It’s the newest of Europe’s river cruise fleet.  So what’s different aboard the $29.4 million Emerald Sky, launched this week by the company behind well-known Australian luxury brands Scenic Tours and Evergreen?

The biggest innovations from shipbuilders and company owners Glen and Karen Moroney are three decks throughout (most have 2.5), a swimming pool that converts to a 20-seat cinema, single cabins and more choice for passengers.

That choice is reflected in the price.

Instead of Scenic’s famed “all inclusive” promise, Emerald passengers receive a strong basic package that includes food, beer and wine during meals, all gratuities and at least one excursion a day.

Outside of lunch and dinner, passengers run a tab for drinks.  They are presented with a range of experiences called “Discover More” that allows them to “option up” their holiday.

“The heated pool – a first for river cruising – converts to a cinema at the touch of a button.”

A three-hour wine tasting tour of the Rhine Valley, for instance, costs $55.
A half-day tour of Salzburg, home of The Sound of Music, is $145.

There are choices, too, on accommodation.

The upper level Horizon Deck features one-bedroom suites at 315 feet, Grand Balcony Suites (210 feet), which include a full outside balcony.

Emerald Balcony Suites are 180 feet and have an innovative floor-to-ceiling window that opens electronically to a “half balcony”.

Public areas like the bar and restaurant are spacious, with a clean contemporary design produced by Karen Moroney.  The vibrant chrome-and-glass look marks out the Emerald fleet as aimed at a more sophisticated and youthful market.

Cabin designs provoked a host of suggestions from the inaugural guests – many of which will feature on the Emerald fleet before the first paying guests arrive next week.  These included robes, extra clothes hangers and removable side tables to allow for single beds.

The heated pool – a first for river cruising – converts to a cinema at the touch of a button,
raising the pool floor through the water to become a 20-seat cinema or meeting room,
complete with bar and coffee machine.

Many guests were happy to try a glass of champagne in the pool on the ship’s first outing, despite the wintry chill outside.

There is a small gym with rowing and running machines.

Two singles cabins and the capacity to create another eight with special deals on double rooms make this a singles-friendly ship. Children under 12, however, are only encouraged at Christmas.

Food is plated up from one of the largest kitchens on the European waterways.  Dinner, served in the “Reflections” main dining room, includes a starter, soup, main and dessert with red or white wine.

Last night (Thursday), guests were served red wine pear with Roquefort cream, onion soup, pork or trout and chocolate composition or raspberry and yogurt ice cream.

Light lunches are served on a terrace at the front of the ship.

A hairdressing salon and massage service provides a 30-minute facial for $51, an hour-long aroma oil massage for $90. A wash, set and blow dry costs $52.

Sky is a “Star Ship”, and a second is already being completed.  Another two Emerald ships will be in service next year. In 2016, they will move to France, while Scenic presents ships in Myanmar and Vietnam.

Emerald Sky carries 182 passengers in 72 suites and 20 staterooms. Emerald product manager Andrew Kelleher revealed that 2014 as already 92 per cent full.

This year, the only cabins left were in September, October and November.  And 2015 already had 1,000 pre-registrations.

  • Evergreen Tours key 2015 cruise-only itineraries aboard Emerald Star and Emerald Sky include “Splendors of Europe” – 15 days exploring many of Europe’s top sights between Amsterdam and Budapest from $6,925pp twin share with Fly Free offer available. Amsterdam to Bucharest” Cruise– 24 days from Amsterdam to Budapest, from $10,985pp twin share, includes Fly Free* offer. Evergreen Tours has a 2015 Early bird offer which expires 15 October, 2014. Depending on the cruise and tour combination, guests may be eligible for:  Fly Free to Europe including taxes, Companion Fly Free to Europe including taxes, or savings up to $1,000 per couple*.   Early Payment Discounts of up to $400pp* may apply on top of these offers.

Cruise Passenger is travelling as a guest of Evergreen Tours. You can win an Evergreen European cruise in the latest issue of Cruise Passenger magazine.

Take a tour of the ship in the gallery below, otherwise click here to watch as the world’s first supermodel, Twiggy christens Emerald Sky.

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