We sailed on our first river cruise a few weeks ago. We were scheduled to be on the Emerald Destiny but owing to some port issues, we sailed on the Star instead. I was originally a bit disappointed only because Destiny is a newer vessel. ... Read More
We sailed on our first river cruise a few weeks ago. We were scheduled to be on the Emerald Destiny but owing to some port issues, we sailed on the Star instead. I was originally a bit disappointed only because Destiny is a newer vessel. However, the Star and its crew exceeded all our expectations. There were 7 in our group - celebrating my upcoming birthday - the ages ranged from 27 - 68. And we are a fairly tough bunch to impress - several of us had traveled fairly extensively - but a wonderful time was had by all.
Vessel - was sparkling clean, well-maintained and we had no complaints. We were in the lower staterooms which were nicely-sized, well-appointed and had large windows. On several occasions we were beside port walls or other boats and were glad we didn't spend more on balcony rooms. We had plenty of space for our belongings and stowed the suitcases under the bed. Around mid-week, we had some occasional noise from the area below but it was easily blocked if needed overnight, by the provided earplugs. I used these on 2 nights. Others did not use them and had no issues with noise. Room was services twice a day - always clean and tidy. Loved the aesthetic which was modern and on the "glam" side. Lots of chrome and contemporary touches. Tasteful throughout. Lots of space to spread out and not crowded for dining or port talks in the lounge. There is a small gym, small pool, massage room and salon, on board. The top deck is very comfortable for viewing the beautiful scenery while traveling between ports during the day and at night.
Staff -- we can't say enough about the stellar staff on this vessel. Everyone was very, very good. These folks know hospitality and take pride in their work. The cruise director, Geanina, was beyond excellent. Calm, cool and professional at all times and handled all issues with care and consideration - making special accommodations for us several times. Communication was thorough and timely throughout the week. Ziggy (overall manager) went above and beyond on several occasions for us and Constantin (dining manager) checked in routinely to make sure everyone was happy. Kris, our main server made the cruise special for all of us. His attention to detail, good humor and commitment to his work was obvious. Exceptional focus that made for a truly memorable celebration. Martin was more behind the scenes but did a wonderful job keeping our stateroom in great shape.
Food -- We enjoyed the food very much. As others have noted, they are a bit heavy with the salt in the soups on occasion but overall, we thought the choices, preparation and presentation were all very, very good. We also had several folks with food restrictions and they were fantastic making sure everyone's needs were met. We had a few foodies with us and they were impressed with many of the meals. The wines were paired nicely and were of good quality. And they are generous with pours. Snacks and tea in the afternoons and coffee, tea, hot chocolate and cookies available at all times in the lounge.
Outings - guides were all very good and met or exceeded expectations at all ports. Outings left on time and returned on time. We added on the concert in Vienna and the Salzburg trip - both were terrific. We had two classically trained musicians (voice and instrumental) with us and I was a bit anxious about the concert - but we were all very, very impressed with the quality of the instruments and voices. Top notch performances in a stunning space with amazing acoustics. A very special private evening in Vienna.
Ports - we loved them all (Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Durnstein, Melk, Passau (we opted for Salzburg) and Regensburg. They provided a wonderful variety of sizes, beauty and "vibe." The low water levels in the Danube prevented us from getting to Nuremburg but the captain got us to Regensburg so we would not miss a port and then took us back to Passau for disembarkation. Above and beyond.
Specific pluses - we did not have to deal with taking lots of extra cash for gratuities for the various staff and tour guides. EW puts all of the gratuities in the cost of the trip - yay!!! We did provide a little extra to a couple of folks on the ship. We are already planning our next trip - it will be on Emerald Waterways (or Scenic).
Negatives - nothing on the cruise. We would prefer a bit more communication in the months leading up to the trip. I never got a deadline for providing all the info for passengers and that was a bit hectic and last minute when I got a call saying I needed to get the info in within a day. But generally, the negatives were minor and our interactions in booking went well.
Truly a delightful trip full of lifetime memories for our family - thank you, Emerald Waterways! Read Less