I must point out that we are not reviewing this trip as experienced conventional cruise travellers. A conventional sea cruise on a large ship with "entertainment", long periods at sea, crowds etc is the nearest thing to hell on ... Read More
I must point out that we are not reviewing this trip as experienced conventional cruise travellers. A conventional sea cruise on a large ship with "entertainment", long periods at sea, crowds etc is the nearest thing to hell on holiday that we could imagine.
We booked this first cruise because we wanted to spend sample time at the advertised destinations, and with that objective in mind Emerald came out a clear winner on price and facilities, in particular the contemporary design of the ships which we saw as a refreshing alternative to the very conventional and crusty looking competition. We hoped that the service offered matched the design i.e. was highly competent, stylish and customer oriented, without being fawning.
Our holiday tastes are luxury without pretension, with first rate service and good value.
Our cruise was the Amsterdam to Budapest "Splendours of Europe" cruise over 15 nights.
I won't cover the itinerary - it is on the Emerald web site in full detail. Suffice to say there were interesting off-ship opportunities every day, sometimes several, all included in the price. On some days there were additional longer trips for an extra charge. We took several of these, and they were excellent and good value for money.
The accommodation was, to a confirmed 4/5 star hotel traveller (accommodation/service based, not pretention/frilly curtains based), quite simply excellent. Contemporary, stylish, very comfortable, very well designed, and in perfect condition. We were lucky enough to be able to afford one of the 4 top-level suites, but all that gave us was extra space and some extra inclusive services - the facilities were the same in every room that we saw. Our ship was the Emerald Sun, on its second cruise (new carpet smell!), but all four ships appear to be the same. I won't list the excellent facilities - again they are on the Emerald web site.
Maintenance was excellent - we could observe constant maintenance, and contrasted the results several times with the competitors' ships which we saw, some at very close quarters.
But the highest point was the staff. Quite simply exceptionally good. Highly professional, excellently trained, cheerful and friendly at all times, always there to help but never intrusive, and efficient to a high degree. You can see from my other reviews that I am critical of anything less that the highest service levels (again, based on service and not pretention), but this group were a cut above the best I have seen anywhere - congratulations to the Emerald trainers and managers.
River cruising seems to be expensive compared to sea cruising, due mainly I guess to scale. Looking after 160 customers with just under 50 staff is not cheap, and use of the Rhine and Danube facilities cannot be cheap either. But if you want a truly memorable blow-out holiday in Europe, Emerald seems to us to be the way to go. We are hoping to do another Emerald cruise soon. Read Less