Emerald Waterways launched in 2014 with Emerald Star and its sibling, Emerald Sky. The line appeals to young Boomers and any travelers looking for moderately priced, all-inclusive journeys. The fares cover tips, shore excursions and beverages -- beer, wine and soft drinks -- at lunch and dinner. The ship's eight- to 15-night routes explore the Rhine, Danube and other European rivers from March through December.
Emerald Star shakes things up with an airy, bright, modern design and a stern swimming pool than turns into a film theater at night (a feature new to river cruising). Its 182 passengers spread among three interior decks, and public spaces include a gym, hair salon and massage room. Floor-to-ceiling windows -- plus a top-level track and three-hole mini golf course -- bring even more fresh air and a sense of spaciousness to this cheery, new take on European slow travel.
The crew blends up to a dozen nationalities seamlessly, drawing strengths from each culture. Everyone who interacts with the passengers speaks English and works tirelessly to not only respond to problems, but to anticipate and resolve them.
Chic and relaxed in equal measures, Emerald Star gives the Viking Longships a run for their money, while setting a new, minimalist design standard for Europe's river cruise scene.