RADIANCE On The River, Part One

Knego joins Emerald Waterways’ brand new MV EMERALD RADIANCE on a cruise up Portugal’s Douro River from the scenic port of Porto. In this first post, tour the ship and get a glimpse of gorgeous Porto.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wheels to the road in Porto.

Getting there is never half the fun anymore.  This latest trip to Porto, Portugal began with a four hour delay in Atlanta that caused a chain reaction of further delays that resulted in an unplanned overnight in Amsterdam with no access to luggage (and thus no change of clothes after 35 hours). By the time I made it to glorious Porto, almost two days after leaving San Diego, the determined rumble and clickety clack of my suitcase wheels as they navigated the northern Portuguese city’s golden cobblestones was basically all that was keeping my bleary eyes open.

Veni, Vidi, Vincci!

There were pangs when I met my fellow media friends at the Vincci Porto Hotel, the wonderfully domed former fish market building, ideally perched on the north shore of the Douro River. In exchange for the non-refundable 165 Euros I had paid in advance to enjoy its soaring splendor, I spent a night in a basement room in an Amsterdam airport hotel with a view of a driveway and an occasional passing duck.


All the dread and exhaustion soon melted away.  There’s nothing quite as uplifting as arriving at your ship after a long commute, especially when that vessel is sparkling new.  Fresh from the West SEA shipyard in the town of Viana do Castelo, the 262.1-by-37.3 foot, 1,600-gt EMERALD RADIANCE was delivered this past June and is the first ship for Aussie-owned Emerald Waterways to operate on the Douro.

Elevator up and down.

The 112-guest ship has four decks that are connected by a three deck lobby/stairtower and elevator on the inside and a trio of stairs (one on either side forward and one aft) that leads to the astro-turf-lined uppermost level, Sun Deck.

Forward Sun Deck sunning space.

On Sun Deck (4), there is sunning space, shaded areas, a dip pool (warm, not hot, but with Jacuzzi-style jets) and a walking track (20 times around equals a mile).

Sun Deck shade.

As with most river ships, everything on the top level is collapsible or lowers into the deck below.

Horizon Deck terrace, facing starboard.

Horizon Deck (3) begins with a sheltered open terrace at the bow, leading aft to the Terrace Cafe and Horizon Lounge.


The forward portion of this space features spindly chairs, a counter overlooking the bow and a bar that also serves as a light breakfast, light lunch and tea time treat counter.

Port Horizon Lounge, facing aft.
MV EMERALD RADIANCE Horizon Lounge, facing forward.

Galleries with sofas and cushioned seating lead aft to the largest section of the room, where there is a 24-hour coffee and espresso machine, bagged teas and cookies in addition to a small nook with books, newspapers and board games.


Between the Terrace Cafe and the Horizon Lounge, there is enough seating for all of the EMERALD RADIANCE’s guests.

MV EMERALD RADIANCE Horizon Deck Lobby, facing forward.
MV EMERALD RADIANCE Horizon Deck Lobby, facing aft/starboard.

The lobby best exemplifies the futuristic, cutting edge style of Emerald’s Starship Class of European-based river ships, of which the RADIANCE is a truncated version (by necessity to navigate the Douro), minus the indoor pool that converts into a cinema and plus a pair of lavish, aft-situated Riverview Suites. All of the Starships’ lobbies boast dandelion chandeliers (genuine Mooois?), multi-faceted mirrored surfacing and vividly colored screens.

Reception desk and daily program on wall.

Although guests receive an in-cabin printed program during their nightly turndown, Emerald cleverly displays it on a large monitor next to the reception desk so there is no need to carry one or race back to the cabin to figure out what is going on at any particular time.

Horizon Deck Passage.
EMERALD RADIANCE totally random carpet shot.

Aft of the lobby on Horizon, Vista and Riviera Decks, there is guest accommodation that is accessed via a wide central passageway. Warm wood tones nicely offset the cool grays of the soft fittings.

Reflections Restaurant, facing forward.

Vista Deck (2) begins with the Reflections Restaurant, which, like the Horizon Lounge just above, can accommodate all guests in one leisurely seating. As with the Horizon Lounge, it is built around a central fixture, in this case, a rectangular buffet counter versus a bar.

Aft Reflections corner.

Banquette seating and round tables for up to eight guests are situated fore and aft.

Reflections port gallery, facing aft.

Rows of 2-, 4-, and 6-top tables line the galleries on either side of the room, which feature floor-to-ceiling windows.

Vista Deck lobby.

The lobby on Vista Deck shares duties with the lobby on Horizon Deck for embarkation and disembarkation, subject to gangways and river levels. A seating area is on the starboard side, while the port side is home to the tour office.

Steps of mirrors.
Gym, facing starboard.
Salon/Spa, facing aft.

On the lowest level, Riviera Deck (1), there is a small gym (with an elliptical machine and a treadmill) and a combination beauty salon/massage room.

Riverview Suite, facing aft.

A pair of 300-square-foot Riverview Suites tops the EMERALD RADIANCE’s accommodation tier. Located on aft Horizon Deck, they feature full-length windows that overlook the wake and a side-facing window that slides down to create a French balcony with the touch of a button.

MV EMERALD RADIANCE Riverview Suite, facing forward.

A nice feature about the retractable window is an additional screen which also slides down with the push of a button. This prevents insects and other critters from flying in without impeding the view or access to fresh air.

Riverview loo.

Riverview Suites also have a small bath in addition to a separate shower.

Owner’s One Bedroom Suite, facing aft.

Like the Riverview Suites, a pair of 285-square-foot Owner’s One Bedroom Suites have a separate living and bedroom area. They also feature Emerald’s patented French balcony window but are slightly smaller and lack the panoramic wake view.

Owner’s Suite loo.

Owner’s One Bedroom Suites also do not have the tub. Both of these categories get some additional perks like afternoon canapés, evening sweets, complimentary mini-bar items, some free laundry items and dinner with the captain.

Panorama Balcony Suite 170sqf.

A pair of 170-square-foot Panorama Balcony Suites on aft Vista Deck have a slightly larger floor plan and reconfigured closet space versus standard Panorama Balcony Suites. They also have the sliding window feature.

Standard Stateroom.
Standard Stateroom, inboard view.

At the bottom of the tier are ten comfy 160-square-foot Standard Staterooms on Riviera Deck, which feature a picture window versus the French balcony since they are actually situated below water level.

MV EMERALD RADIANCE Panorama Balcony Suite 319, facing starboard.

My home for the next week was Panorama Balcony Suite 319 on starboard Horizon Deck. At 160-square feet, it was nicely appointed and well laid out, with that inviting French balcony set up, a large flatscreen TV, a make up desk that lights up when the top is opened and a comfy, king-sized bed. One small practical glitch was that the solid infrastructure at the bottom of the bed made it impossible to stow my suitcase, although there was a small compartment for storage of smaller items.  Additional included touches were a walking stick, an umbrella and a cotton bathrobe.

319 loo.

The loo was about average size and comparable to that of an ocean-going cruise ship’s standard cabin loo. It had plenty of storage space and a magnifying mirror.

Night loo.

And, especially handy in the wee hours, it had a night light setting.


Emerald supplies high quality, Portuguese-made amenities by Castelbel, including lotion, shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, soap and shower cap.

Water bottles.

Two large bottles of fresh drinking water are replenished daily by the cabin stewardesses.

DND with the flick of a switch.

And last but not least are Emerald’s wonderful “Do Not Disturb” switches that illuminate a tiny red light in the passage, signaling to stewardesses and would-be visitors to come back later.

Porto’s Arrabida Bridge.

After unpacking, I had just enough time for a run along the river’s edge, out past the graceful arch of Porto’s Arrabida Bridge, the outermost of six linking Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia on the south side of the Douro.

Captain Emanuel Oliveira.

Back aboard, we all gathered in the Horizon Lounge for the safety muster and a 15-minute film instructing us what not to do in an emergency. Shortly thereafter, we headed up to Sun Deck to watch as Captain Oliveira took the EMERALD RADIANCE out for a scenic sunset spin along the gorgeous waterfronts of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.

Reflections buffet.

Our first meal would be an informal but very tasty buffet in the Reflections Restaurant.  Wines (a local red and white), beers and soft drinks are included at lunch and dinner, by the way.

Moon Deck.

After dinner, although the inevitable exhaustion had set in, I took a refreshing stroll on deck to marvel at the twinkling lights of the Douro. EMERALD RADIANCE had since returned to her berth where she would overnight (all Douro cruise ships must overnight in port) and then begin her voyage upstream at 6:30 AM the following morning.

End of RADIANCE On The River, Part One

Click Here For RADIANCE On The River, Part Two/a>

Very special thanks: Lauren Frye, Bruno Pinheiro

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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