We chose Emerald Waterways after researching 6 popular cruise lines that sailed the Rhine river, and can say that our 1st ever cruise experience was overall fantastic. The cruise lived up to our expectations, and exceeded some, in all areas except the food quality. Being all-inclusive was important to us, no worries about calculating gratuities, port fees, etc..
We loved the Swissôtel Basel that Emerald booked for us pre-cruise. All the airport to hotel / to ship transfers went smoothly and on time. We had fun exploring the city on our own for a day (and recovering from jet lag), before embarking on Emerald Sun. Lunch the first day was not included but they prepared a light buffet for us new passengers in the lounge, a thoughtful touch.
We cruised from Basel to Amsterdam over 8 days under sunny skies. Our cabin was spacious, well-designed, and like the ship itself, absolutely immaculate. The bed was the most comfortable 'hotel' bed I've ever slept in (I usually suffer bad sleep during vacations) and the attentive cabin steward saw to our every need. Top marks. The fleet is quite new, our ship was 3 years old, and are of a modern and sleek design. It featured a beautiful infinity pool at the stern, small gym, hairdresser, cinema (pool transforms for film night), huge sundeck with shade canopies and mini-putt, bicycles for excursions, large main dining room, and a bar & lounge for relaxing or to enjoy a light breakfast or lunch.
The shore excursions were included, except for one optional tour to Moselle and Cochem--which I highly recommend, it was fantastic!. We enjoyed all of the guided tours, either walking or by coach. The local guides really knew their stuff and the sites selected were interesting (and not only churches). The 'QuietVox' system let us meander about and still hear our guide. Of course one could always opt out of a tour and explore individually, or stay and relax on ship.
With all that was wonderful, the very ordinary food was a disappointment. I don't know if the wait staff was new, but they lacked polish and some never smiled at the guests. The service varied greatly and the food quality & preparation was . . . okay. Not the high standard I was expecting of Emerald. We had to return a fish dish, it was hard, dry and tasteless. A fellow diner returned some veal that was all gristle. We were only told on day 3 that we could order from a menu at lunch, as well as partake of the buffet. This would have helped. Everyone we met complained of the small portions served at the evening meal—2 or 3 bites of the meat or fish, a couple of tablespoons of rice or potatoes, and a few vegetable bits. Very artsy but not enough to fill 5 year old child. One meal featured mashed potatoes dyed Smurf blue???
The white and red wines offered with the meals were rarely from the regions we were travelling through, but mainly Austrian or Slovakian. Mediocre quality, and the white served at room temperature. On the last day I discovered there were other wines one could have, despite me asking a waiter earlier in the week if they had a German Riesling since we were in the Rhine Valley. The wait staff did not seem to all have the same information. Training?
However, the salads were good and varied, and they offered wonderful cheeses and bread. I ate a lot of bread. The 2 soups I tried were extremely salty so I had to give them a pass. The desserts were commercial, not much better than supermarket quality.
Food aside, the trip was wonderful and we enjoyed the sights along the scenic Rhine. The crew was courteous and professional and the ship elegant and quiet.
Our cabin was fantastic. Well-designed, bright, and we loved the huge windows that slid down halfway. Our little balcony area was a private oasis, so nice to have a morning coffee in the fresh Rhine air. I dread hotel beds as my back is very sensitive and I usually sleep badly, but this was the most comfortable bed I've ever experienced. The climate control was great and we slept soundly. The cabin was surprisingly soundproof, I only heard footsteps early morning on the sundeck above if the crew had to tie up.
Every amenity was offered, and the cabin steward was attentive and efficient.
Marvellous old town and the guided tour was interesting and fun.
A lovely city to visit, great food and friendly people. Very clean and safe with wonderful free public transit for hotel guests.
We love the history of the Rhine valley and the guide was excellent. Castle worth the visit!View All 181 Heidelberg Castle Reviews
I enjoyed the restored Black Forest village and the cake demonstration was an eye-opener. It looked so easy and tasted great!View All 71 Black Forest Reviews
I enjoyed the old town and learning its history. Great beer!
We went in the morning and the canal wasn't too busy. Got some great photos and enjoyed the rest of the day exploring on our own. Watch out for the bikes!View All 311 Canal Tour Reviews