Nearly 500 miles along 3 of Germanys major rivers, traversing 42 locks, lazily meandering past castles, vineyards, towns, villages and open spaces, this was my voyage on Emerald Waterways ‘Star’ ship, Emerald Star.
Emerald Star epitomizes the new generation of river ships incorporating fresh ideas and raising the bar on luxury. Chrome replaces wood veneer, good use of glass and light pastel colours makes the ship feel very spacious and luxurious. 92 air conditioned cabins, 2 of which are for solo travelers, accommodate 182 guests over three decks, Horizon, Riviera and Vista. Built in 2014 this modern river ship transports the cruiser in comfort along the waterways of Europe and beyond.
Boarding in Nuremberg it’s a welcome on board drink, and hello to cabin 331, a Panorama Balcony on Horizon Deck. Spacious at 180 sq. ft., king size bed, en-suite bathroom with glass shower cabinet and premium toiletries, large deep drawers for storage, a small wardrobe, large flat screen television with entertainment system, mini fridge, safe, and of course that all important item, a powerful hair dryer. The cabin features a glass fronted wall with table and chairs forming an enclosed balcony. When the sun shines, press the button and watch the upper glass glide down to turn into a full open balcony.
6pm, safety briefing done it’s goodbye Nuremberg as Emerald Star sails along the Main-Danube Canal to Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage city, arriving the next morning. Bamberg, home to the famous Bamberg Cathedral consecrated in 1237 and alongside, the Old Court, originally the Bishops Palace. Visit the ‘New Residence’ with its 40 lavish rooms, collection of paintings and exquisite décor serving as the palace for the Prince Bishops until 1802. With the oldest preserved quarter in Europe this town is an historians delight.
Back on board, time to enjoy a shower and make use of the quality toiletries supplied before visiting the Horizon Lounge to meet friends for a pre-dinner drink whilst the resident pianist plays unobtrusively in the background. Time for dinner, open seating is the norm and starts at 7pm. The menu selection is not only excellent but the food standard is superb, served by waiters who are attentive, happy and courteous. Dinner over, time to return to the Horizon Lounge and view the scenery as we glide silently past small villages and arrive at our first lock. With only inches to spare on each side we edge into the lock to be lowered to the rivers next level. Fascinating for those that have never seen this before. Soon we are on our way again heading towards Wurzburg known as the ‘Pearl of the Romantic Road’ where we arrive the following morning.
Wurzburg, another town steeped in history with its origins back to the 1200’s where a walking tour is laid on by the ship enabling passengers to extract the best from this visit. There is even a ‘Slow Walkers’ group to accommodate those less able. The old ‘Main Bridge’ dating back to 1703 with carved statues of the cities dignities over the centuries, the Marlenberg Fortress overlooking the town, Wurzburg Cathedral completed in 1225, the university founded in 1402 and much more. Back in time for lunch where it’s time to enjoy another excellent meal from the buffet washed down with wine, beer or soft drinks that are included in the cruise fare.
The following day we berth early in Wertheim for passengers to hike to Wertheim Castle dating back to the early 8th century. Those feeling the hike beyond their capabilities await their return before taking a coach tour passing through the beautiful German countryside to Miltenberg where guides escort groups on a tour of this beautiful old village dating back to the 1200’s nestling on the banks of the River Main. The one main street is a delight, wood framed houses painted in greens, yellows, browns and white. Shops that have passed from generation to generation, the Giants Inn, a hostelry frequented by Elvis Presley whilst stationed nearby with the US Army in the late 50’s. The market square, cafes protected from the hot sun by trees in full leaf. Too soon it’s the short walk to the quayside as Emerald Star berths and takes us back on board to set sail for Koblenz. During that night we pass Wiesbaden where we leave the Main and join the River Rhine. Passing Castles, Churches, villages and vineyards we make our way to the city of Koblenz, the meeting place of the Rivers Rhine and Moselle.
Koblenz, situated in the heart of the Rhineland, although a modern city compared with previous ports it still has an interesting history with old buildings, squares, statues and sculptures depicting people and events from the city’s past. The former Jesuit College built in 1698, now the city’s Town Hall, the Basilica of St. Castor completed in 1208 with its famed vaulted roof. Take the cable car across the Rhine up to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress built in 1817affording spectacular views across the city. On the downward journey take in the enormity of the equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm 1 placed on ‘German Corner’ where the Rhine meets the Moselle.
Sailing early evening Emerald Star begins the last leg of her journey along the Moselle River to Bernkastel. Early next morning 16 of the more adventurous passengers leave the ship at Traben-Trarbach and proceed the next 25 kilometers to Bernkastel by bicycle whilst those remaining take in the beautiful scenery, passing between high hills their slopes covered in vine yards, camp sites, villages and river craft transporting goods across Germany and countries the mighty rivers connect with.
Bernkastel is home to some of Germanys best wines belonging to the Riesling family. This is a village basking on the shores of the Rhine, a backdrop of vine yard clad hills where grapes grow and ripen in the sun. The village is a picture postcard scene from a bygone era. Beautifully restored wood framed houses, courtyards housing boutique restaurants, cobbled streets thronged with visitors of many nationalities. We stay here overnight enabling passengers time to explore at their leisure after dinner.
Next day Emerald Star sails to her final destination of the cruise, Trier, the oldest city in Germany founded by the Romans in 16BC. Start at the Porta Nigra (Black Gate) and wander the traffic free streets of the centre. View the original Jewish Quarter, the Trier Cathedral adjoined to the Church of Our Lady started in 1230 and consecrated in 1260, now listed as part of the Roman Monuments. Admire the support columns with their painted murals, the alter that is so different I won’t describe it as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone visiting, then back to the ship for the last dinner which like all the others does not disappoint.
So, what can someone booking a cruise on one of the Emerald ‘Star’ ships expect. Certainly the cabins are spacious, bright, airy, air conditioned with many niceties including dressing gown, slippers, bottled water, 448-page guide book covering Emeralds ports from Amsterdam to the Black Sea, receivers and ear pieces to take on tour, and much more. At the stern, an indoor swimming pool with retractable roof, comfortable seating and its own bar. At 8pm the pool covers over and transforms to a cinema under the stars. Sun deck, with mini golf, sun bathing area with comfortable loungers, canopies, tables, chairs and a BBQ area. Wi-fi covers all parts of the ship, hairdresser to keep you looking good, gym to keep you trim and massage room for those tired muscles. Horizon Lounge, 6.45pm, enter the Cruise Director giving a brief talk on the following days port followed by the Executive Chef describing and displaying his signature dish of the evening. The atmosphere is relaxed, dress code smart casual, happy, smiling, polite and efficient staff, as for the food, it’s up there with the best.
more information at www.emeraldwaterways.co.uk
Alan Fairfax -
is a travel writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent with regular holiday & travel sections in all editions
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Official video from Emerald Waterways
"Life onboard an Emerald Waterways river cruise"