Better known for its fleet of contemporary river ships, Australian-owned Emerald Cruises has embarked on its first venture into ocean cruising using its own, custom-designed superyachts. The 100-passenger Emerald Azzurra is the first, to be followed in 2023 by identical sister Emerald Sakara.
Although it’s 361 feet long, Azzurra looks tiny from the outside – like a sleek, private yacht, with a long, elegant bow and clean lines. Inside, the yacht is a vision of boutique chic, all muted shades of charcoal, cream, white and taupe, with a lot of chrome and glass, banks of glossy plants breaking up the minimalist vibe.
Everywhere you turn, there are touches of superyacht luxe, from the shimmering infinity pool to the double cocoon loungers, jauntily striped Missoni Home towels and robes and clearly expensive fittings, like the covetable, Italian-made Moooi chairs in the Amici Lounge, and plush, velvet-covered ottomans. Even the three tenders have been custom-designed and are tucked away in their own garage.
But while Emerald Azzurra has the look and feel of a superyacht, what’s interesting is that it’s priced one level below the established luxury lines like Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club and its own sister line, Scenic.
How? Because you won’t find butlers, multiple places to dine, free-flowing champagne (unless you buy a drinks package) and vats of caviar on board. What you will find is an exceptionally beautiful ship with accommodation that punches way above its weight, excellent food, quality water toys, a friendly, multinational crew, and a great deal of deck space.
Most importantly, you’ll step off the ship and straight into town in the vast majority of ports. Emerald Azzurra is so petite that it can dock along with the other superyachts, rather than being banished to a commercial cruise port. To many passengers, this is one of the ship’s biggest selling points.
Emerald Azzurra is so compact that it’s easy to get around. Cabins and suites are spread over decks 3, 4, 5 and 6, with two elevators connecting all passenger areas.
Deck 3 is occupied by the main public spaces; the La Cucina restaurant, the Amici lounge and Reception. Both lounge and restaurant offer fine sea views and La Cucina has a spacious aft deck where breakfast, lunch and dinner can be taken if you bag a table – there are no table reservations.
The infinity pool and Aqua Pool Cafe are on Deck 6, while the prime sunbathing area is up on Deck 7, by the jacuzzi and al fresco Sky Bar.
There’s an almost hidden Observation Lounge forward on Deck 4, with outdoor seating as well and a large foredeck where outdoor yoga takes place.
The spa and gym are tucked away on Deck 2, where there’s also access to the watersports platform and the tender embarkation area.
Emerald Azzurra has 50 rooms, eight of which are suites. Cabins come in seven categories, all of which include a balcony apart from the six Oceanview Staterooms on Deck 3.
The fanciest rooms on the ship are the two enormous Owner’s Suites, forward on Deck 6 and measuring an almost unimaginable 1,192 square ft, which includes a vast balcony. Three pairs of further suites include, in descending order of size, two Yacht Suites, two Terrace Suites and two Deluxe Balcony Suites.
If outside space matters to you, the Terrace Suites have the same sized bedroom as the standard Balcony Suites, but face aft and have huge balconies, big enough for a day bed, lounger and footstall and dining table. A living wall of green plants is due to be added to each the suite balconies.
Cabins to avoid are 301 and 302, the smallest Oceanview Staterooms on the ship, slightly narrower than those next door as they’re located towards the taper of the bow.
There are just two places to dine, the elegant, chrome-and-glass La Cucina restaurant, which has a spacious deck for those who prefer to eat al fresco, and the small Aqua Pool Café, for breakfast and lunch.
Food is Mediterranean-inspired, with a few Asian twists, and is generally healthy and beautifully presented. There’s plenty of choice; breakfast and lunch are extensive buffets, while dinner is waiter-served, with an always-available menu for those with more conservative tastes. Expect delicately presented starters, made to order pasta dishes, a decent choice of mains (always featuring meat, fish and vegetarian options) and decadent desserts.
Tip: For a light lunch, try the tasty flatbreads in the Aqua Pool Café. They’re made fresh, to order, and come with 10 different combinations of toppings.
For the most up-to-date testing, masking, and vaccination requirements aboard Emerald Azzurra, please refer to Emerald Cruises or refer to Cruise Critic's protocol article for the most up to date information.
• All meals (there are no specialty restaurants)
• Red, white or rose wine or beer poured with lunch and dinner
• Specialty coffee
• Filtered water, left in glass flasks in the cabins every day and available in the Amici Lounge
• Tea and coffee in the Amici Lounge and Observation Lounge
• Four or five excursions per week, usually walking tours or hikes
• One EmeraldPLUS experience, usually a cultural performance
• Captain’s welcome and farewell cocktail party
• Self-service laundry, steam and ironing
• Yoga, stretch and Pilates classes
• Use of water toys
• Use of e-bikes
• Basic Wi-Fi
• Bar drinks, unless you buy a package
• DiscoverMORE excursions
• Drinks and snacks from the minibar
• Spa treatments
Passengers tend to be at the younger end of the cruising spectrum, from 40s to 60s. They're active, adventurous, and firmly committed to smaller ships. Many have cruised with Silversea, Seabourn and Regent before, or Emerald’s sister line, Scenic. Nationalities are typically American, Canadian, British, and Australian. Most travel as couples; you'd have to be very sociable as a solo if you wanted to make friends as there aren't any organized solos' activities. Emerald is LGBTQ+ friendly, and there were several gay couples on our cruise.
While families are not unwelcome, Emerald Azzurra isn't the best environment for kids. There are no activities for youngsters and the pool and jacuzzi aren’t really suitable for younger kids. The ship would, however, be fun for multigenerational groups with teens who didn't need constant entertainment.
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Trying the Azzurra Yacht compared to River Cruises