatives to the main courses. These are poached salmon, rump steak, and grilled chicken breast.
Complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner.
Afternoon tea-time is from 4-4.30pm daily and a late night snack – often a local dish such as goulash soup – is served in the Emerald café from 10.30-11pm.
SPA & FITNESS
On Vista deck, there’s a very small fitness room next to the beauty and massage room which has capacity for one guest at a time. Next door is the lovely pool area with a retractable roof. The pool isn’t large, but big enough to share and swim in with a few others. The flexibility of this space as a pool, café and cinema is a real highlight.
Fifteen bicycles are available for guests.
Daily excursions are included. These are either walking or coach tours and all with local guides. Optional paid for tours are offered too. There are daily evening port talks in the Horizon lounge and on the day before the excursion. Only one announcement is made 15 minutes before each tour departs to avoid multiple announcements.
During my stay, I was invited to the Sun Deck for a one-hour Budapest by night cruise, a four-hour tour in Budapest by bus and on foot, a two-hour walking tour of Bratislava, plus a homehosted afternoon tea at a local village near Bratislava.
In Vienna, coaches took guests to the city centre then followed a walking tour with a guide and free time. The ship moors close to the city centres, so it’s also easy to explore independently if you wish. serViCe All crew speak good English and were very helpful and friendly.
Guests are given name badges to wear if they want to. Tipping is included.
The 8-day Danube Delights is offered from March to October 2016. The trip departing March 17 2016 from Nuremberg to Budapest is priced at £1,445 per person based on two sharing a Panorama Balcony Suite. It includes return travel from the UK, seven nights in a stateroom or suite, five shore excursions, visits to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, three Emerald Plus activities, 20 on board meals, complimentary tea and coffee, complimentary bottled water, on board evening entertainment, English-speaking crew and a local guide, complimentary wifi, all port charges, airport taxes and transfers within Europe.
For more information call 0800 270 7017 or visit emeraldwaterways.co.uk
EMERALD STAR FAST FACTS
Cabin size 117sqft – 315sqft
USP Friendly service, high quality product, and a pool area offering a flexible exercise and entertainment space.