This was our first river cruise. We boarded after 3 days in Amsterdam, which is a great city, by the way. It was well worth the extra time. We had a little trouble finding the ship as the one we were to board had been replaced by a sister ship. It was a twin, however, and offered a very similar venue and service. We were greeted with a nice drink, lunch and an easy check-in. The next couple hours were for unpacking and exploring the amenities. All was as advertised. The Emerald Sun is only about two years old, quite beautiful and offers all the modern amenities. My wife enjoyed the pool and exercise room, while I enjoyed the running track on the top deck and the sun chairs on sunny days.
Over the next 15 days we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful, especially Yana who was the coordinator for all things touristy. I don't think Yana slept and was exceptional in a minor crisis when we were not able to pass under a bridge. She organized our stay in Vienna in a 5 Plus star hotel and arranged transfers, tours, meals, etc. without incident. She was exceptional to the very end.... of our trip....not us. Robert, the ship coordinator, was also very organized and always there to wave goodbye upon our departures and greet us upon our return. All of the staff were exceptional.
The food was very good in my estimation. There were smorgasbord style meals for breakfast and lunch, and a gourmet meal in the evening. The staff moved meal times to accommodate our various activities and were always generous with the wine that was regional with our approximate location. The tables were placed so that those who wished to socialize could do so, and the more isolated types could isolate. There was also a more limited meal in another area for breakfast and lunch that offered peace and quiet, albeit a limited selection. I, personally, enjoyed the peace and quiet. My one complaint about the meals would be that the gourmet dinner took about two hours. I enjoy such a meal about once a week, but every night is a bit much for me. The food was of very high quality throughout.
Our cabins were bright and clean with our trusty cabin keeper, Widodo, always available at any hour with a ready smile and chocolates on our pillow before bed time. I don't think any of the staff slept. The full wall of windows in our room provided a great view of the world as it flowed by, and the open air feature was wonderful on warm and sunny days. Sometime we were just happy to sit in our room and view Europe pass by, as if we were watching a travelogue.
There were tours almost daily and extra tours if you wanted to pay a bit more. These were well organized and interesting with knowledgable leaders in each port. One could also opt out of an organized tour and create your own. As I do not always play well with others, on a couple of occasions I used the provided bicycles and toured villages along the route by myself, stopping for a nice coffee or local brew, feeling like one of the locals. The bikes were probably expensive but not a style I would have chosen. They did do the job however. Yana was very knowledgeable about almost everything and provided lectures on various subjects such as: coffee, facts and history about certain regions, and her end of the evening jokes weren't too bad either. Several times local entertainment was brought in to give us a taste of the local culture, such as Hungarian dancers in Budapest and an amazing violinist in Vienna.
Although there were many highlights of the trip, the two that remain most outstanding in our minds was the private evening concert in Vienna in a room where Beethoven had once conducted a symphony, and the visit to a Slovakian village and the home of a Slovakian family. I came away realizing that we are all part of a world family no matter where we live. Good people are everywhere.
In summary, this was an excellent experience. I would chose Emerald anytime, and would promote Yana to CEO.
Clean, quiet, fairly well appointed for a ship, and a great window. I would probably get a little bigger cabin next time.