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Emerald Star
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
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By Dori Saltzman
Cruise Critic Senior Editor

Emerald Star Overview

Affordable, comfortable, friendly -- these are just some of the words that can be used to describe a European river cruise on Emerald Star. Part of Emerald Waterways -- the more value-oriented sister company to the more luxurious Scenic -- the ship seems more relaxing and laid back than many of its counterparts on Europe's waterways.

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About Emerald Star


Laidback onboard experience; fantastic wall-sized windows that open in cabins


No evening entertainment to speak of, little enrichment and food is not a highlight

Bottom Line

Friendly vibe combined with lots of inclusions make for a value-oriented way to see Europe

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One of the first things you'll notice about Emerald Star is how comfortable it feels. Decor is modern, almost IKEA-like in its sleek simplicity; there are no bold patterns to overwhelm the senses, no period-piece furniture you're afraid to sit on. The lounge, which stretches half the length of the boat and is the hub for all activity onboard, is decorated in shades of black, white and gray with colorful pops of bright pink chairs. There are plenty of comfy couches and armchairs to sit in and watch the scenery go by, chat with other cruisers, read a book or play cards with new friends.

The friendliness of the crew and your fellow passengers just add to the comfortable feeling. Wait staff, bartenders, the guest services folks and the cruise director are always smiling, always ready to lend a hand or ask how your day was. Passengers tend to be down to earth, there's no dress code (so no one is judging!) and with open seating at all meals, it's easy to meet other people. Emerald draws many Australians, so the ship can feel boisterous at times, unusual on a river cruise.

Another standout feature of a cruise on Emerald Star is its affordability. There are many inclusions, from daily excursions to unlimited Wi-Fi and, most impressively, all gratuities -- both onboard and on land, meaning you never need to worry about having extra money on hand to tip a tour guide in a local port. Complimentary drinks (both soft and alcoholic) are poured liberally at lunch and dinner; if you want to drink at other times, prices are high but if you can hold out until mealtimes you can get plenty to drink.

Also included onboard are bikes for passengers to use when in port and -- rather unusually for a riverboat, a beautiful back-of-the-boat infinity pool -- a particularly popular spot when sailing between ports. In 2019, Active Managers will be brought onboard to help faciliate staying active, with yoga and Pilates classes, as well as aqua aerobics. 

Our biggest disappointments on Emerald Star came from the sometimes limited time in ports (most visits were a half day) and the mostly non-existent onboard enrichment and entertainment. With so much time on the boat and not a lot to do, we heard that naps quickly became a favorite pastime on any afternoon we weren't docked.

Fellow Passengers

Emerald Star attracts mostly retired Australians and North Americans, both from the United States and Canada, as well as a smattering of folks from the United Kingdom. At least 50 percent of the passengers are from Australia, unless an itinerary is only one week (and not just a one-week subset of a longer cruise) in which case there will be more folks from North America and the United Kingdom. Passengers are well-traveled, social and generally affable. The average age is between 65 and 70 years old; during the height of the summer the demographic skews toward the lower end of the range, while at the start and end of the season, it skews older.

Emerald Star Dress Code

There's not much of a dress code on Emerald Star. The only items not allowed in the dining room during dinner are shorts and flip-flops (though we did see men in shorts during dinner). During the day you'll see lots of shorts (both men and women), with men donning T-shirts and collared or button-up short sleeve shirts and women in blouses and a smattering of T-shirts. In the evening, many women change in to casual dresses, though you'll also see plenty of women in dress pants or capris. Most men wear trousers and button-up shirts.

Emerald Star Inclusions

Emerald river cruise fares are somewhat inclusive with all gratuities, transfers and Wi-Fi included. One two- to four-hour excursion in each port is provided free of charge, and in one port per one-week cruise, a second active tour option is also offered for no extra charge. (All walking excursions always have a gentle walking option for those who can't do a longer tour.) Drinks, alcoholic and soft, are complimentary at lunch and dinner. One 1.5-liter bottle of water is also available in your cabin each day. (You'll find more water, including plastic bottles perfect for taking out on excursion, by the pool and in the small gym.)

A limited number of bikes are also available at no extra charge.

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Emerald Star Ship Stats

  • Crew: 47
  • Launched: 2014
  • Decks: 4
  • Passengers: 182
  • Registry: Malta
Emerald Star Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 1.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.5 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0

Emerald Star Member Reviews

Emerald Star
Fred Hartland
Sail Date: Jun 2018
We choose this river cruise over other companies because of the off ship activities it offered - guided cycling and walking. This was our first river cruise I was impressed with the well thought design of the...Read More
Emerald Star
Sail Date: Apr 2018
I have a lot to say, but I will try and keep it short! I did this cruise as a FAM trip for selling quite a bit of Emerald as a Travel agent with Flight Centre, and it was one of the best experiences I have ever...Read More
Emerald Star
Sail Date: Apr 2018
After research on river cruises on Cruise Critic we chose the Emerald line because of great reviews and the added bonus of not worrying about tipping and additional costs. Since this was our first river cruise it...Read More
Emerald Star
Sail Date: Sep 2017
I chose Emerald because the Emerald Star is only two years old and the tip for the crew is included in the total price. The ship was spotless and unseemly quiet. The crew pleasantly went out of their...Read More

Emerald Waterways Fleet