Nearly 500 miles along 3 of Germany’s 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 travellers, accommodate 182 guests over three decks; Horizon, Riviera and Vista. Built in 2014, 443 feet long and with a crew of 29 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 sees all passengers gathered in the Horizon Lounge for a safety briefing from the Cruise Director and Captain. It’s then goodbye Nuremberg as Emerald Star leaves the berth and begins the first part of her 8-day journey along the Main – Danube Canal to the first port of call, Bamberg, a UNESCO World Heritage city. Arriving the next morning, Bamberg, built on seven hills home to the famous Bamberg Cathedral, St. Peter and St. George, consecrated in 1237 and, alongside, the Old Court, originally the Bishops Palace from the 15th century. Visit the ‘New Residence’ dating back to the 17th century with its 40 lavish rooms, collection of paintings and exquisite decor serving as the palace for the Prince Bishops until 1802. With the oldest preserved quarter in Europe this town is a historians delight. The town is also famous for its beers where local breweries produce 30 different types of ales the most famous being the very dark Rauchbier ‘Smoke Beer’ using the 5 century old recipe of smoked malt.
Back on board, time to enjoy a shower, the jet is powerful and the water hot making a perfect blend when combined with the quality toiletries supplied before visiting the Horizon Lounge. This is the perfect place 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 starting at 7pm allowing you to sit where you want and with whom you want. The menu selection is not only extensive but the food standard superb, served by waiters who are attentive, happy and courteous. Dinner over, time to return to the Horizon Lounge, chat with friends, listen to the music 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 the captain edges us very slowly 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 day after breakfast and have moorings in the main town.
Wurzburg is another town steeped in history with its origins dating back to the 1200s. A walking tour is laid on by the ship enabling passengers to extract the best from this visit and for those less able there is a ‘Slow Walkers’ group enabling those who participate the opportunity to ‘take a seat’ every so often. The old ‘Main Bridge’ dating back to 1703 with carved statues of the cities dignities over the centuries, look to the west and admire the vineyard covered hills topped by the Marlenberg Fortress overlooking the town. Take a separate walking tour of this old town, visit the Wurzburg Cathedral completed in 1225, the university founded in 1402, the beautiful church of St. Mary, completed in 1441 and the burial place of Balthasar Neumann the German architect and military artillery engineer. There is so much to see that lunchtime is almost past on returning to the ship 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.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Emerald Waterways.