Emerald Waterways' fleet will increase to seven in 2017. Five will be 182-passenger, 443-foot long ships, while two will be smaller. Emerald Liberte will carry 138 passengers, while Emerald Radiance will carry 112.
The five 182-passenger vessels are essentially identical to each other and sail seven- to 14-night itineraries on the Rhine, Main, Danube and Mosel rivers. The two smaller ships will sail on rivers in France and Portugal and will be boutique versions of the larger ships. The main difference, other than size, will be that Emerald Radiance will have the pool on the roof and won't convert into a cinema at night.
A 2014 debut complete with two innovative new sister ships -- Emerald Star and Emerald Sky -- made Emerald Waterways one of the newest river cruise lines to launch in Europe. Two more identical ships, Emerald Sun and Emerald Dawn, joined the fleet in early 2015 and four more will launch in 2017.
Emerald Waterways has positioned itself somewhere between the three- and four-star markets. The line aims to compete with established four-star brands like Viking Cruises and Avalon Waterways by boasting a handful of innovative design touches and less expensive fares that still include a lot within the price of the cruise. Included in the cost are drinks (soft and alcoholic) at lunch and dinner, shore excursions in every port (including one gentle walkers tour), transfers and tips. Emerald's main marketing push is with English-speaking clients, with about half hailing from Australia.
Emerald Waterways, known as Evergreen Tours in Australia, launched in 2014 as a division of Scenic, a company that offers everything from land tours to luxury river cruises. Emerald made quite a statement with its first two European ships in 2014 and launched two more ships in 2015, with four more to come in 2017. Overall, the line has significantly raised the bar within the "cheap and cheerful" river cruise market.
The most innovative bit of design for the fleet is a dual-purpose area at the aft of the ship that transforms from an indoor, heated pool with retractable roof during the day, to a cinema at night. Other vessels such as Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette offer separate pool and cinema facilities, but Emerald's reconfigurable room is a unique-to-river feature. A second impressive state-of-the-art feature is the balcony cabins that transform into conservatories at the touch of a button.
The rest of the ships' innovations have become fairly standard on newly built ships in the modern, "post-Viking longship" era of European river cruising, but nonetheless represent a significant improvement on the three-star experience. These upgrades include: Good-sized suites, balconies some of the cabins and an open-air alternative dining space (for breakfast and lunch only).
As is the case with many river cruise lines, Emerald Waterways includes quite a lot within the cost to the overall cruise fare. Shore excursions and transfers are included, although in-depth or unusual shore excursions levy a fee. Coffee, tea and water, as well as wine, spirits and beer with lunch and dinner are included.
Emerald Waterways serves the typical European river cruise passenger -- generally well-traveled cruise veterans in the 55-plus bracket. Half of the passengers come from Australia and New Zealand, with the rest coming from a mix of the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.