Some of our lovely customers – Marjorie and Bob Hewiitt – have recently returned from a wonderful European river cruise on the Rhine, with the brilliant Emerald Waterways. Luckily for us they were kind enough to share their thoughts about the experience in this helpful and authentic review.
The following comments are honest, and include opinions gathered from the many other passengers who we came into contact with on our cruise. River cruising is a far more intimate affair than deep sea cruising in large ships, and the Emerald Dawn held just 180 passengers as opposed to the several thousand in a deep sea cruise ship. This meant that we not only enjoyed repeated contact with our fellow passengers, but formed good friendships with a number of like-minded people. If anything, however, it was a common view that this ship was a little too large and many passengers reported a preference for smaller ships with say 100 guests.
It was clear however that the vast majority of passengers were very happy with the holiday, and with the general management of the ship. In fact we only met one passenger who was unhappy with his holiday, but his main complaint seemed to be that it suffered in comparison with a more expensive experience. Perhaps it would help if I broke down the different elements of the holiday separately.
The Emerald Dawn is a relatively new ship, and this showed in the general condition of the fittings. In fact we have to say that it was absolutely the cleanest vessel we have yet travelled in. Everything was sparkling clean from cabins to common areas. Robert, the hotel manager, deserves much praise for his attention to detail and for the incredible attitude of his employees. Bali, our cabin steward, kept the place spotless without being in any way obtrusive.
The management of the ship was excellent. The captain and crew were highly professional and provided a smooth and trouble free experience. One, and possibly the greatest attribute, was the incredible energy and humour of Alexander Berger - the cruise director. He seemed to be involved in everything, and kept things moving seamlessly through the day. His commentary on the afternoon when we passed the castles on our way to the Lorelei was very informative and amusing. His two evening events, one a form of dance bingo and the other a game of lies, were a triumph. He really got everyone involved and a good time was had by all. He definitely deserves a high level of praise, as do the staff on the reception desk who worked tirelessly to resolve any query which arose.
We thought this went seamlessly, but there was some criticism that we had to spend many hours in the lounge awaiting the message that our cabins were ready. I think many passengers would have spent the afternoon in Amsterdam had they known, but felt it necessary to stay in the lounge until called for.
The organisation for getting off the boat was brilliant. Once again Alex was to the fore moving cases from cabin to bus. We went down to breakfast at 7am, and there he was beavering away with luggage; what an asset to the ship, he truly deserves a medal.
The general opinion was that the food onboard was excellent. Of course individual customers noted that they had enjoyed better previously, but it always transpired that they were comparing it with more expensive holidays. There was some irritation with the queues at breakfast particularly when a queue for one item meant joining another one for additional items. A little further thought may be helpful if a solution could be found which removed the need to join multiple queues. We coped with this by arriving in good time, and joining different queues with one getting toast and eggs while the other dealt with other items such as bacon and sausages, etc. These are small things however, and I have only mentioned them as the issue was raised by many of our fellow passengers. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed all the meals and found the restaurant staff to be extremely helpful and attentive. In short; full marks for food from us.
These were well-organised and very interesting. On the whole the guides were good, but the lady who looked after us on the final day in Strasbourg was exceptional. The coaches were well-appointed and very clean, and the drivers were careful and helpful.
The entertainment onboard was relatively low-key compared with the shows provided on the large ocean going cruise ships. Nevertheless, the cruise director Alex did a great job on a number of occasions. A violinist came onboard one day and two classical singers on another. The resident pianist, Benny, did a great job and proved to be a popular member of the team. Given the size of the ship the entertainment was perfectly adequate and once again the cruise director proved his worth.
We have enjoyed a significant number of cruise holidays, both deep sea and river. This was one of the best. As we have already noted, the ship was quiet and clean and the staff were ever helpful and courteous. The food was excellent and the entertainment wholly adequate. Our fellow passengers were similar to ourselves. There were no children onboard, a ‘leisure’ option was provided for excursions, there was no abuse of alcohol or any gratuitous noise. All passengers arrived on time for excursions and the whole experience was one of respect and calm.
This is definitely a holiday which I would recommend to anyone looking for a river cruise; we have no complaints to report and would be happy to use Emerald Waterways again. In fact, we are already booked onto a cruise on the Douro River next May and are looking forward to that.
If Marjorie and Bob have inspired you, take a closer look at the places you could discover on a Rhine river cruise.