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A Customer Review of the Rhine with Emerald Waterways

16th July 2018

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.

 

Amsterdam

 

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 Ship

 

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.

 

Cologne

 

Embarkation

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.

 

Disembarkation

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.

 

Food

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.

 

Strasbourg

 

Excursions

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.

 

Entertainment

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.

 

Overall Impression

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.

 

Basel

 

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.


Live in Luxury with AMAWaterways

25th May 2018

We sent some of our lovely ladies out to experience the wonderful luxury onboard AMAWaterway's AmaKristina, watch the video and read the review to find out just what they thought.


 

First impressions of the Ship

 

Having only ever been on large ocean ships, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but from the moment we arrived at the port it was clear that AMAWaterways was on another level. Having only been built in 2017, AmaKristina stuck out against the other river ships with her modern and elegant exterior. Once onboard and checked in, we headed to our cabin where our luggage was already waiting for us, along with a welcome package. This included the ‘Daily Cruiser’ newsletter which features the weather forecast and itinerary, a ‘Meet the team’ leaflet featuring key staff members, and a multi-national charger adapter (which we very much appreciated!). We had a Category AB Twin Balcony stateroom and were delighted by the space (235 sq. ft), not to mention the amazing views. Having struggled with seasickness before, I was worried I would feel too closed in, but the floor-to-ceiling windows let in plenty of light and opened up the cabin space. The bathroom also had switchable glass, letting more natural light into the bathroom if desired. I would recommend this stateroom category to anyone thinking of travelling with AmaWaterways, as the size felt noticeably larger and more open than the fixed-window cabins on the Piano Deck, which would be perfect for single occupancy. The suites on the Violin Deck did have again, noticeably more space, with a sofa, double sink, and Champagne on arrival; if you were looking for a more exclusive and luxurious experience, a suite would be the choice for you – but with only four on the ship, be sure to book early!

We were also delighted to find every cabin had an iMac, providing you with TV programmes and a selection of recent films, the internet, and a music system. It was already clear that AMAWaterways is all about the small details, catering for all people and leaving you to want for nothing.

 

 

Food and Things to Do

 

During the first day we were left to do self-guided tours of the ship followed by a light lunch, including a range of bagels, soups, and dessert. I was impressed with the whole ship, from the restaurants to the spa and gym facilities, which I would definitely have made use of (along with the deck chairs and heated pool on the sun deck) had we had a longer period of time onboard. The fleet of bicycles were also a nice touch; however we weren’t fortunate with the weather so I was unable to give one of their tours a spin.

In the afternoon we had some free time to explore Amsterdam central, which was easily accessible with just a short 6 minute walk from the ship.

Upon returning to the ship, we had our welcome and safety speeches, accompanied by free-flowing Champagne, and pre-dinner canapes.

As members of the prestigious La Chaine des Rotisseurs, the dining throughout the trip was amazing and continued to demonstrate the attention to detail with incredible, colourful presentation. Each nightly menu features a ‘chef recommendation’, as well as a several-course menu with multiple options for starters, mains, and desserts. Each menu also highlights a healthy choice and a local choice, based on the itinerary of the cruise. They will also do their upmost to accommodate any dietary requirements, but I would recommend this be noted when you book. I would also recommend any of their soups; my top dish would have to be the Crayfish Bisque with puff pastry sticks.

 

 

The wine was also delicious with an extensive list and choices made to complement the daily menu.

Although the second night was a formal night, the food excelled on both evenings, and celebrations carried on post-dinner in the main lounge and bar with music entertainment.

 

Overall Experience

 

The genuinely caring and friendly service is what stood out to me, along with the attention to detail, providing facilities beyond expectations. This service extends to post-cruise, where a few weeks later I received a hand-written thank you post card from the Cruise manager, Nick. This is on top of the thank you letter posted into cabins on the day of departure. I would recommend to anyone looking for a hassle-free and luxurious trip, with top class facilities and service. As a river ship, the smaller size does call for those more social-minded or solo travellers looking to mingle with just the one indoor lounge; however, if someone was really seeking solitude, the in-cabin entertainment and twin balcony space would more than meet requirements, in addition to the sun deck space in the warmer months.

 

by Imogen Henderson

 

Find out more about AMAWaterways, or take a look at the range of cruises you could take with AmaKristina.


River vs Ocean Cruising

9th May 2018

If you’re new to cruise, or indeed have always stuck to either river or ocean cruising, you might be curious to know more about the differences between the two. The fact is, both kinds of cruising offer some incredible opportunities, but of course there are many aspects which contrast. Find out more with our overview of river vs ocean cruising.

 

 

The Destinations Visited

There aren’t many crossovers when it comes to the destinations travelled to on river and ocean cruising. While an ocean liner can sail across the seven seas transporting you to countries and islands all over the globe, river ships traverse the world’s rivers, from The Rhine in Europe to the exotic Mekong in Southeast Asia. Usually, a river cruise will allow guests the opportunity to be in a new destination every day, with the ship sailing through the night, whereas on an ocean cruise you might find one or more sea days. So depending on whether or not you’re looking to spend time relaxing on the ship, or prefer a port-heavy itinerary, this could sway your decision.

Activities on the Ship

With the above in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that ocean liners will generally offer a lot more in the way of things to do onboard than river ships. You’ll usually find a plunge pool, gym, and possibly spa facilities on a river ship, however on an ocean cruise ship there will this plus a lot more. From F1 simulators with MSC Cruises and ice rinks with Royal Caribbean, to cookery schools and Strictly Come Dancing events with P&O Cruises, there’s no denying that ocean ships offer a lot more onboard activities. This is one aspect specifically worth considering if you’ll be cruising with children.

 

 

Atmosphere Onboard

There is a certain family-friendly, excitable atmosphere on larger, mainstream ocean cruise ships that you won’t find on a river cruise ship. With more guests, – Symphony of the Seas can hold almost 7,000 – more attractions, and larger social areas, these vessels are great for kids and those looking for fun and thrills. Alternatively, if you want to relax and soak up the surroundings and local culture, a river cruise could be the better option. With a much lower passenger-count, and often just one bar and one restaurant, the ambience on a river cruise ship is calmer and arguably more refined. Having said this there are a number of luxury ocean cruise lines which provide a similar experience.

Onboard Food and Drink

Those travelling with little ones, or foodies who enjoy plenty of choice and variation, would probably prefer an ocean cruise where dining is concerned. Some of the bigger lines offer a fantastic array of restaurants, for instance Carnival Cruises boast everything from Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que to the brilliant Dr Seuss themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast for kids. On a river cruise on the other hand, you’ll often get just one or maybe two restaurants, serving a small a la carte menu. While the food onboard is delectable, there is limited choice. Those with dietary requirements should mention these at the time of booking, and then again when onboard.

Entertainment on the Ship

Generally speaking, entertainment on a river cruise ship involves some unique experiences which allow the guests to become immersed in local culture. You can expect things like local musicians and dancers, or talks about upcoming destinations. These sorts of opportunities are also seen on ocean liners, however you’ll also often get some extravagant productions. Find the likes of Hairspray and Jersey Boys among other Broadway/West End style performances, and a fantastic aquatic acrobatic show with Royal Caribbean.

 

 

Conclusions

The differences between river cruising and ocean cruising can be seen as pros and cons depending on your likes and dislikes, and what you’re looking to get out of your cruise holiday. Each certainly have their merits, and while cruisers might tend to stick to one or the other, it can be refreshing and usually rewarding to try something new, so be sure to be open minded and consider all options.

On the other hand, some cruise lines offer both ocean and river cruising itineraries, ensuring you never have to choose between your favourites. With the highlights of ocean cruising on a smaller scale, more intimate-sized ship, passengers will love the best of both worlds. One of the most popular cruise lines to cater to both markets is Thomson-Marella who also operate TUI River Cruises. If you’re still unsure of what option to go with, get in touch with our expert team for more advice!


The Best Cruise Destinations for Wildlife

19th March 2018

Our world is home to an incredible array of flora and fauna. Landscapes are teeming with millions of species, and some of the creatures you spot on a wildlife cruise could even date back millennia. The ever-changing environments of the world give life to weird and wonderful creatures, and new species are constantly being discovered. Often the best way to see these is by cruise – on which there are usually plenty of excursions and exploring opportunities. Here are some of our top wildlife-viewing destinations.

Amazon River Cruises

One of the most well-known rivers in the world, the Amazon river reaches just less than 7000km, through Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. It’s home to over 50,000 plant and tree species, over 430 mammal species, and over 1000 species of amphibians. Not to mention the various reptiles, birds, and fish. In the Amazon animals need to disguise themselves from prey, so to spot wildlife you’ll often have to be very quiet and patient. If you’re lucky you could catch sight of the pink river dolphin, the three-toed sloth, or the squirrel monkey to name a few. Spot the powerful jaws of a black caiman as it chows down on its prey, and watch in awe as the bright and colourful macaws swoop past. Cruise lines like Cunard and Viking often cover parts of the Amazon when passing through Brazil or South America in general.

 

 

Indonesia

Indonesia might not be your go-to destination for a wildlife cruise but the creatures here are incredibly diverse; from the great apes to the legendary Komodo dragons. With so many different islands offering hugely different habitats, you’ll rarely see the same animal from one isle to the next. That means cruising is one of the best ways to see several different parts Indonesia. On Kalimantan you could spot orangutans swinging in trees, or on Papua try to glimpse the elusive tree kangaroos. In Sumatra, you’ll actually be able to witness tigers, rhinos, elephants, and orangutans living together – the only place on earth! And you’ll surely fall in love with the wide-eyed Tarsius Tarsier (owl monkey) in Sulawesi.

 

 

Galapagos

The remote Galapagos Islands are an excellent showcase of biodiversity, boasting species that are unseen anywhere else in the world and hold an almost mythological status. A major highlight of any visit here is the chance to see the legendary Galapagos penguins - the only penguins to live north of the equator in the wild. The islands are also well-known for the giant Galapagos Tortoise, which can famously live for several centuries and is the largest species of tortoise in the world. Other highlights include the red-footed and blue-footed booby birds, flightless cormorants, the waved albatross, and a huge diversity of marine life. Silversea Cruises and Celebrity Cruises are two of the only cruise lines to venture into this remote region with specially designed expedition ships. Curious about the best time to go, or just looking for some helpful hints? Check out our top Galapagos cruise tips.

 

 

Alaska

Alaska is a true bucket list destination and it’s not hard to see why; surrounded by soaring snowy peaks and an abundance of wildlife it offers an experience unlike any other. You can often catch a glimpse of eagles hungrily surveying the coastline, or humpbacked whales playing in the icy channels. Spot a moose with her calf with the sound of a wolves howl in the background, or catch a grizzly emerging from its den. Locations like the Sitka Heritage Park and Icy Strait Point offer prime wildlife viewing opportunities for the likes of sea otters, whales, and bears, and most cruise lines that traverse Alaska will offer a range of fantastic excursions to give you more chance to see these. Princess Cruises and Holland America Line even offer optional land programmes with stays in wilderness lodges, putting you right in the heart of Alaska’s wildlife.

 

 

Antarctica

Find yourself in one of the most remote areas in the world, surrounded by vast white horizons and oceans brimming with icebergs, glaciers, and marine life. On a cruise to the Antarctic you’re likely to dock in several locations on the continent, giving you an unbelievable up-close experience with all sorts of different wildlife. Come face to face with colonies of penguins, seals, whales, and a stunning array of seabirds. It’s possible to take an exhilarating expedition cruise here with Hurtigruten, Scenic Cruises, and Ponant. Onboard a carefully crafted Anatarctica cruise ship, you'll be able to get to the very heart of the destination.

 


Cruising for Wine Lovers

7th February 2018

Cruising and wine are two interests that make a perfect pairing. Not only can most cruise lines transport you to notable wine districts all over the world, but many also bring wine tastings, presentations, and experiences onboard as well. If you consider yourself something of a connoisseur, or even just enjoy a simple glass every now and then but would like to learn more, there are a number of destinations and types of cruises that could be right for you.

European Cruises

When it comes to European wines there are an incredible number of places worth exploring. Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and Portugal are generally the most popular, but just about every country produces their own blend – not forgetting the UK. Try a punchy local Rioja in southern Spain on a Mediterranean cruise, or a classic Riesling on the Rhine on a German river cruise; wine lovers will not be disappointed in Europe– especially with most cruise lines offering various wine-themed excursions.

 

 

Celebrity Cruises

This popular cruise line has partnered up with Channel 5’s The Wine Show, to bring guests some extra special wine-related experiences. Presenters Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer have put together a series of recommended excursions – including vineyard tours and tastings across Europe. They will also often appear onboard to host talks and tastings on the ship. Celebrity Cruises also boast an enviable collection of rare wines at sea, and an expert team of sommeliers.

 

Australasia Cruises

Although Australian wine came pretty late into the game considering the history of wine in other regions, its popularity has seen a dramatic rise in recent years. In fact it is now the fourth biggest exporter of wine in the world. There are wine regions all over the vast country, including around Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne. In the Adelaide Hills alone there are around 50 different wineries, and you’ll find cruise excursions taking you to tastings in several of these, with a delicious gourmet lunch included too.

 

 

Cunard: Queen Mary 2

Cunard offer a unique cruising opportunity onboard QM2, in that guests can earn themselves a Level 1 or 2 Award in Wines; a recognised qualification in the wine industry. These are gained by spending time learning about oenology with the help of sommeliers, and renowned global winemakers who are brought onboard. You can expect tutored wine tastings, production workshops, fine wine seminars, and more. Port lovers will be especially delighted with the impressive array of 46 vintage ports in the Carinthia Lounge.

California Cruises

Around 90% of North American wine is produced in the sunny state of California – another popular cruise destination. A number of round-the-world, America, and even Caribbean cruises include stops in California, and ports like San Francisco are a great place to spend a few extra days on a cruise and stay holiday. Visit the glorious wine regions of Sonoma and Napa Valley for some brilliant wine experiences, either on an excursion or individually. Horse-riding here is a very special and memorable way to explore the vineyards.

 

 

APT River Cruises

For those who seek a cruise spent truly immersed in oenology, APT River Cruises’ Wine Series is a fabulous option. The line has collaborated with the winemakers of Australia’s First Families of Wine, in order to provide some wonderful wine-themed experiences on their selection of Wine Series cruises. Wine ambassadors will be onboard to host each river cruise, on which they will give talks about traditional wine-making in Europe, and of course wine tastings and meals with paired wines. These cruises take place in the wine regions of Europe, and include visits to various vineyards.

South Africa Cruises

A cruise in Africa is a fantastic and exhilarating opportunity to experience some of the most wonderful and unique aspects of our world. As well as new scenery, food, and of course culture, if your cruise includes a stop in South Africa, you’re in for a treat where wine is concerned as well. With 17th century European settlers came wine-making, and so viticulture here is in fact older than you might expect. Many cruise lines offer some brilliant wine-themed excursions, including tastings, tours of famous wine estates, and of course the chance to buy some exquisite bottles.

 

 

Please remember to drink responsibily when enjoying wine or other alcoholic beverages.


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