Call us free on 0800 023 1273

Mobiles / International call 0203 371 7641


Emerald Star


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

Affordable, comfortable, friendly -- these are just some of the words that can be used to describe a European river cruise on Emerald Star. Part of Emerald Waterways -- the more value-oriented sister company to the more luxurious Scenic -- the ship seems more relaxing and laid back than many of its counterparts on Europe's waterways.

One of the first things you'll notice about Emerald Star is how comfortable it feels. Décor is modern, almost IKEA-like in its sleek simplicity; there are no bold patterns to overwhelm the senses, no period-piece furniture you're afraid to sit on. The lounge, which stretches half the length of the boat and is the hub for all activity onboard, is decorated in shades of black, white and grey with colourful pops of bright pink chairs. There are plenty of comfy couches and armchairs to sit in and watch the scenery go by, chat with other cruisers, read a book or play cards with new friends.

The friendliness of the crew and your fellow passengers just add to the comfortable feeling. Wait staff, bartenders, the guest services folks and the cruise director are always smiling, always ready to lend a hand or ask how your day was. Passengers tend to be down to earth, there's no dress code (so no one is judging!) and with open seating at all meals, it's easy to meet other people.

Another standout feature of a cruise on Emerald Star is its affordability. There are many inclusions, from daily excursions to unlimited Wi-Fi and, most impressively, all gratuities -- both onboard and on land, meaning you never need to worry about having extra money on hand to tip a tour guide in a local port. Complimentary drinks (both soft and alcoholic) are poured liberally at lunch and dinner.

Also included onboard are bikes for passengers to use when in port and -- rather unusually for a riverboat, a beautiful back-of-the-boat infinity pool -- a particularly popular spot when sailing between ports.

There's not much of a dress code on Emerald Star. The only items not allowed in the dining room during dinner are shorts and flip-flops (though we did see men in shorts during dinner). During the day you'll see lots of shorts (both men and women), with men donning T-shirts and collared or button-up short sleeve shirts and women in blouses and a smattering of T-shirts. In the evening, many women change in to casual dresses, though you'll also see plenty of women in dress pants or capris. Most men wear trousers and button-up shirts.

Emerald Star Inclusions

Emerald river cruise fares are somewhat inclusive with all gratuities, transfers and Wi-Fi included. One two- to four-hour excursion in each port is provided free of charge, and in one port per one-week cruise, a second active tour option is also offered for no extra charge. (All walking excursions always have a gentle walking option for those who can't do a longer tour.) Drinks, alcoholic and soft, are complimentary at lunch and dinner. One 1.5-liter bottle of water is also available in your cabin each day. (You'll find more water, including plastic bottles perfect for taking out on excursion, by the pool and in the small gym.)

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

Shore Excursions

One complimentary shore excursion is offered as part of the Emerald Waterways' fare in each port. Excursions are generally two to four hours long and can be a walking or bus tour, or a combination of both. On some tours a tasting might also be included -- in the Netherlands, chances are you'll be nibbling cheese, while in Germany it might be beer or sausage. Every included walking tour has a gentle walking option for those who can't do the full-length version.

Additionally, one "active" excursion is offered free of charge on most seven-night sailings as well. Active excursions are generally hikes or bike tours. These tours always fill up fast so sign up as quickly as possible.

Several extra-fee excursions, called Discover More tours, are also offered on sailings. For instance, on our sailing extra-cost options included a bus tour to Rothenburg, and a tour of Brühl Castle. How many additional tours depends on the ports visited in a sailing. Itineraries that feature bigger cities will typically have more extra-fee offerings; those that visit smaller towns might have only one or two per sailing. These excursions go further away from the boat's port of call, generally requiring longer bus rides. These excursions usually take place at the same time as the complimentary offering, so typically you can't do both.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

Daytime entertainment is limited to cards and board games in the Horizon Lounge and the occasional enrichment lecture. A large selection of on-demand movies, both classic films and new releases are available free of charge.

In the evening, entertainment comes in the form of a piano player in the Horizon Lounge, the periodic movie in the pool area -- on our cruise, the movie choices included Spectre, The Intern and Everest -- or packed sessions of trivia. On one night the lounge transformed into a "disco," with a selection of tunes (Rod Stewart, ABBA, the Bee Gees, Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers and Billy Idol, as just a few examples).

Also one night per sailing, the crew performs in a "talent" show. Not meant to be taken seriously, it's wonderfully terrible -- bring your sense of humour and you won't be disappointed.


On days that require longer sailing between ports, you'll find occasional lectures or demonstrations from the cruise director, the chef or a special guest. Lectures might consist of talks about German food and drink or the contemporary state of affairs in a country you're visiting. Demonstrations can include how to make traditional apple strudel or glass blowing (an expert comes onboard for that one).

Other than that the only other enrichment are the cruise director's 15-minute evening talk about the next day's activities.

Emerald Star Bars and Lounges

Emerald Star is a quiet ship with only one lounge to speak of. Horizon is a modern space dominated by black, white and grey décor with pops of bright pink chairs and ottomans, Horizon is the place to hang out during the day and in the evening to read, socializing or play cards. It's also where all the ship's entertainment and enrichment is held, as well as the afternoon tea. At the front of Horizon is a bank of bar tables that look out over the bow of the ship, offering a great view. In front of that is an outdoor "terrace" with tables, perfect to take your light breakfast, lunch or coffee on a pleasant day.

Horizon is the place to go for 24/7 coffee, espresso, cappuccino, hot chocolate and macchiato, available via the DIY machine near the entrance. It's very popular on mornings on which excursions leave early. It's also popular in the half-hour or so before dinner is served when the cruise director gives his talk about the next day. For those who need a snack, small containers of peanuts are placed on the tables.

Near the entrance to Horizon you'll find the ship's "library," which is really just a shelf with a handful of coffee table picture books, as well as annotated copies of USA Times, Britain Today, The Canadian and Australia Today, and a daily crossword puzzle.

There is also a bar in the pool area with a smaller drink menu than what is offered in Horizon, as well as a coffee machine (also with a smaller choice than the machine in the Horizon lounge).


Emerald Star has one pool -- a beautiful indoor infinity pool -- at the back of the ship on Deck 3. It is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. There are only a handful of places to sit so it can get quite crowded. Pick a time when other passengers are still off the ship or attending a lecture and demo and you'll find it much more comfortable.

Emerald Star Outside Recreation

The only outdoor recreation on Emerald Star is a small putting green and a walking/jogging track -- six times around is 1 mile. There's also a life-sized tic-tac-toe board on the artificial grass.

The pool is indoors, though the roof can be opened on nice days for open-air swimming.

Emerald Services

All of Emerald Star's services can be found on Deck 2, including the reception desk where you register upon first getting on the boat, pick up and drop off the disembarkation/boarding card needed any time you get off the boat in a port, purchase items from the shop and settle your account at the end of the sailing.

The shop is just a few display cases of jewellery and watches, though you can also purchase toiletries, an Emerald Waterways cookbook, as well as audio clips of the catchy birthday and anniversary songs played at dinnertime for celebrations.

Also tucked away on Deck 2 is the cruise director's desk. Here you'll find printouts of recommended attractions in different ports, information about the boat or the rivers traversed and phrase sheets in the local language. The cruise director can also help arrange other experiences in ports if the included excursions don't tickle your fancy. On the sailing one week prior to ours, the cruise director arranged tee times for a couple of men on a golf course near Vienna.

There are not DIY launderettes on Emerald Star, but the ship will launder and iron items for a by-piece fee or an all-you-can-fit-in-the-bag.

Emerald Star has a small gym with three pieces of equipment (a stationary bike, rowing machine and bench press) as well as a handful of free weights and some mats for stretching or yoga -- though there's little room for either.

The top-deck track is good for walking and jogging (when it's open); it's six laps for 1 mile. The track doesn't open before 7 a.m. and closes by 10 p.m. The top deck is also closed on any river on which there are low bridges (the Main, for instance).

Though Star doesn't have a spa, the ship does offer hair styling, manicures, facials (a rarity for riverboats!) and massages. Prices are mostly reasonable.

Appointments can be made at the reception desk, though you'll want to consult with the cruise director to find out when tours are scheduled so you can pick a time that doesn't conflict with your land schedule.

Anyone who purchases a spa or salon treatment is entered into a raffle; one lucky winner gets their treatment for free.

Dining is somewhat limited on Emerald Star. There is only one restaurant, which serves three meals a day, as well as a lounge where you'll find a light breakfast and lunch and a half-hour tea in the late afternoon. If you get hungry at any other time, your only choice is a cookie jar in the pool area. There is no room service onboard.

Other than at breakfast, meals never repeat and portion sizes are European (meaning they're reasonable, filling without being more than you need). Every night you'll find two appetizers, a soup, three main courses (one is always vegetarian) and a handful of desserts. All the dishes have been created by a chef at the Emerald Waterways headquarters and passed on to the chefs onboard.

Diners with special needs are accommodated. So long as you let the line know ahead of time, you will be given a menu with dishes you can't eat marked. Sometimes (but not usually) an alternate version (vegetarian or gluten-free, for example) of a dish will be available.

Reflections Restaurant (Deck 2): The only restaurant onboard, Reflections serves a full buffet breakfast and lunch, as well as waiter-served dinner. Inside you'll find tables for two, four and six at breakfast and lunch, but only tables for four, six or eight for dinner.

Breakfast service starts between 7 and 7:30 a.m. depending on the day's tour schedule. Available items include scrambled and hard-boiled eggs, omelettes made to order, bacon and sausages, hash browns, cold cuts and sliced cheeses, fruit salads, yogurts and parfaits, pastries, cereals and porridge, smoked salmon and a variety of toast and bagel options. Gluten-free toast, muffins and cereal are available by request.

Lunch hours vary depending on the day's schedule but can start as early as 11:30 or as late as 1:30 and always lasts an hour and a half. Also a buffet, the lunch menu changes daily and includes appetizers, a decently sized salad bar, soups, a pasta choice, main courses and desserts. Options might include asparagus and Black Forest ham, bell pepper and yogurt terrine, mushroom or tomato cream soup, rigatoni with vegetable Bolognese, fillet of cod, tofu ragout and lamb in tomato and onion gravy. The dessert selection always includes a cake, two ice creams and an array of international cheeses.

One day per sailing, weather permitting, the crew offer up a top-deck barbecue with food inspired by the boat's location. On our Rhine River cruise we were treated to a variety of sausages, grilled turkey and vegetables, baked potatoes, potato salad and French fries.

The open-seating dinner starts promptly at 7 p.m. As with lunch, the menu varies daily (no dish, other than "classic" choices, is ever repeated even if requested.) Appetizers might include farmer's ham wrapped in a pancake coat, chanterelle risotto or smoked trout, along with a soup choice. Main course options can include sliced roast beef, grilled fillet of cod with asparagus, eggplant escalope, whole roast of lamb and tandoori tofu. Dessert choices also change, though vanilla and chocolate ice cream, fruit salad and international cheeses are always available. Daily options might include yogurt and lime terrine, maple syrup mousse and eclairs with brandy sauce.

Also available every night are five "classic" dishes: chicken bouillon soup, Caesar salad, rump steak, poached salmon and grilled chicken breast.

Wines choices were not always regional -- French wines were served several nights (we spent most of the cruise in Germany), but on the evening we left Rüdesheim they did serve a local Riesling. If you didn't like the wines on offer for that night, a handful of house wines were always available as well.

Horizon Lounge (Deck 3): Emerald Star's only lounge doubles as a place to get an early bird breakfast, light lunch and afternoon tea.

Breakfast in Horizon starts at 6:30 a.m and ends at 10 a.m. You'll find a small selection of cold cuts and cheeses, as well as pastries and yogurts.

Lunch is available during the same hours as the Reflections' lunch. On offer is a smaller selection of the same items served in Reflections, along with some sandwiches.

At 4 p.m. a tea is served in the Horizon lounge with specialty teas, finger sandwiches and small pastries.

The star of Emerald Star's cabins are the wall-sized windows, found in all but the Deck 1 rooms, that can be lowered halfway. The size of the windows allows for an abundance of natural light and unlimited views that make the cabins a great spot to sightsee from. (We loved looking out our window while lying in bed and seeing locals swimming or paddleboarding in the river.) With the window down, it's almost like being in a room-sized balcony.

Aside from having the fantastic windows, cabins are roomy and comfortable with plenty of storage space and beds that are not too hard or too soft. All rooms have flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, alarm clocks, hair dryers, four or more outlets (all European style, one near the bed) and a mini-fridge stocked with extra-fee (except in Owner's Suites) goodies like soda, beer, wine, mini bottles of spirits, Pringles and chocolate. Two free bottles of water are provided daily (one still and one bubbly). A closet has lots of hanging space (though there are no skirt hangers) and an overhead shelf.

Single Stateroom: There are two 117-square-foot single staterooms on Emerald Star, both on Deck 1, Riviera Deck. Both have picture windows that don't open and a single twin bed. Furniture consists of a single chair, a small round tray-style table in the corner and a dresser with three drawers.

Stateroom: The 18 Emerald Staterooms on Deck 1 are 162-square-feet and, like the single cabins, have picture windows that don't open. Two twin beds can be combined into a queen. Furniture includes a small round tray-style table with two one-piece plastic-like chairs, three side-by-side dressers with two drawers each and built-in bedside shelves with reading lights.

Panorama Balcony Suite: The most common stateroom type on Emerald Star are the 180-square-foot Panorama Balcony suites, of which there are 60, with half on Deck 2 (Vista Deck) and half on Deck 3 (Horizon Deck). These rooms feature wall-sized windows, which open halfway letting in lots of natural light and fresh air. Furniture is the same as what you find in the Emerald Staterooms: twin beds that convert into a queen, small tray-style table with two chairs (wooden rather than plastic with fabric seats and backs), three side-by-side dressers with two drawers each and built-in bedside shelves.

Grand Balcony Suite: The eight Grand Balcony suites on Deck 3 are 210 square feet and feature the same wall-sized windows that open halfway. However, the window is found on a balcony-style space, separated from the rest of the room by a sliding-glass door. Furniture is the same as what's provided in the Panorama Balcony rooms, but additional amenities include a Nespresso machine and pillow menu.

Owner's Suite: Emerald Star has four 315-square-foot one-bedroom Owner's Suites on Deck 3. Bedrooms are separated from the living space by a sliding-glass door, making them true suites. The staterooms feature two beds that convert to a queen (a pillow menu gives cruisers a choice of pillows), a vanity with ottoman and two bedside tables. The living space boasts a walk-in closet with way more hanging space and shelves than two people could possibly need, two leather loungers, a knee-high tray-style table, a dry bar with lower and overhead cabinets, a mini-bar stocked with complimentary drinks, a Nespresso machine and drawers and a long wooden shelf beneath the massive flat-screen TV. Passengers staying in Owner's Suites also have use of an in-cabin iPad. A balcony is identical in style to what's in the Grand Balcony Suites. Bathrooms have an extra medicine cabinet for more storage space.

Passengers in both the Grand Balcony and Owner's Suites can order room service breakfast, and will receive pre-dinner canapes and after-dinner sweets. Cruisers in Grand Balcony Suites get two free items of laundry per day, while those in Owner's Suites get four free items of laundry per day. Those in Owner's Suites also get an invitation to dine with the captain.

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
4 - 22
Popular ports
Departure Ports
Book with confidence