EMERALD On The Rhine, Part One

Rivers run deep this season for Peter Knego as he heads to Amsterdam for the christening of Emerald Waterways’ EMERALD SKY, the first in a four-member “Star Ship” platform of river cruise ships, by former British supermodel Twiggy.

Emerald Waterways

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: A new DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2014.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Probably no sector of the cruise market has as much buzz right now as river cruising, especially European river cruising. Huge demand has created a new, more sophisticated generation of ships, among which, the EMERALD SKY is the very latest. The first in what is scheduled to be a four member platform called the “Star Ships”, the EMERALD SKY is also the first for newly formed Emerald Waterways, a slightly less opulent division of five-star Australian-owned Scenic Waterways.

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MV EMERALD SKY at Amsterdam.

Dag Amsterdam! It was wonderful to be back in Holland’s most vibrant city for the first time in over 20 years. A short ride from Schipol in the intermittent rain delivered me to the cruise terminal, where no less than three large river cruise ships, some quite the gilded lilies, were queued up along with the sleek and edgy EMERALD SKY.

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Main stairs, facing forward from Deck 1 to 2 landing.

It was evident EMERALD SKY was no ordinary boat the moment I stepped into the lobby. A honeycomb of mirrored panels, stark surfaces, fiber optic fixtures and pulsating video monitors were a far cry from the fussy, “country floral” ambiance of many European river ships.

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Horizon Lounge, facing aft from center.
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Plexi panels at starboard entrance to Horizon Lounge.
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EMERALD SKY totally random carpet shot.

Due to the confines of locks and bridges, the 443-by-38 foot EMERALD SKY’s dimensions are similar to that of the Viking Longships and others of her European river ilk. From top to bottom, her four passenger decks are laid out as follows: Deck 4 is devoted to open space (a telescopic wheelhouse, sunning and shaded areas, a walking/jogging track and a putting green); Deck 3 is fronted by an open terrace and observation lounge (the Horizon Lounge, which seats all 182 guests at once, shown above), followed by accommodation and, most uniquely, a pool/cinema; Deck 2 begins with the dining room and reception lobby, continuing aft with accommodation and a small gym and massage room and on Deck 1, there is a beauty salon and more accommodation.

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MV EMERALD SKY Panorama Balcony Suite 327.

There are six suite and stateroom categories, ranging from two compact 130-square-foot single cabins to a quartet of 315-square-foot Owners Suites. For the next six nights, I would be occupying 180-square-foot Panorama Balcony Suite 327 at the aft/starboard end of Deck 3. This stateroom was as innovative as it was comfortable and attractive, with a wonderful wall-sized window that with the push of a button silently slid down into an open-air French balcony. The one thing that seemed lacking and easily remedied was a proper nook under the long counter top to slip a chair for use as a writing/computer area.

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327 loo.

There was plenty of storage space, a large flat screen television and a compact WC with shower. In the loo, to avoid water splattering all over the place, the tall taps seen here will be replaced with more efficient, shorter ones on EMERALD SKY’s sister ships.

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Headphones for guided tours.

Emerald, like most savvy river cruise operators, provides rechargeable headsets for the included tours ashore, allowing guides to avoid shouting and guests to hear clearly when in converging tour groups.

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Magnetic chip access.

Another interesting but impractical innovation with the staterooms on the EMERALD SKY are the magnetic chip keys. Unlike typical modern ships’ room keys that can be used as IDs and scanned at the gangway, they involve a cumbersome exchange at the reception for a temporary ID card when going ashore and returning to the ship. Also, magnets can damage digital data, so they need to be kept away from computers and cell phones.

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Central Train Station, Amsterdam.
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Bikes on dykes.

Since the ship was already buzzing with media and travel agents, I would defer documenting the public spaces and deck areas. Instead, I took a walk into Amsterdam, taking extra care not to get bowled over by one of the city’s 600,000 bikes.

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Diagonal pelt.
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Rainbow over the terminal.
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Hail Hollandia.

I made it back to the ship late in the afternoon, just as a sunlit squall produced a brilliant rainbow that was soon doused out by hail.

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Depeche pool mode.

When everyone filed off to dinner in the Reflections Restaurant, I took a detour to capture one of EMERALD SKY’s most unique features, the pool area that converts via a telescopic deck into a cinema each evening.

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Depeche lounge mode.

Within moments, it was transformed into a “dry” space.

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“The Sound of Music” on the Rhine.

And here’s a view in full “cinema mode”, taken later in the week. To enhance the experience, gratis buckets of buttery popcorn are served at the adjacent bar.

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This Red light = Do Not Disturb.

After dinner, I was tempted to go on the included night walking tour of Amsterdam’s Red Light District but seriously needed sleep. So, with the flick of a switch in stateroom 327, I created my own, altogether different, “red light district”.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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Omelet in the AM.

I was uncharacteristically up bright and early — an ironic fringe benefit of jet lag — and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Reflections Restaurant. It was christening day but first, there was a morning canal tour to be savored…

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The morning after.

It was a short bus ride to the train station and an even shorter walk to the canal boat depot. Leftover puddles and the canals, themselves, vied for most attractive reflection in Amsterdam’s colorful kaleidoscope of spring blossoms and pastel facades.

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Ripples of stone and stucco.
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Dutch details.

Certain bridges brimmed with little sculptural surprises.

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Staff to the rails.
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Officers on the prow.

When we returned to the ship, I grabbed the cameras and staked out the best vantage for the event, choosing the elevated sidewalk next to the pier versus getting caught in the swirl of cameras closer to the ship. As officers and staff lined the rails, a jazz quartet began playing and the first guests disembarked, helping themselves to canapes and champagne under a tent set-up.

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Twiggy names thee.

Eventually, a number of speakers, including Emerald Waterways’ owner and CEO, Glen Moroney, took their turn at the mike before godmother Twiggy performed her duties.

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Clicquot trickle (top left).

With all the other sounds in the harbor, I couldn’t hear much but her blessing didn’t veer too far from the standard, “I name this ship EMERALD SKY. May God bless her and all who sail in her.”

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Godmother and Father.

Twiggy skyrocketed to fame in 1966 for her rail-thin figure, mod-London fashion sense and huge eyelashes. She went on to star in the Ken Russell film “The Boyfriend” and enjoyed a successful Broadway and television career.

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Smiles and blessings.

Steps away, the priest blessed a tureen of holy water that was presented to the captain…

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Holy water splash.

…who flung it into the side of the ship.

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Fireboat plume and the SKY.

A fireboat then dispatched a celebratory but short-lived plume. I raced back up to the roadway just as it began to fizzle out…

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A brief pose.

From there, I zoomed in on the still beaming Godmother before she was escorted back to the ship.

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Deck 3 terrace, facing starboard.

EMERALD SKY departed at 1:00 PM and headed on a southeasterly course along the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal towards the mighty Rhine. Up on Deck 4, it seemed as though we would barely clear a series of steel arch bridges.

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Ducking on the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal.

Tempting as it was to stay topsides or dangle a glass of wine off my French balcony, I had to adjourn to the cabin. I would spend the rest of the day and night (save for boat drill, a ship’s tour and dinner) filing stories via the ship’s handy included-in-the-fare internet. Considering all the press that were sharing the bandwidth, the WiFi performed relatively well but there’s no connection like a land connection…

In the next post, we’ll explore more of the EMERALD SKY and visit some of most interesting and scenic ports along the Rhine.

End of EMERALD On The Rhine, Part One…

Special thanks: Mindy Bianca, Martin Cox, Elliot Gillies

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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