Voted Cruise Critic's Best River Cruise Line for Value in 2015, Emerald Waterways -- a division of luxury line Scenic -- launched in 2014 with twin vessels: the 182-passenger Emerald Sky and Emerald Star. The line debuted Emerald Sun and Emerald Dawn the following year, and has plans for a fifth vessel in 2016.
With bold and modern designs, Emerald appeals to young cruisers and travelers looking for moderately priced, all-inclusive journeys along the Rhine, Danube and other European rivers.
Emerald will float your boat if you like...
Impeccably maintained, Emerald's airy decor glitters with glass, mirrors and mid-century, modernist chic.
A retractable roof pours sunshine into the stern's stunning 258-square-foot infinity pool. At 6 p.m. each evening, the pool's floor rises flush with the deck. A crewmember then mops and dries the area and sets out chairs, transforming the lounge into a petite movie theater.
Simplifying your budget
Fares covers all excursions, gratuities and drinks — including beer, wine and soft drinks — at lunch and dinner.
All-inclusive, culture-rich itineraries
Daily shore excursions spotlight history and culture, including flashes of local color. Curious about the world-famous Red Light District in Amsterdam? The cruise line offers nighttime walking tours there. (Just ditch your camera in your cabin. A passenger once defied the "no photos" request and got chased into a canal by a prostitute eager to preserve her anonymity.)
Plants bloom inside giant eggshells, which have the place of pride among Emerald's eco-friendly decor. Other standouts include exhibits of marlins' teeth, non-endangered coral and ancient petrified wood.
The kitchen turns out spectacular spreads with eight hot dishes, a salad bar and desserts ranging from cheese platters to scoops of artisanal ice cream. Emerald also weaves in local flavors, like kirschenplotzer — a bread-pudding with sour cherries — in northern Europe.
Not only do the ships have movie theaters (and complimentary popcorn), but their in-room, flat-screen TVs show another 50 titles.
Pretending to row your boat
The tiny gym includes a bench, stationary bike and rowing machine. (Pop open the facing cupboard, and enjoy footage from the bow camera.)
Passengers tend to be a quarter Brits, one-third Kiwis and Aussies, and only 45 percent North Americans.
Emerald probably isn't the line for you if you like...
The frosted-glass staircase sometimes proves challenging for passengers with heavy-duty eyeglasses, especially the first step down from the Horizon Deck's black marble floor. Chrome railings add to the slip-'n'-slide excitement. Emerald Waterways is working on safety measures, but unsteady travelers still might want to take the elevator.
Leave the cocktail frocks and full suits at home. Even the welcome dinner and farewell gala never rise above "smart casual." Jeans are appropriate, but avoid shorts and flip-flops.
Most rooms have virtual verandahs; with the touch of a button, the floor-to-ceiling windows slide halfway down. An inner screen helps prevent insect invasions.
Grazing at all hours
While two espresso machines keep the caffeine flowing 24/7, Emerald leaves out a single tub of cookies for passengers who get hungry at odd hours. However, it does serve delicious late-night snacks in the Horizon Bar, which hosts live music and a very popular trivia competition.
The ships avoid hustling so much that most passengers overlook their onboard shops (a few glass cabinets outside the Riviera Deck beauty salons). Instead, stock up on essentials and souvenirs in port, where your euros help the local economy.
Sprawling games of mini-golf
Three holes pocket the top Sun Deck, corralled by a 410-foot circular track. More competitive players will need to head ashore.
Traveling with ankle biters
This elegant cruise line courts adults and has no facilities or programs for children.