Call us free on 0800 023 1273

Mobiles / International call 0203 371 7641


Emerald Radiance


Make sure you don't miss out on the best deals! Sign up to receive our latest deals e-newsletter.

We never give out your personal details to third parties or spam you with unwanted emails

"Small is beautiful" is a phrase that Emerald Waterways uses to describe Portugal in its onboard enrichment materials, but it could easily be applied to Emerald Radiance, the line's first ship on the Douro River.

Radiance is the smallest ship in the Emerald fleet, purpose-built to navigate the numerous and narrow locks of the Douro River. However, an intimate environment suits the Douro, which is a more personable river than the heavily traversed Rhine or Danube. A crew-to-passenger ratio of one to three ensures that cruisers benefit from individual attention, and that attention is provided by an entirely Portuguese crew.

Due to Portuguese law, staff onboard the ships that sail the Douro River are required to be citizens of Portugal, but this law is less a limitation than a natural fit. A local staff -- many were from the embarkation port of Porto -- means that the authentic experience is unbroken from ports of call to life onboard. Questions about Portugal are easily answered, and practicing your Portuguese is encouraged. There is a palpable sense of pride that shines through the service, the activities offered -- traditional crafts and cooking demos -- and best of all, the cuisine. Familiar tastes are expertly balanced with Portuguese specialties, offering a new variety each day for predictable or adventurous palates.

For such a Portugal-intensive vessel, the only distinguishing art onboard is a wall of Barcelos roosters, colourful ceramic roosters traditional to the region, on Deck 2. Otherwise, the aesthetic is rather "modern hotel lobby," with lots of black, white and mirrors. (In fact, so many columns and flourishes around the ship are reflective, that passengers are given a word of warning on day one, and more than a few bumped into them.) Each cabin comes with two full-length mirrors.

But placed high above the interior design of Radiance is what lies on all sides: The Douro is a spectacularly scenic backdrop for sailing, and there is little to distract from the lush, terraced hillsides that seem to stretch from riverbank to the sky. The highlight of a Douro River sailing is being able to sit back with a glass of the region's famous wine and watch the valley rise and fall around you. Emerald Radiance keeps Portugal the focus, to mutually satisfying returns.

There is no formal dress code on Emerald Radiance; casual and comfortable will get you far. A captain's welcome reception is held on the second night of the sailing, and some choose to spruce up for the occasion; same with a farewell gala dinner on the next-to-last night. Generally, sturdy walking shoes for uneven cobblestone streets and a layer or two will get you through the warmer days into the cooler nights.

Emerald Radiance Inclusions

Gratuities are included in your cruise fare, as well as transfers to and from the airport. The onboard currency is the euro, and outlets are European. Local red and white wine as well as beer and soft drinks are available free of charge at lunch and dinner. (A selection of drink packages is available to cover a beverage from the bar any time of day. Beer and Champagne packages are also available.) An espresso machine is located in the lounge and serves coffee, espresso drinks and hot water for tea 24 hours a day -- small cookies are located in a jar on the counter to complement your latte. A pitcher of water and a pitcher of the daily iced tea are always located on the counter of the bar in the Horizon Lounge. Large glass bottles of water are available for consumption in your cabin, and bottles of water are handed out before every excursion. One shore excursion is included in every port, and consists of a walking tour or a museum tour. EmeraldACTIVE tours are not available onboard Radiance.

There is free Wi-Fi onboard, and it works relatively well with the exception of passing through locks. We were able to connect multiple devices to the network without a problem.

Shore Excursions

One shore excursion is included each day on your river cruise, and we felt they were well organized, for the most part. Many of the Douro Valley's ports are small, meaning a bus ride is usually required to get to the town with the noteworthy museum or cathedral. However, Emerald owns and operates its own buses, which follow the ship along the entire cruise, and they are the most comfortable tour buses we've ever been on. Plenty of legroom and forgiving leather cushions meant taking a quick nap during the ride was never a problem. There are even USB ports between the seats so you can charge your phone after all your picture-taking. The two tour escorts onboard your ship, along with your cruise director, also serve as your guides on excursions, except when a special guide from a museum or attraction hosts a tour of that location. Tours are usually divided into three buses, but they're never assigned -- go with the guide you choose each day. A "lollipop" is passed around and you tap your QuietVox device on it to connect to your guide's audio. We found the devices to work well, except if you fall behind and out of range.

Despite a focus on ancient history, the walking tours and museums you will visit are not dry and are often surrounded by the stunning backdrop of the Douro Valley or Portugal's blue-and-white tiled facades. There is always a small amount of free time built in, but it's just enough to have a look around or grab a quick cup of coffee. Even with a two-hour bus ride each way, a trip to Salamanca while docked along the border with Spain was a highlight for many passengers.

Another treat was an evening excursion for all passengers to Quinta Pacheca wine estate in Lamego for dinner. The cellar is warm in the summertime, but the ambiance is special, the food is home-cooked and best of all, one of the winemaker's wines is paired with each course.

DiscoverMore tours let you see something beyond the included excursion, for an added charge. There were two of these tours offered on our sailing and they do sell out, so voice interest early. A visit to Mateus Palace replaced a day in Régua, but an excursion to the medieval castle in Guimarães was offered in the late afternoon, allowing participants to also join the included morning walking tour and have lunch onboard before heading back out.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

We had one onboard musician and he played keyboards and sang in the lounge in the afternoons, during cocktail hour and at night after dinner. We enjoyed when an accordion-player friend from off the ship joined him on guitar and they played "hits around the world." The first night onboard he accompanied the tour escorts for a game of music trivia, and participation -- singing and dancing -- was encouraged for extra points.

During the day, if you're sailing, it's a slow-paced way of life on Radiance. Apart from watching the landscape envelop you, or observing the mechanics of one of the many locks you'll pass through, there's not a lot of competition for your free time. A counter in the lounge offers a small array of books, a custom print-up of that day's news, a daily crossword and sudoku puzzle and a few table games like dominoes. About one activity per day is scheduled, and we felt the sessions presented were cultural and meaningful. Daily port talks were held about 15 minutes before dinner, giving a preview of the following day's itinerary. These chats were informative, entertaining (compliments of the animated cruise director) and well-attended.


The enrichment is strong onboard Radiance, given what feels like short spans of time onboard between meals. You will find informational talks, lessons and crafting workshops, like the art of filigree jewellery-making, from visiting artisans during your sailing days. On our sailing, for example, we learned how to speak some basic Portuguese with our tour escort Elisabete, as well as an entertaining cooking demo of Portugal's famous custard tarts pastéis de nata, with our executive chef, pastry chef and cruise director. After receiving a recipe, we got to taste a tart for "quality control" and a glass of port was poured for a toast, which we felt was a nice touch. Another day a bartender quickly explained the easy steps to a port and tonic cocktail before trays of the refreshing drink were passed around.

Visiting guests might include "cork lady" Paula Guimaraes who explained the art of designing with cork with a talk and a demo, and had bags, bracelets and wallets available for purchase. Another popular visitor was Maria Kokas, who restores the gorgeous blue-and-white tiles of Portugal, and also does original work. While she had gifts for purchase as well, the demos never felt like a ploy to make a sale. Passengers have a chance to paint their own tiles -- freehand or using stencils -- and Maria is available to help. What's impressive is that there are only two places in the country that bake tiles and our artwork was whisked off the ship and glazed before the last night onboard, so we had a true keepsake to bring home.

Emerald Radiance Bars and Lounges

There is one bar and lounge onboard Emerald Radiance, and it is the hub of ship activities, as well as the meeting place for all shore tours.

Horizon Bar & Lounge (Deck 3): The Horizon Lounge is located at the topmost inside deck and is the place to read and relax out of the sun during the day, enjoy teatime, have a drink, watch the evening entertainment or participate in any of the demos or activities. It's a chic space, mostly done in black with touches of lavender and cream in seat cushions and sofas; a rectangular bar is in the centre. The entire lounge is surrounded by windows for watching the river go by, and at the front is the open-air terrace, accessible by sliding doors. A variety of wine by the glass is offered (recommended as you are sailing through one of the top wine regions in the world), in addition to sparkling wine and cocktails. A local beer is on draught, and there is a decent selection of bottled beer and a cider. Another highlight is a port wine menu with 11 different types of port and six Portuguese cocktail specialties, like white port with passion fruit and cherry juices. Even though you could walk up to the espresso machine and make your own drink, we found bartenders had no problem taking coffee or tea orders and serving them.

Emerald Radiance Outside Recreation

The Sun Deck is Deck 4, and that is where you will find sun loungers and the pool. It's also where the bridge is located, and passengers are encouraged to speak to the captain or crew about any questions.

Tan lounge chairs are centred around the front of the ship and offer some amazing views while you sunbathe. The pool on Radiance is in the middle of this deck, and is shallow -- just deep enough to sit or wade -- consisting of a square and a rectangle joined. The pool does warm up, employing jets that bubble, but we found it was not quite warm enough after dark, and nowhere near a hot tub. Towels are provided on loungers or in a small stack by the pool.

Toward the back of this deck are awnings providing shade, with slingback loungers and tables and chairs out of the sun. Chairs along the perimeter of this area could be used to get a tan, with interspersed bright green AstroTurf encouraging you to break out the bare feet.

There is no putting green or other outdoor recreation onboard Radiance. However, crossing through the Douro, there are multiple locks in each direction; to watch the ship pass through these feats of engineering is a unique diversion. Occasionally, passengers will be asked to leave the sun deck for safety reasons due to a low overhead bridge, but this is the exception. For most of your sailing, you will be able to spend it on the top of the ship in the open air.

Emerald Radiance Services

The front desk is located on Horizon Deck (Deck 3) in the middle of the ship. The desk is typically staffed at all hours of the day to answer any questions or to accommodate requests. You may also dial 400 on your in-room telephone.

The cruise director and tour escorts' desk is on Vista Deck (Deck 2) just outside of the restaurant. Here is where you can enquire about tours and pick up information on recommendations in port or the daily fact sheet about an aspect of Portuguese culture like types of port wine or the history behind those decorative roosters.

There is no proper boutique, but two display cases with items like local jewellery, accessories and statuettes is located on Riviera Deck, just outside the spa treatment room. To purchase, go to the front desk.

Laundry services are offered onboard, for a fee. The ship will run specials -- usually on the first day and again halfway through your sailing -- that might offer washing and pressing for however much you can fit inside the small laundry bag.

There is a small section available for smoking on the Sun Deck, but nowhere else.

A lift is available for use onboard.

On Emerald Radiance there is a designated well-being coach who performs all spa and beauty treatments, as well as hosting morning activities like an hourlong stretch or walking a mile around town.

On Riviera Deck (the first floor) there is a spa treatment room with one table and a chair for hair services to the right, and a small fitness facility to the left, just as you walk down the stairs. Gratuity is additional but at your discretion for all treatments.

Despite the ship being small, the fitness facility is respectable, with two treadmills and an elliptical that has been sunken in to accommodate taller passengers. Yoga mats and cushions are available for self-stretching. Round open tubes on the wall artistically present towels and water bottles.

A walking track is designated around the top deck, made of AstroTurf material. It's a dizzying 20 times around to make a mile.

There are no bicycles onboard Emerald Radiance, unlike other ships in the Emerald Waterways fleet.

The food on Emerald Radiance is superb, and manages to balance the predominantly British appetite with plenty of Portuguese specialties.

What we also enjoyed was not only the variety of the offerings, but the diversity of dinner. Your first night onboard is served as a buffet to kindly accommodate jet-lagged travellers or cruisers more than happy to have a casual first evening. This is followed the very next night by a more formal set menu for the welcome meal, only to be eclipsed the next evening by our absolute favourite meal onboard, which is the traditional Portuguese barbecue -- held on the top deck of the ship. Cold salads galore and a hot grill with chicken, ribs, sausages and even the very traditional grilled sardines, are enjoyed with pitchers of sangria (we were docked on the border of Spain that evening), live music and the incredible setting of the Douro. Ice cream sundaes ended the meal.

Another night found Radiance passengers dining at a traditional Portuguese wine estate, and the ambiance was so enchanting, it felt like a wedding reception. All in all, a "typical" menu is only offered two of the seven nights onboard your ship, meaning you'll never get bored of the dinner routine. Dinner is typically served around 7 p.m.

Breakfast and lunch are a little more predictable in terms of format: a full breakfast is served in the restaurant daily from 7:30 to 9 a.m., while a light breakfast is set out in the lounge in front of the Terrace starting at 6:30 and ending at 10. A full lunch is available in the restaurant at 12:30 or 12:45 until 2, while a light lunch is set out at the same time, but only for an hour. Both meals are served buffet-style.

Reflections Restaurant (Deck 2): There is one dining venue onboard Emerald Radiance and that is the Reflections Restaurant. The dining room is simple and sophisticated with tan or brown rounded leather chairs and tables for two, four and six, as well as a few round tables. Booths line the back wall of the restaurant, with mirrors or windows all around. Tables are not assigned.

The layout of breakfast and lunch is buffet-style with designated counters. Every morning you will find two trays of eggs and an omelette chef at the counter facing the entrance, along with a morning special like dense, sweet waffles or pancakes. Along the right-hand side is a variety of breakfast sides like bacon, sausage and beans, and a bread station with a toaster oven. Along the back wall are yogurts, daily smoothies, trays of tempting Portuguese pastries (natas and croissants are always available) and a selection of juices. And along the left are lox with all the accoutrements, and an impressive selection of fresh fruit. Waiters come around with carafes of coffee, and also take tea orders.

At lunch, the front counter is taken up by daily specials like a chunky vegetable stew, and usually a roast that the chef will slice for you fresh, as well as a fried fish and a regional specialty like pork and beef stew with chickpeas. Sides and bread are still along the right counter -- sides might include fresh vegetables or mashes potatoes. These is also a choice of two soups daily, which always had inventive toppings like rustic bacon chips or garlic toasties. The salad bar is along the left counter and was frequently crowded as it provided a substantial amount of vegetables and toppings like sesame or sunflower seeds, as well as cold mixed salads. There was always a savoury mousse, like a sardine cocktail. The entire back counter is dominated by cheeses, jams, plates of desserts and a choice of two ice creams or sorbets, rotated daily. There were always two or three regional cheeses, and we couldn't say no to any of them. Wine and beer is also served at lunch, as well as soft drinks.

Despite one main dining room, meals never feel tired or repetitive. This has to do with both the variety of the dinner experiences, as well as the dishes. Everything is homemade onboard -- even the ice cream -- except the bread. Despite Portugal's strong emphasis on meat and seafood dishes, the vegetarian options were fresh and inventive (and not just different takes on pasta). The Portuguese actually invented tempura, and one evening's surprise was an avocado tempura entrée with vegetable rice and soy foam. On one of the two standard dining days, menu items included traditional deep-fried cod cakes, a strawberry cocktail with port wine or a salad with olives, avocado, radish and greens for an appetizer; a choice of two traditional soups; and a choice of four entrees including spaghetti, salmon, rack of lamb and a duo baked potato main dish. Dessert offerings include one pastry du jour, like a Spanish almond tart, a fresh fruit plate, a sorbet or ice cream, and a cheese plate. Also on these standard days you can find Emerald's Classics, which are always-available items such as Caesar salad, salmon, grilled chicken breast and sirloin steak.

On the gala evenings, dishes have a heavy focus on regional specialties and chef recommendations. Expect a choice of appetizer such as scallops with asparagus, raspberry and salsa fresca; a soup like a mushroom cappuccino with nutmeg; a choice of three entrees from grilled octopus and slow-roasted veal to a zucchini spring roll with goat cheese filling. Dessert might be a rich chocolate cake with hazelnut truffle and mandarin ice cream.

A Portuguese red and white wine is included at every meal, and details of those pairings are indicated on the menu. The restaurant manager also describes the wine at the daily port talks right before dinner, or during the meal, as he or she circles around.

The Terrace (Deck 3): The Terrace is an outdoor space with a few tables and chairs and a handful of cushioned chairs with footrests for lounging. Just inside of the Terrace along the front of the bar, is where light breakfast and lunch are served. At breakfast, expect small smoothies, a selection of pastries, yogurt, a plate of meat and cheese, and a tray of scrambled eggs, but not as much fruit as you would find upstairs in the restaurant. For lunch, there will be a tray of sandwiches, two types of salads, a soup, a pasta, an entrée like hake tempura and for dessert you might find a lemon cake and a chocolate mousse.

Teatime is every day from 4 to 4:30, and while the tea offerings remain the same, the cakes, scones, sandwiches or pastries offered change daily. We tried a local honey cake the day we made teatime.

There are 56 rooms in four room categories onboard Radiance and many cabins provide the same features.

Beds are two twins that can be pushed together to form a queen, with fluffy white duvets. A mini-fridge is stocked with snacks that you will pay for unless you are in an Owner's or Riverview suite. Storage space consists of at least two deep drawers and a closet with sturdy wooden hangers -- you can store your luggage by pushing open a secret compartment underneath the bed on either side. In the closet you'll find amenities like slippers, waffled cotton bathrobes, walking sticks, a shoehorn and a bag for laundry. The safe is inside of the cabinet next to the mini-fridge on the top shelf.

A large, flat-screen TV dominates the counter in front of the bed. The TV has an infotainment system with about 25 channels, your daily program and a portable keyboard so you could connect to Wi-Fi and use it like a computer screen. To the right is a desk that could also serve as a vanity, with a rounded black leather chair.

Every cabin comes with a book about Portugal, Spain and the Douro region, as well as an informational map about the Douro River Valley. We found them both to be extremely readable and helpful when interpreting our route and what we were seeing as we sailed.

The bathroom features a shower with a glass door, a toilet and three glass shelves as well as two shelves to the right of the sink. We appreciate the simple but clever touch of an inlaid metal cup to hold toothbrushes. Small bottles of bath gel, shampoo and conditioner are provided from Castelbel. There is an outlet to plug in an electric shaver to the right of the sink. There are two full-length mirrors in the cabin in addition to the mirror in the bathroom. A magnifying mirror is attached to the glass shelves. After dark, the floor of the bathroom is illuminated by a night-light.

A dial for climate control is on the wall. The air automatically shuts off once the window is opened. Most cabins feature an enclosed sun lounge with a strip of non-carpeted space by the floor-to-ceiling window, with two black mesh deck chairs and a small round table. The window slides down by pushing a button on the wall and opens to about waist height. A feature that's new to the fleet is a screen that can be activated by pushing a similar button, allowing for fresh air without the fear of bugs getting into the room. A blackout screen can be manually pulled down and is usually rolled down during turn-down service. Also after turn-down, you'll find a sheet of paper with the following day's daily program as well as a chocolate on your pillow.

Apart from a full room light, each side of the bed has a nightstand with a bright reading light. The padded tan headboard also illuminates at night. By the room lights you'll find a button for Do Not Disturb.

Standard Cabin: Standard cabins are located on Deck 1 and feature rectangular fixed windows with a curtain. There are three categories of standard cabins -- D, E and F -- with the difference being square footage. These cabins are 170, 160 and 153 square feet, respectively.

Panorama Balcony Suite: A bit of a misnomer, balcony suites are rooms with sun lounges that have a full window facing off the ship that opens. This is the largest room category, spread between Decks 2 and 3, and there are five categories of balcony rooms. The two balcony suites on either side at the end of the hall on Deck 2 -- 222 and 223 -- offer slightly more closet space and are 183 square feet. All other balcony rooms are either 160 or 170 square feet.

Owner's Suite: The Owner's Suites on Radiance are rooms 322 and 323. These cabins are 285 square feet in size and feature a separate sitting area with two cushioned high-back chairs and footrests along with another window, a Nespresso machine, walk-in closets, a complimentary mini-bar, an in-suite iPad, a welcome plate of fruit and a bottle of wine, and concierge service.

Riverview Suite: While you might think the Owner's Suites are the best on a ship, Radiance's first-in-class Riverview Suites -- rooms 324 and 325 -- are the cabins to splurge on. There are windows -- and views -- along two walls of the cabin. The seating area in these rooms also features a couch, and the bathrooms are much larger with a bathtub. These rooms are the largest onboard, at 300 square feet.

Sun Deck
Horizon Deck
Vista Deck
Riviera Deck
Select a specific date or a range of dates
Select a date to return home by (optional)
Select the min and max duration
7 - 17
Popular ports
Departure Ports
Book with confidence