I can certainly agree with some of the previous reviews of this ship and this particular itinerary.
We arrived on our own by train from Vienna. The instructions we received said we could not embark before 3 pm. We took a chance and went directly to the ship at around 1 PM thinking we could at least check our bags until the room was ready and do some walking on our own. When we got to the ship we were pleasantly surprised to find that lunch was being served until 3 pm. There was also an escorted walk by the Activities Director after lunch. This was appreciated but it would have been nice to have been told this in advance of our arrival. We were also not aware in advance that we were going to receive a tour of Bucharest on our departure day. They kept us busy until 3 pm when the hotel rooms were available. Again we were not informed of this until the day before and fortunately we had not arranged any tours for that day on our own.
Yes the room is noisy. We had a room on the lowest deck without a “balcony”. You know there is a noise issue when you find they have provided ear plugs. The flushing of toilets does sound like a bowling ball. Hopefully your neighbors do not flush often in the middle of the night! On the other side of the room, you can hear the scrapping of chairs above you whenever the furniture is rearranged. The problem is that the balcony portion of the room has a wood floor so anytime a chair is moved, you can hear it. Too bad they didn’t extend the carpeting over the whole room or put some tennis balls on the bottom of the chairs to prevent this. If your neighbors watch TV or talk you can also hear them. My personal solution to the noise problem is to play a white noise app on my iPhone and/or iPad. It masked out some of the noise but its hard to avoid the loud toilets.
The room came with a large umbrella and some good quality walking sticks. Storage is tight in the room but we made do with the various shelves (two in the bathroom next to the sink were kind of hidden). It would have been nice to have a place next to the door to store your room keys to avoid leaving without them. There was no instructions for the thermostat so I had to ask at reception as I wasn’t sure what all the buttons and colors meant. There was a strange large black tumbler in the bathroom. It did not look clean. I had to ask and was told it was for toothbrushes which seemed strange. I stored it out of sight.
Emerald advertises that you will receive a backpack and wallet. We did not receive ours before departure but did get a notice that they were delayed from the supplier. It is now two weeks after our cruise and we still have not received them.
We were glad to not have spent the extra money for a balcony as on this cruise it would have been almost useless. Most of the daytime cruising is not particularly scenic and can be viewed just as well from the lounge areas. When in port you are probably going to be next to the dock or another ship so there is not anything to see. However, one morning I opened the curtain and got a view of a naked lady on the ship next to us, not more than 10 feet away. She was my age, so it was not a pleasant site. If you do get a balcony, most of the time we were docked port side to the piers so the starboard side seemed to be preferable, at least for this cruise.
The port talks were not broadcast in our room. I asked the cruise director and she told me that the audio was broken and therefore they could not do it. This was an incontinence as the lounge does get fairly crowded with some people standing.
Meal service at dinner varied depending on where you sat. Some evenings it was efficient but on others it was extremely slow and drawn out. Guests at other tables were having dessert while we were still waiting for our entrees. We were almost never asked if we wanted coffee at the end of the meal. We did learn the best areas to sit if we wanted better service. The soups were salty and thin, mostly broths. The food was never hot and perhaps this is because they do not cover the plates. I did enjoy the appetizers, entrees and desserts for the most part and appreciated the smaller sizes. I had steak one night (which is available every night) and it was excellent.
Lunch in the dining room was disappointing. If you arrived at the middle of the lunch period it was difficult to find a clean, set table. If you asked a server to reset a table, it was a major undertaking that took a long time. It was also difficult to find a server to take your drink order if you did not arrive at the start of the meal time. The buffet itself was not replenished or even minimally maintained during the meal period. One day we saw nearly empty trays that were left untouched for 45 minutes. I took a picture of this and sent it to Emerald but did not get a reply. The picture is attached to this review. I mentioned this to a server and he only shrugged his shoulders. When they reset the tables, they did not replace or clean the table mats in any way. They looked dirty and unsanitary.
The tables for two were convenient but the curtains could not be easily pulled back and sometimes blocked the view. An easy fix would be to install some curtain ties. Another easy fix would be for the ID scanner that you need to use when departing and returning to the ship. The ID’s our worn on a neck lanyard but the scanner is on a pedestal that is about 4 ft tall. This means everyone has to lean over at an uncomfortable angle to scan their ID. The pedestal needs to be raised a few feet, perhaps placed on a base so that it would be easier to do the scan.
We chose Emerald particularly because of the advertised on board bikes. The Cruise Director announced that of the 20 bikes on board, 5 were broken. When we tried to sign up for the guided bike tour of Belgrade (the only one offered during the week long cruise) we could only be waitlisted as 15 passengers had already signed up. It was unclear when the list was made available and we tried to sign up just after the excursion talk finished. We talked to the Cruise Director and to her credit she was able to arrange for more bikes so that we were able to go on the excursion which was enjoyable. However, this should not have been an issue as the bike tour is heavily promoted by Emerald and I could not find any mention in the fine print that it was subject to availability. It would also be helpful if information could have been provided about bike paths/lanes that could be used on our own in the various ports. It was difficult to research this info on our own as we were not sure where we would be docked ahead of time.