ABOVE: Emerald Sky (above) and its sister ship, Emerald Star, will debut with Emerald Waterways in 2014.
In Europe, river cruising is attracting a growing number of experienced ocean cruisers who, having visited the more popular coastal ports, are eager to sample the Continent's inland waterways. New ships make their debut on European rivers every year, and every now and then a new cruise line comes along. In 2014, the fresh-faced kid on the block wll be Emerald Waterways (a new brand of Scenic Tours, which also operates Scenic Cruises).
Emerald Waterways will have two brand-new, custom-designed ships--Emerald Sky and Emerald Star--that are intended to meet the expectations of longtime ocean cruisers. For example, each ship has a heated outdoor swimming pool with bar, gelato station, and retractable roof. At night, the swimming pool transforms into a movie theatre with upholstered seats.
Suites feature "indoor balconies," which are recessed balconies with glass floor-to-ceiling windows that drop to railing height at the touch of a button. Even the standard cabins are larger than the staterooms on most river ships. All rooms have free Wi-Fi, which is available throughout the ship.
You'll find two restaurants on Emerald Sky or Emerald Star: the main Reflections dining room, and--at breakfast and lunch--an outdoor restaurant in the bow called The Terrace. Complimentary wine, beer, mineral water, soft drinks, tea, and coffee are served at lunch and dinner.
Other amenities include a bar-lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows, a sun deck with a pop-up "sky bar," a golf putting green, a giant chess set, a fitness area, a massage-therapy room, a hairdresser, and a souvenir shop.
In 2014, Emerald Waterways is offering five cruise itineraries on the Danube, Rhine, and Moselle, with voyages of eight to 15 days. (One of the itineraries is a 15-day Christmas Markets cruise.)
Something else worth mentioning: Emerald Waterways cruise fares include airport transfers and all tips for onboard services and shore excursions.
For more information, including fares and special offers for bookings before October 31, 2013, visit www.emeraldwaterways.com.
Photo renderings: Emerald Waterways.