By Simon & Susan Veness
Just when you think the cruise-ship order books of the world couldn’t be any more jam-packed with new-builds and new ideas, along comes something novel and exciting that adds even more to this profusion of maritime magnificence.
Enter, Emerald Yacht Cruises.
Yes, there is still room for another ocean-going ultra-luxe brand, and, yes, there is certainly space for a project that promises to provide yet another distinctive manner in which to travel the waters of the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Red Seas.
A New Take on European River-Cruising
Just to start with, the pedigree of this nautical newcomer comes from the very top drawer. Emerald Waterways were a stylish start-up from Australia’s renowned Scenic Tours in 2013 and swiftly established themselves as a chic alternative on the rivers of Europe.
With four sleek, classy vessels in their first two years – each highlighted by a heated swimming pool with a retractable roof, quite an innovation at the time – Emerald carved out a substantial niche for themselves in double-quick time.
Their ‘Star Ships’ – although not in the sci-fi mould of the Enterprise – offered a greater range of cabin and suite styles, and a younger, more progressive onboard ambience that appealed to those who saw the traditional Rhine and Danube cruises as a touch staid and formulaic.
Backed by the luxury know-how of their parent company, which was founded by Aussie businessman Glen Moroney in 1987, Emerald has become an eight-vessel fleet in Europe, Egypt, Russia and south-east Asia that also charters yachts along the beautiful Dalmatian Coast of Croatia.
That Super-Yacht Style
Now comes Moroney’s latest brainchild, and it is the most ambitious – and eye-catching – move he has made to date, a multi-million dollar investment with Vietnamese company Halong Shipbuilding that looks to provide a genuine super-yacht experience on a grander scale.
First ship Emerald Azzurra (a slight contradiction in terms, as it literally means green-blue) will set sail in July 2021 and is purpose-designed to take on more of the line’s Croatian and Adriatic routes, encompassing the smaller, more offbeat ports that the big ships can’t comfortably fit into, and which provide some of the most enticing sailing along that stretch of coastline.
At 360ft long, she will carry just 100 passengers for a boutique, inclusive experience that features complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks at mealtimes, plus free onboard WiFi, airport transfers, taxes and gratuities. Also included will be EmeraldACTIVE excursions and EmeraldPLUS cultural excursions, in addition to a choice of optional DiscoverMORE excursions tailored to each cruise, all with local guides and experts.
That River Cruise Appeal
It is very much a river cruise template being transferred to a more expansive sea-going format that should have terrific appeal for a slightly younger demographic, as well as those who have always wanted a genuine modern yacht experience.
The emphasis will be on staying close to shore and providing maximum time on land, very much like the Rhine and Danube river operations, where ships travel overnight and provide a new destination option each morning. At the same time, there will be more onboard choices and amenities, adding to the Mediterranean vibe.
Azzurra herself will feature 50 staterooms, 88 per cent with balconies; a pool deck and lounge area; wellness centre with spa and gym; and a marine platform at the stern for kayaking, paddle-boarding and snorkelling equipment, as well as three tenders and two Zodiacs for landing ashore, highlighting how the whole experience will be extremely shore orientated.
The Chairman’s View
Scenic Group owner and chairman Moroney explained: “Emerald Waterways has been operating award-winning river cruises since 2014. The launch of Emerald Yacht Cruises and the stunning new Emerald Azzurra are a logical extension of the Emerald Cruises portfolio, adding intimate yacht cruising to its Emerald Waterways river cruise offering.
“This launch also provides a unique opportunity to introduce the Emerald Cruises brand to the Australian market.”
For anyone who has followed the rise of Scenic Tours and Cruises in the past 20 years or so, it is a highly logical extension of a genuine bid to be different in the deluxe holiday world. After dealing purely in Australian tours, to begin with, they introduced their own five-star river cruise vessels on the Rhine and Danube in 2008, helping to raise the profile – and quality – of a genre that was in danger of becoming distinctly stale.
Mass Market and Upmarket
Together with Viking River Cruises and others, they helped to redefine the whole approach to sailing along Europe’s rivers, at the same time taking it more mass market as well as upmarket, a combination that served to drive the total number of river-cruisers from little more than 100,000 in 2001 to 1.4 million by 2016.
Now, river cruising’s meteoric growth is set to spill over once again into the ocean-going format (see Viking’s expansion from rivers to oceans and, more recently, expedition cruising), with a new product that should be highly tempting and in a part of the world that has not seen a lot of focus in overall terms.
Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, and the Adriatic in general, do not have many ports that cater to cruise ships, but something as relatively small as Emerald Azzurra will certainly offer some highly original itineraries and genuinely different cultural experiences, all wrapped up in a high-quality style that should set a new benchmark in unique ocean voyaging.
Even better, bookings are already open, so you can go straight to the online brochure and take a look at the possibilities for your next (or first) super-yacht cruise!
Have you cruised with Emerald or Scenic? Are you interested in this new ultra-luxe opportunity? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.