We have travelled on Emerald before, on the Danube, two years ago, so this was our second river cruise.
We were absolutely delighted in general with almost everything about our cruise, once again. The ship was fabulous, as expected, since it was almost identical to the previous ship. Cabins, although small, are very well appointed and very comfortable.
Embarkation and disembarkation were so easy - none of the fuss that there is on ocean cruises - but of course there were only 138 passengers. It was just as easy as booking into a lovely hotel. Similarly, during the cruise, leaving and returning to the ship was very simple and quick using the name badge scanners - it is lovely being in the centre of a town or village, at the point of disembarkation.
The staff on the cruise, absolutely everyone, were fabulous - they were efficient, attentive, positive and enthusiastic - in particular the waiters were lovely, without being obsequious.
The Hotel Director, Isthvan was charming.
The captain was great fun- very visible, and very keen to engage with passengers throughout the cruise. He joined in several of the activities with enthusiasm.
Roxana, the head receptionist was delightful too.
The head of housekeeping was great fun and very enthusiastic.
However, the star of the show without doubt was Darren the Cruise Director who was spectacular. He worked so hard, throughout our entire trip, but what was even better that he managed to be efficient, organised and deliver everything with charm and enthusiasm, humour and wit. He really was an absolute pleasure. The entertainments he provided were great fun, and well received. Everything ran smoothly due to his support and guidance. Every passenger I spoke to felt the same. I hope he will receive this positive feedback.
The food was in general very good, and the evening with the guest chef was exceptional. I would comment that it is not really necessary to offer 4 - 5 courses each night - I am sure most people would agree that 3 courses is adequate, most of the time, although on occasion it is nice to make it extra special. The portion size however was good, so that even with the 4 courses it was not overload - however on most of the nights, my wife and I only ordered 3 courses. I must comment that on the one night I decided to order the steak, because I did not wish to eat off the main menu choices, the steak did NOT come as ordered ( medium) - I complained to the waiter, who immediately took it away, very pleasantly, and informed me that the chef was making a new one for me. The Head Chef himself came out a few minutes later with a new steak, was extremely apologetic, and wanted to check I was happy with the new one which he had personally cooked for me. It was perfect. It was a shame it happened, but it was dealt with perfectly, resolving the issue. Andreaa the restaurant manager was engaging, delightful and helpful throughout the cruise. A couple of constructive comments - we would have liked breakfast in the dining room to go on until 9.30am - we felt a 9am finish was too early, especially on the mornings when the included tours went out later.
We did not personally feel it was necessary to offer a cooked lunch in addition to the buffet. We only ordered it once. Perhaps just extending the buffet to include a few extra items could negate the need for the ‘cooked’ main course. But that might just be our personal preference. We thought the breakfast chef should offer seasoning on the eggs / omelettes - rather than just suggesting adding at the table - cooking with a little salt / pepper would have been appreciated (if the request of the passenger).
We loaned the ships bicycles one day for a lovely ride along the river bank - thoroughly enjoyed.
The itinerary was perhaps not quite as exciting as we might have hoped in terms of some of the towns we visited. Avignon and Arles were great, and Lyon was a great city to start the trip.
The highlight for us was the optional (paid) tour to Pont du Gard - the roman aqueduct. It was a sight never to be forgotten.
I must comment negatively about the piano entertainer, Peter, I’m afraid. He was dreadful. I have much experience of cruise piano bar entertainers, as my son used to be one. I really have no idea how Emerald employed this man. His actual piano playing was ok, but his choice of music was pretty outdated and boring. Even taking into account the age demographic of the passengers, by any standards he was poor. Once he started singing it was even worse. As an English speaking passenger base, using a foreign singer, who really doesn’t speak English well was not a good idea. He did not ‘entertain’ - he was just ‘there’. He managed to empty the room and the dance floor throughout the cruise! In addition he made no effort to engage with the passengers at any time during the week, either when ‘working’ or when around the ship - indeed he was rarely around the ship - I suspect he stayed in his cabin most of the time.
We loved the cruise, met many delightful people, and participated fully in what the ship and crew offered. It was only Peter that was the disappointment.
Thanks again Emerald for offering a wonderful cruise holiday. We will definitely travel Emerald again, and will certainly recommend it. I cannot imagine what Scenic, at higher prices, can truly offer which justifies the extra price. (We might wait a couple of years until we reach the slightly higher age demographic - my wife is only 60, and I am 62 so we were at the lower end). That is a shame, but it is reality - it might be nice to consider if you could attract a slightly younger age group?
The cabins, although on the small side, are beautifully appointed, and absolutely top class. The bathroom again small, but worked perfectly with a great shower.
The 'internal' balcony is a brilliant idea, and worked well.
Guide excellent. Town was slightly disappointing but enjoyed the tour.
Guide excellent. Loved Avignon and enjoyed the tour. Surprisingly, the guide had not intended to take us to 'Le Pont D'Avignon' until we requested it. But that might be because the non UK people on the cruise were not aware of the song, or the bridge. It was a highlight for us because it is so famous and the bridge itself, being broken, is worth seeing.