Photo Credit: Emerald Waterways.
UPDATE: This post was originally a contest entry for JohnnyJet.com. When we did not win, I debated whether to take it down. Ultimately, I decided to keep the post live because it illustrated a part of our journey here on Backroad Planet. Months later, a PR executive discovered this post online and offered us a sponsored river cruise on another line. Some of the information in this post is outdated, but it has opened doors for us, and there is NO WAY we are taking it down! How about it, Emerald Waterways? We are available for 2016 going forward . . . .
I usually write from personal experience, places I have been, sights I have seen, and of course backroads I have traveled. Today I write about a dream of places I have never been, sights I have not seen, and a journey down a road yet untraveled.
This dream is a backroad trip of a different kind, and it has captured my imagination as the perfect trip because it combines all the elements I love: stunning scenery, storied history, local flavor, all while cruising through time down a river road.
Emerald Waterways is a brand new European river cruise line set to launch in April of 2014. In fact, the first of four ordered “Star Ships,” the Emerald Sky, was delivered only last month in Lobith, Netherlands. Of the five itineraries scheduled for 2014, the 15-day “Splendours of Europe” cruise down the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers is the stuff dreams are made of. And that journey is my dream . . . .
A Cruise of a Another Kind
Although I have never taken a river cruise, they intrigue me as the antithesis of ocean cruises. I have only taken one ocean cruise in my life, a 4-day Western Caribbean voyage with stops in Key West and Cozumel, and that experience was enough to satisfy my curiosity. Although I enjoyed the ports and 24-hour buffets, I learned that mammoth cruise ships and my claustrophobic tendencies do not partner so well. Not to detract from cruisers who enjoy this type of travel, but a cabin in the belly of Leviathan, oil-slathered masses, and the interminable “day at sea” left me feeling deflated and trapped.
My readers know I love travel planning almost as much as taking the actual trip. When I am immersed in travel research, my imagination lets me travel vicariously before ever leaving town. This dream of an Emerald Waterways “Splendours of Europe” river cruise is no different.
I envision boarding the Emerald Sky in Amsterdam and unpacking once because my floating hotel will accompany me upriver for the next two weeks. Later, I will move on deck for drinks and dinner and get acquainted with my 181 fellow travelers and newest best friends on board.
The “Splendours of Europe” river cruise will take me down a river of dreams from Amsterdam to Budapest, past windmills of time, through the Black Forest, stopping to stroll through streets of quaint medieval villages and Imperial cities. I will tour the halls of storybook castles, and gaze upon the soaring spires of gothic cathedrals and mountain peaks.
The locations I most anticipate visiting on the “Splendours of Europe” cruise are the Dom Cathedral in Cologne, the UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Gorge, the city of Nuremberg where the Nazi party rallied millions and ultimately met their fate, immaculate classical Vienna, and regal Budapest at last.
Not Your Average River Cruise Line
As the newest European river cruise line in six years, Emerald Waterways offers several features that set them apart from other top-notch companies. One feature is an onboard pool with a retractible ceiling, a feature typically unique to ocean cruise lines. At night this multi-purpose space converts to a movie theatre.
EmeraldPLUS shore excursions are a step above run-of-the-mill land tours offered by other river cruise lines. They feature immersive experiences with local art, history, cuisine, and wine, as well as authentic activities with local culture, such as afternoon tea with a Slovakian family.
Complementing the uniquely European river ports and land excursions is the opportunity to relax on the Sun Deck, drink in hand, and a 360° view of the castles that line the cliffs of the Middle Rhine. In fact, there are no “days at sea.” Land is always in sight throughout these state-of-the-art ships, from picture windows on the Riviera Deck to ceiling-to-floor panorama windows on the Vista and Horizon Decks.
Perhaps the most convenient feature offered by Emerald Waterways is the all-inclusive ticket pricing. In addition to the EmeraldPLUS shore excursions and on board fine dining, all port charges, transfers, and tips are included with the purchase price, allowing passengers to travel without the added distraction of feeling nickeled-and-dimed at every turn.
The Emerald Waterways “Splendours of Europe” river cruise offers the perfect blend of all the things I love.
And dreams do come true . . . .