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Emerald Sun Review

Find a Emerald Sun Cruise from £1,889

Emerald Sun
4.0 / 5.0
163 reviews

Modern design in public areas and cabins, enclosed indoor pool, included gratuities
Perfunctory service; lackluster dining
Bottom Line
A good value with a contemporary feel, moderate inclusions and a casual, friendly atmosphere




Passenger to Crew


Shore Excursions
Sails To
Emerald Waterways Cruise Deals
Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Managing Editor

Emerald Sun Overview

Since its launch in 2013, Emerald Waterways has built a reputation for value river cruising on contemporary boats, with gratuities and transfers among the extras included in the fare. The 182-passenger Emerald Sun follows the line's template, with smartly designed cabins, a heated indoor pool that turns into a movie theater at night and comfortable modern decor that is attractive yet cozy enough for lounging.

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Where Emerald Sun shines is in this casualness, which never seems forced. It's a ship to kick back -- there are no frilly or formal furniture, lighting or curtains -- and no one puts on airs. The line draws an international mix of English-speaking passengers, with the dominant culture depending on the sailing. On our December holiday market cruise, the festiveness of the season was heightened by a decidedly younger demographic, bookended by a group of 30-year-old Americans celebrating the milestone birthday with their parents. We found everyone on the boat friendly, however, regardless of age. For most, Emerald Sun was their first river cruise and the consensus seemed to be that on the vessel, passengers were receiving good bang for their buck.

River cruisers who are used to a higher-end experience, however -- such as that provided by Emerald Waterways' sister company Scenic Cruises -- may be put off by some slippage in the details. Our cruise did not have enough wait staff to handle the dining room, for example, particularly during the morning and lunch rushes. Despite a later-than-usual bar scene, waited lounge service often ended rather abruptly, with no warning. Dining in general, while ambitious and interesting on paper, was underseasoned and overcooked. Shore excursion guides were not the quality you'd expect; we found the enticing draw of the Christmas markets to outweigh the commentary.

That being said, our Emerald Sun experience had some truly standout moments. We loved the cruise director Balazs, who has won line awards for his enthusiasm and service. Having a movie theater onboard (with popcorn!) provided an evening alternative to the self-important lounge singer. An included shore excursion to a private home outside Bratislava provided insight into local life. The Bavarian buffet, with beer, sausages and pretzels, won rave reviews. The line actually ran its EmeraldActive tours, such as biking the Wachau Valley and hiking to Durnstein castle, for a few hardy souls who didn't mind the frosty weather. And the boat's cheery holiday decorations -- and an awesome specialty coffee machine -- made the lounge a homey refuge from the chilliness of the air outside.

All in all, Emerald Sun makes a nice introduction to river cruising, and we suspect that some of the issues we encountered might be alleviated during the regular season (unlike some other river cruise lines, Emerald Waterways shuts down its boats between October and December, which means the Christmas Markets crews are cobbled together for a few short sailings). Considering the extras that you receive in the fare, an Emerald Sun cruise represents a great value amid attractive spaces straight from Restoration Hardware Modern that you might want to copy in your own home.  

Top Emerald Sun Itineraries

Emerald Sun
jewels of the rhine

Basel, Zurich, Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Koblenz, Cologne, Amsterdam, Amsterdam

Jewels of the Rhine

Emerald Sun

View All Emerald Sun Itineraries (29)

Fellow Passengers

Emerald Sun draws English-speaking passengers from around the world. The parent company, Scenic Cruises, is Australia-based, and so you'll always have a few people from Down Under. Emerald Waterways is big in the U.K. as well.

Age-wise, Emerald Waterways attracts a mix of couples, friends and families of adult children traveling with their parents in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Millennials on river cruises are still unusual; however, our sailing had a group of American college friends celebrating their 30th birthdays with their parents and spouses.

Emerald Sun Dress Code

Emerald Sun is decidedly casual. During the day, passengers wear T-shirts, tops and sweaters, with jeans and leggings. In the evening, women may change into a different top, but you'll still find jeans and casual pants most nights, while men might switch into a collared shirt.

Twice during the sailing, the boat has a "welcome dinner" and a "farewell dinner" that are considered more dressy. On our sailing, this usually meant women put on a festive sweater or a casual dress. A handful of men wore jackets, but they were in the minority and a jacket or tie is not required.

In Europe, you'll want to bring comfy walking shoes, as well as raincoat or winter coat and accessories, depending on the season. Emerald Sun has a small gym onboard, as well as a fleet of bikes to use, so if you want to exercise, you'll need fitness clothes. Finally, the ship has a swimming pool so don't forget your bathing suit.

Emerald Sun Inclusions 

Emerald Waterways river cruise fares have a nice range of inclusions, with gratuities and transfers included. We loved having large bottles of still and sparkling water in our cabin that were constantly replenished; you also get bottled water for excursions. At least one excursion is included in each port, and in some ports, there's an active excursion involving hiking or biking. All walking tours also have a gentle walking option; still, those with mobility issues should talk to the cruise director before heading out. Beer, wine and soft drinks are complimentary at lunch and dinner. Wi-Fi is also included.

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

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Emerald Sun Ratings

Public Rooms4.54.7
Fitness Recreation4.04
Value For Money4.54.2

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More about Emerald Sun

Where does Emerald Sun sail from?

Emerald Sun departs from Amsterdam, Budapest, Berlin, Frankfurt, Prague and Paris

How much does it cost to go on Emerald Sun?

Cruises on Emerald Sun start from £1,889 per person.

Awards and Recognition

Emerald Sun Member Reviews

Sail Date: Aug 2019
So this is our 1st time sailing on an "Emerald" ship. We found the Emerald Sun to be a very clean & comfortable.... Read More
Sail Date: Aug 2019
Emerald sun not only had a pool, cinema, gym, massage treatment but had an entertainment manager who organised yoga, pilates, zumba and other game shows to include all who wanted to join in.... Read More
Sail Date: Jun 2019
With great weather, we did enjoy the sun deck daily. Emerald has open seating for meals and it gave us an opportunity to eat and converse with many of the other cruisers.... Read More
Sail Date: May 2019
We were picked up at 2:00 and transferred to the Emerald Sun where a member of the cruise staff showed us to our room. Our room was great, crisp white lines, mirrors and a floor to ceiling window.... Read More

Emerald Waterways Fleet

Emerald Star
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

127 reviews

The 182-passenger Emerald Star is affordable, comfortable and friendly with simple, yet modern decor and pricing that includes excursions in every port.

Emerald Star Cruises to Europe View All Emerald Star Cruises
Emerald Sky

A moderately priced river cruise ship with three passenger decks that pack in plenty of facilities including a hair salon, gym, massage room and a swimming pool.

Emerald Dawn

The 182-passenger Emerald Dawn offers a contemporary decor, heated swimming pool with a retractable roof and cabins from singles to suites.

Emerald Sun

Emerald Sun is a 182-passenger, 443-foot long ship, with 92 cabins from singles to suites, and a heated pool with retractable roof.

Emerald Destiny

Emerald Destiny -- one of Emerald Waterways' signature Star Ships  -- navigates the Danube, Moselle, Rhine and Main Rivers.

Emerald Liberte

Emerald Liberte is the fifth vessel in the line's Star-Ship fleet but it's 82 feet shorter and carries a maximum 138 instead of 182 passengers.

Emerald Radiance
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

With 112 passengers, Emerald Radiance sails the Douro with plenty of amenities and Portuguese hospitality


Emerald Harmony
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

A slice of Europe on the Mekong, Emerald Harmony brings thoughtful, contemporary sailing to an adventurous region of the world.

MS Lastavica

Emerald Waterways expands its small-ship cruises on the Dalmatian Coast in 2020 with this yacht-style vessel capable of carrying 36 passengers.

MS Swallow

The first of two new vessels to sail Croatia's Dalmatian Coast for Emerald Waterways, 36-passenger MS Swallow debuts in 2019. 

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