We are regular ocean cruisers, but were hesitant about river cruise, wondering what it was like, whether it would be too small etc. This review will cover the excellent and maybe some other aspects you may wish to consider.
We traveled on the Danube, joining the Destiny at Budapest and finishing at Passau.
We had a lower cabin with restricted view. We flew back via Munich.
So arrival and embarkation was fine. Emerald arrange everyone to collect from various planes so we had about 30 mins wait before going on the bus to the ship. Getting on was very straight forward. The river water was low and someone tripped and the slope was quite steep, however the low water meant that not all ships following us got through. So whilst good weather is often an advantage I will be looking to see if there are exceptionally low water conditions as part of my planning - This was chosen at the last minute.
We don't normally do trip but short trips were included in the price, these help orientate us in whatever town or village we were in and were great. We also had some really great entertainment, for example, in Vienna, we went to the Arsenal (a war museum) one evening, for bubbly and in this venue we were entertained by a Strauss music concert and lieder, then a Q&A and dance routines by Vincent and Flavia (ex-Strictly Come Dancing fame), ex-world champion Argentine Tango dancers. They gave us a dance lesson the next day and were very funny and charming.
Other on-board entertainment was local and maybe not to everyone's taste. There is no real room for dancing (a postage stamp of a dance floor), it's not really that type of trip.
The food was excellent, with local delicacies on offer each evening. There is only one set time for dinner, however no fixed seating, so if you end up sitting with someone you don't like, you can avoid them the second time. the average cruiser appeared to be older active person (there's often quite a bit of walking in the orientation trips). The Austrian and Bavarian villages often have old uneven pavements and can be on hills. They also offer free bike excursions (or you can simply borrow a bike). The weather was exceptionally hot and many destinations don't have air-conditioning, so if going at a hot time of year bring a fan! The ship, however, is just right, neither too hot nor cold.
We first thought of buying an upgrade to a balcony, but this was rather expensive. We are glad we didn't as often those with windows couldn't see out as on canals and rivers, other ships have a habit of tying up against you at night, so it would be only of benefit when cruising during the day. The horizon lounge offered great views and some people spent the cruising time on the top deck. It did not feel crowded, even at lunch time and no long queues or aimlessly trying to find a seat as we have done in ocean going vessels. The food was surprisingly good with options of Hungarian, Austrian and Bavarian dishes on offer as you went through those countries. Wine and beer included at lunch and dinner.
The cabin was fine, and as I didn't need to bring formal wear, there was plenty of storage space. Ladies did dress up slightly on some evenings, but not as formal as on larger ships. It was too hot to wear a jacket, so smart/casual trousers and shirt was fine for evening.
There was a slight whoosh, from the toilets as they flushed (powerful flush!) and sometimes you would hear this in the mornings, but no-one else seemed to notice. Shower was excellent.
The only slight niggle was disembarkation and being at the airport four hours before our flight (which ended up being delayed by 1.3 hours, missing our connection, necessitating a 12 hour overall door-to-door journey- not Emerald's fault but we will add on some days at the end on our next cruise.) The destinations were interesting, beautiful and allowed for enough cruising/visiting time. Almost wanted to do a back-to-back as every destination was worthy of more time spent in it.
Service was exceptional in all departments.
It was our first river cruise and won't be our last!
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