Another river cruise line is jumping into ocean cruising

Feb 1, 2020

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Another cruise company focused on river trips is planning a significant expansion into ocean voyages.

River line Emerald Waterways announced on Saturday it would add an ocean-going ship to its fleet for the first time in July 2021.

To be called Emerald Azzurra, the relatively small, yacht-like vessel will carry just 100 passengers and sail warm-weather itineraries across the Mediterranean and Red Sea.

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Emerald Waterways has been marketing Dalmatian Coast trips this year on small, chartered vessels, but never before has operated its own ocean-going ship.

The new vessel will be the first for a new Emerald brand to be called Emerald Yacht Cruises. The company’s nine river ships will continue to operate under the brand name Emerald Waterways. Together, the two divisions will fall under the newly created Emerald Cruises.

“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 in the Mediterranean to the existing Emerald Waterways river cruise offerings,” Glen Moroney, the owner and chairman of Emerald parent company, Scenic Group, said in a statement.

Founded in 2014, Emerald is a relative newcomer to the river cruise business but has been growing fast. It’s known for modestly priced, mostly all-inclusive voyages that draw a mix of Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and Brits.

The 100-passenger Azzurra will be a yacht-like vessel designed to cruise along the French Riviera, Croatian coast and other yachty destinations. Image courtesy of Emerald Cruises.
The 100-passenger Emerald Azzurra will be a yacht-like vessel designed to cruise along the French Riviera, Croatian coast and other destinations popular with the yachting crowd. Image courtesy of Emerald Cruises.

Emerald is just the latest river cruise operator to make a move into ocean cruising. Luxury river cruise specialist Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, which also is owned by the Scenic Group, added its first ocean-going vessel in 2019. Carrying 228 passengers, Scenic’s ocean-going Scenic Eclipse also is a yacht-like ship — but one specifically designed for adventurous expedition-style cruising.

Also moving into ocean cruising in a big way in recent years has been Viking, the most prominent player in river cruises aimed at North Americans. After years of offering just river cruises, Viking began rapidly rolling out ocean ships in 2015.

Viking now has six, 930-passenger ocean ships in operation with six more vessels in the same series on order. The company also just announced plans for two expedition-style ocean ships.

Emerald said Emerald Azzurra would be custom-designed to cruise in the warm waters of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea with yacht-like features such as a marina platform. Passengers will be able to paddleboard and snorkel from the marina. The vessel also will carry three tenders and two Zodiac boats for shore landings.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Emerald promised spacious accommodations on the ship. All but six of its 50 cabins will measure more than 285 square feet, which is large for a cruise vessel. There will be a wide range of suites measuring as much as 1,192 square feet. Nearly all the rooms will have balconies.

The ship’s interior will include a wellness center complete with a gym and spa.

Initial Emerald Azzurra itineraries will focus on ports in the Adriatic Sea along the coasts of Italy, Croatia and Montenegro as well as the French Riviera, the islands of Greece, the west coast of Turkey and such places as Israel and Egypt.

Emerald Azzurra’s inaugural voyage will be an eight-day trip from Limassol, Cyprus, to the port for Athens, Greece, that features calls at Paphos, Cyprus; Fethiye, Bodrum and Kusadasi in Turkey; and Mykonos and Santorini, Greece.

An eight-day French and Italian Rivieras with Corsica itinerary in the works will bring stops in Porto Ercole, Portoferraio and Portofino, Italy; Bonifacio and Calvi on the French island of Corsica; and Menton, France. The one-way voyages begin in Civitavecchia, Italy (the port for Rome) and end in Nice, France.

Emerald Azzurra will have a heavily all-inclusive pricing structure, according to Emerald. Wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; onboard gratuities; transfers between airports and the ship; port charges and all taxes will be included in the fare. Many shore excursions will be included, too.

The ship will be built in Vietnam by the Ha Long Shipbuilding Company.

Planning a cruise for the coming year? Our planning guide starts here:

Featured image courtesy of Emerald Cruises



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