We've been on river cruises with a different but well known company previously and were planning to book with them again. However, luckily for us we were tempted to try "the new kid on the block" Emerald Waterways when we ... Read More
We've been on river cruises with a different but well known company previously and were planning to book with them again. However, luckily for us we were tempted to try "the new kid on the block" Emerald Waterways when we realised that we could cruise 15 days for the price of 7 or 8 on the other line. We were so happy with this decision as the cruise was absolutely first class with the second part along the Danube, which we had not previously considered, being our favourite portion of the trip.
More importantly high rainfall and consequently high water levels meant that only the very modern and well designed Emerald ships could cope with river conditions.
We called our captain "the Master of Limbo". With it's clever, state of the art design features, "The Emerald Dawn" was able to fully retract it's superstructures flush with the sun deck. In addition the crew could take water on-board as ballast enabling Emerald Dawn to lower itself in the river, so that we could shimmy under low bridges with just millimetres to spare even in flood conditions. Other River Cruisers were stuck, and in both directions up and down stream, their passengers either had to transfer/swap ships or were kept moored up and bussed to their various port destinations by coach.
Everyone on board the "Emerald Dawn" (bit of a mouthful -who names these ships????) was fantastic. The "no tipping" (or tipping included in the price) protocol means that all crew really work as a team. There are no rivalries or jealousies and it makes for a lovely atmosphere on board. Our tour director Karla was absolutely amazing and everything ran like clockwork. Her advice and judgement to be totally trusted if you are lucky enough to have her on your trip. She knows this itinerary inside out. Her port talks were excellent and if you get the chance to hear her personal experience of growing up and living in the Flanders battlefields of WW1 don't miss it. Also not to be missed if you are fit enough, the hill walks, Nurenberg's Documentation Centre, the 32km bike ride through the Wachau Valley (get fit in advance if need be) and the trip to Cesky Krumlov.
Oh and we adored the tea with a Slovakian family. Our hosts had a Scottish son-in-law and were so delighted to invite us into their home and tell us all about their lives - including their time under Communist rule. It was a really charming and informative insight into their world. We added four days in Budapest but it really wasn't long enough, so more trips to Czech, Slovakia and Hungary are planned.
The boat itself. Best bits. Beautiful calm colour scheme throughout, lots of mirrors and reflective surfaces all immaculately clean. Suit even anyone with OCD. The pool with it's terrific swimming current and the lovely glass walled pool lounge area? The excellent Food All Allergies are catered for really well. A menu is provided (even for self service buffet) and any foods that you can't have are highlighted with grey so that you can focus instead on what you can have - which I found was easy and very positive. Chef will always cater to special requests too - there are always lots of alternatives.
Some "local" recipes/cheeses/foods/drinks on the menu representative of each region traversed. On trips we really appreciated the individual radio receivers/earphones that picked up the guide who used a radio transmitter. It means that you can hear really well even if you wander off a bit, and really improves the feel of a guided tour because the guide talks in a normal speaking voice.oh and the Emerald umbrellas. They seemed to work as insurance because whenever we took them they weren't needed. There are alternatives on the tours to, to cater for different levels of fitness.
There were "highlight moments" both on the tours and on board that Karla, the Captain and the crew really know how to make memorable for their guests, and we appreciated the care and commitment to the best possible guest experience that they all strived to ensure.
Ten out of ten for the fantastic onboard Barbecue too.
The crew are mostly from Eastern Europe and mostly young. All are extremely hardworking , conscientious, friendly and polite.
Other passengers were mostly Aussies, there were some Canadians, a couple of US citizens, one person from Ireland and a few couples from UK. all great and all English speaking.
Really our only complaint is with the amount of marketing.
We booked through River Voyages.com and now receive brochures from them, the cruise line we previously booked with and Emerald, and between the three we can be sure of getting something in the mail virtually every working day!
Sadly we are not that rich or we'd have booke Emerald the next day.
So please guys no more now until 2017 Thanks x Read Less