After much research for our first river cruise, we decided to book with Emerald. While, I usually book my own vacations, I did go through a travel agent this time as I have never been to Europe. I did book my own airfare and hotel pre-cruise but did the Emerald add-on with the hotel and transfer at the end of the cruise which was well worth the price.
My wife and I left mid-June and spent five nights in Munich before taking a train to Zurich for four nights. Using trains and trams was a new experience for us and while we were a little intimidated at first, we quickly adapted. We decided to visit the Zurich airport the day before pickup to make sure that it was easy to find the pickup spot.
Pickup and transfer to the ship was easy and on time. Passengers were primarily from England, USA, Canda, but also included Ireland, Scotland, and Australia, Average age would be early 60s. We are early 50s and were on the younger side. We did see two families with teenagers. I think pricing for River Cruises, in general, makes this situation. For the price of a River Cruise, we could have done about three Caribbean cruises.
The ship was easy to navigate compared to large Caribbean ships only have three floors with one main dining area and one lounge.
The trip from Basel to Amsterdam was wonderful. We couldn't have asked for better weather! Each day we had city tours, sometimes we would have to take a bus but not all the time. All the tours were excellent and were done by local guides with the exception of Cologne which was just OK. The guides on this tour were much younger and a little inexperienced IMHO. But the tours were only two hours so we had plenty of time to do our own sightseeing if we wanted.
We had French Balcony cabin 220 which was probably the nicest cabin we ever stayed in. This was a standard balcony cabin which we paid a premium for the view and the window that slid down. However, if we do another river cruise we would opt for the lowest level and use the money saved for upgraded airfare. Other than sleeping, we really didn't spend much time in the cabin.
Breakfast had a light offering of food in the lounge area and a standard buffet with omelette station in the main dining room.
Lunch in the main dining room was buffet style as well and didn't change much from day to day. You could order off the menu which was the same items that were on the buffet which really didn't make sense with the exception of a few Classic items: steak and chicken breast and Cesar salad.
The dinner menu changed nightly with meat, fish, and vegetarian options with the Classic items also available.
Food was good but many felt that the portion sizes were too small with the exception of the Captains Farewell dinner. Same issue with dessert. We noticed the salad dressings, especially at lunch, looked and tasted watered down. I have never seen such thin blue cheese dressing, but then I am from Buffalo and we are used to thick Blue Cheese!
The late night snack at 10:30 was disappointing. It mainly consisted of leftover desserts or appetizers from earlier in the day and the portions again were small. We stayed off ship one evening for dinner in port.
Emerald includes beer and wine at lunch and dinner. Most of them were very good and the servers made sure your glass was filled. I had a wine/beer drink package for 10 Euros/day which was a great deal compared to Caribbean cruises. There was another package for around 22 Euro for spirits as well. Drinks prices are reasonable and depending upon your drinking habits, it may not be beneficial.
Bar service was fair to good with the exception of Svetlana who was the best. We usually tried to sit in her area as we knew she did a great job!
Emerald should let passengers know that there are drink packages available at check-in. While I was asked by a server if I had a drink package when I ordered my first glass of wine, a couple we met didn't know there were packages available until the last night! The packages are listed in the lounge menu book but most people usually know what they want when they walk into a bar and therefore didn't pick them up.
We didn't use the complimentary bikes or go to movie night in the pool area. The pool was nice though!
This was a great cruise and absolutely loved it. We met a lot of nice people from all over the world! While there is room for improvement, we would consider Emerald again for a future cruise. Their all-inclusive package and payment structure is the main reason why we chose them. Another company wanted full payment almost 11 months in advance which we felt wasn't reasonable.
As mentioned above, the nicest room we ever had on our 10 cruises. There is one USA plug in the bathroom.