This value-focused, Australian-owned line burst onto the European river cruise scene in 2014, making waves with its contemporary, 182-passenger "Star-Ships" with such unusual features as a glass-enclosed swimming pool that converts into a movie theater at night.
What We Love
Cutting-Edge Design: Belly up to the lighted, club-style ebony bar in the lounge for a martini, push a button in your stateroom to create a French balcony, take a swim in the heated pool with retractable roof, borrow an iPad to surf the Web. If you want contemporary features on a river ship, you'll find them here.
There Is Nightlife: With party-loving Australians on board, there is a late-night disco scene. Folks hit the dance floor to a nostalgic playlist that includes the Village People's "YMCA" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." After 10 pm, the crew even serves snacks to keep everyone energized.
Best Known For
Value: Emerald's whole premise is affordability. Included in the cruise fare are excursions that go beyond a quick city tour and all gratuities. You also get the standard river cruise perks: wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner, unlimited coffee drinks, and free — though not always fast — Wi-Fi.
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Who It's Best For
Older Travelers: The value pricing is attracting more Brits than anyone else, and older English travelers can be quiet. On many sailings, a few dozen or more Australians liven the scene. Americans and Canadians will find themselves in the minority, as will anyone under age 55.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Food Is Just Okay: Each evening during cocktail hour in the lounge, the chef proudly presents his featured dish of the day: a plate of, say, venison, passed around for everyone to see and smell. Otherwise, the food is not memorable, and vegetarians may be disappointed by the daily veggie entrée.
Fran Golden is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.