We booked an elegant river cruise and got a mediocre bus tour.
My wife and I boarded the Emerald Sky in Amsterdam on September 29 on a scheduled 15 Day “Splendours of Europe” river cruise. This ship was a replacement for the Emerald Sun that was unable to complete it’s previous cruise due to low water levels on the Danube. We were most disappointed with the latter portion of our “cruise”. We had anticipated that we might need to be bussed from one ship to another past a shallow part of the river. We did not suspect that the last 5 days of the trip would be done by coach.
This resulted in:
• Missing some of the main attractions and events that we were looking forward to.
• Mediocre mass meals, rushed and served in overwhelmed restaurants
• Long bus rides
• The use of highway rest stops with long lines for toilet facilities
• Lengthy walks a brisk pace to get to hotels and restaurants
• Guided walks where we were unable to hear the guides due to the absence of the personal sound systems that had been left on the ship
• Considerable time spent in lines or waiting for something to happen
• Much jostling with other passengers at venues
• On the plus side, we were put up in 3 lovely Hotels
Apparently we are to be offered some financial compensation as part of a “cruise guarantee”. Both my wife and I feel that it will not make up for our disappointment at the way the cruise ended.
In my opinion, the fact that the organization and execution of these last 5 days was placed on the shoulders of the ship’s cruise director, resulted in a less than satisfactory experience. Although she was excellent whilst on the ship, running a coach tour, especially one for 138 passengers, requires a different set of skills and specific expertise.
I do not fault her, as she worked her heart out and was obviously stressed. I put the blame on the company that placed her in that position.
Again, in my opinion, Emerald should have anticipated that the ship would not be able to navigate the whole river and deployed replacement vessels as needed. If they could not provide the cruise as advertised, they should have cancelled it and offered us other options. Low water on the rivers had been an issue all summer. I feel that decisions about this cruise were not made with customer service as a priority. As a result, we were left with a very poor opinion of Emerald/Scenic.
We enjoyed the first few days on the Sky.
We had several excursions where the leaders were exceptional and injected their talks on history and architecture with humour and personal antidotes. Other guides seemed to be intent on providing the group with as much information that they could fit into an hour- long march through the centre of town.
I really enjoyed my bicycle excursion through the Dutch countryside on the first day of the cruse and was looking forward to several more as the trip progressed.
Meals are provided in the aptly named “Reflections Restaurant”. A light breakfast and lunch is available in the upper floor lounge. Dinner is table service while breakfast and lunch are buffet style. We found that the service staff were attentive and friendly. The food was well prepared and there were a variety of menu choices, Wine and beer were served at lunch and dinner in unlimited quantities. Some of us found that the wines offered were only of average quality.
We found one major fault with the dining room. It was incredibly noisy. We found our selves almost shouting to be heard by our dinner companions – it was apparent that others were in the same situation, which added to the din. The previously mentioned hard glossy surfaces that adorned the room seemed to reflect every sound. Tables were set up so that conversations and laughter carried the length of the room. The bright, high key lighting did nothing to mute the voices of those who tended to be loud. The atmosphere was more akin to a dining hall than “fine dining”
The “Reflections” dining room needs some serious work on acoustics the next time this ship is in refit.
The other public areas were well laid out and there was a nice outdoor area at the front of the ship. The pool area at the stern was a nice quiet spot to read. I enjoyed the beverage machines that were available all day with a variety of coffees and teas. Having bicycles available for shore excursions was a nice touch.
The captain was very personable and was seen interacting with passengers on many occasions.
Our stateroom was a good size and well equipped with lots of storage. This class of ship has a unique vertical sliding power widow that converts part of the cabin into a balcony. The bathroom was good size. However one aspect of the room layout was unfortunate. The sliding door to the bathroom opens right beside the bed. The occupant of the left side of the bed must endure disruptions whenever the other person needs to use the facilities. A door that provided entrance from another part of the cabin would have been more comfortable.