Emerald Star European River Cruise Ship

View of the swimming pool and river from the Emerald Star aft lounge
Linda Garrison

Scenic Tours launched Emerald Waterways in 2014, and it was a new brand product for the deluxe river cruise market. The 182-guest Emerald Star was one of the first two ships in the Emerald Waterways fleet, which now includes four ships, with three more European river ships to be added in 2017.

Emerald Waterways is a sister brand to Scenic Cruises, which is the parent company's more upscale and higher-priced river cruise line. Emerald Waterways' ships might not be as all-inclusive or luxurious as Scenic's, but both companies offer great service, experienced onboard staff, and excellent itineraries and shore excursions. Both companies have bicycles available for use by the guests, but the ones on Scenic are hybrid--electric or man-powered, and the ones on Emerald Waterways are traditional bikes.

Although the Emerald Star does not have the butler service or unlimited beverages we enjoyed on Scenic Cruises' ships like the Scenic Jewel or Scenic Crystal, the river cruise ship is gorgeous, with comfortable amenities and touches of luxury like the indoor/outdoor pool shown in the photo above. Its cruises are great for anyone who enjoys traveling with a nice mixture of English-speaking travelers from Australia, the UK, North America, and around the world. 

This article provides a detailed look at the Emerald Star river cruise ship, including the exterior, dining, interior and exterior common areas, staterooms, itineraries, and activities.

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Facts and Stats

Emerald Star river cruise ship of Emerald Waterways
Linda Garrison

Launched in 2014, the Emerald Star was built to cruise the Danube, Main, and Rhine Rivers. The ship is narrow enough to sail through the Main-Danube Canal and low enough to sail under the old bridges of the Danube and Main Rivers. 

The Emerald Star is 135 meters (443 feet) long and has 92 cabins and suites. The river cruise ship carries 182 guests and 47 crew and has four passenger decks. 

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Emerald Star River Ship Reflections Restaurant

Reflections Restaurant on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

The Emerald Star has one main dining room, the Reflections Restaurant on deck 2 forward. Like other river cruise ships, this restaurant has large windows on both sides, giving the guests terrific views when the ship is sailing. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, and guests order dinner from a menu. Wine, beer, and/or soft drinks are complimentary at lunch and dinner.

The breakfast buffet caters to all sorts of cruise favorites for different nationalities--baked beans, fresh vegetables, and limp bacon for the British, crispy bacon and eggs for the North Americans, and even Marmite or Vegemite for the Australians. The buffet also has a selection of fruits, cereals, bread, and pastries. 

The lunch buffet has an excellent salad bar, along with soup, hot and cold main dishes, and a selection of desserts (including ice cream). 

Each night's dinner menu is printed on the back of the daily schedule, so guests can start thinking about the next day's dinner before they go to bed the night before! Many guests appreciate that the Emerald Star dinner menu is coded for different preferences and/or common allergies such as gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soy, milk or lactose, edible nuts, celery, mustard, sesame, sulfites, lupines, or mollusks. Individual dishes were also coded for vegetarian or regional selections. 

The menus are designed fleet-wide by the executive chefs at Emerald Waterways headquarters. On a 2-week cruise, the dinner menu changes every night depending on the region/location where each ship is sailing.

Every dinner includes an "Emerald's Classics" menu that includes alternatives such as a clear bouillon soup, Caesar salad, rump steak, poached salmon, or grilled chicken breast. We thought all the dishes were "right-sized"; the servings weren't too large. Anyone who loved a particular dish could always order seconds at no extra charge. Many guests tried two appetizers or shared a second main course if they were extra hungry.

Light Breakfast and Lunch in the Horizons Lounge

The Emerald Star provides an early and late riser breakfast on the bar in the Horizons Lounge. It opens earlier than the buffet and stays open after the buffet is closed. This breakfast bar features continental items like bread and pastries but also has hot dishes. It's ideal for those who like to have a quiet breakfast or want to sit and watch the river scenery from The Terrace or the bar overlooking the bow of the ship.

A light buffet lunch is served in the Horizons Lounge at the same time the regular buffet is served in the Reflections Restaurant. It's a nice option for those looking for a quicker or quieter lunch.

Overall, the food and variety on the Emerald Star were good to excellent, and the presentation was interesting and made each dish tempting to eat. The next two pages include representative menus and photos from dinner. 

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Lamb for Dinner

Lamb trio main course on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

This "trilogy of salt marsh lamb" was one of many excellent main dishes on the Emerald Star menu for dinner. It featured lamb cooked three ways and accompanied by a potato gratin with olives, ratatouille, and a rosemary sauce.

In addition to the "Emerald's Classics" alternative menu discussed on the previous page, other items on the menu that night included:


  • Creme Fraiche Caviar Terrine with salmon coat, fancy cucumber salad, and a honey-dill sauce
  • Angel Hair Pasta "Asian Style" with soy sauce, sprouts, and scallions


  • Cream of Beetroot with sour cream trout caviar

Main Courses

  • Grilled Fillet of Seabass with Costa Lupo sauce, bell pepper vegetables, and risotto
  • Eggplant Escalope with cauliflower mash (vegetarian)


  • Strong Beer Semi Freddo with an apple and ginger compote
  • Couple "Melba" with vanilla ice cream, peach chunks, and raspberry sauce
  • Fresh Fruit Salad
  • International Cheese Selection with nuts and dried fruits
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Yogurt and Lime Terrine for Dessert

Yogurt and lime terrine with forest fruits dessert on the Emerald Star
Linda Garrison

Desserts on the Emerald Star were often presented in a whimsical, fun approach, just like dessert should be. This yogurt and lime terrine was accompanied by forest fruits. 

Other items on the menu that evening included the "Emerald's Classics" and these delectable dishes:


  • Farmer's Ham wrapped in a pancake with a horseradish cream
  • Colorful Salad topped with grapes and a Gorgonzola dressing


  • Grilled eggplant creme soup with a thyme crostini

Main Courses

  • Sliced roast beef with mushroom, green peppercorn sauce, Romanesco, and potato croquettes
  • Butterfish gratinated with mustard butter and served with oven baked pumpkin and polenta
  • Cabbage roll with sticky egg fried rice, soy sauce, and chili vegetables (Vegetarian)


  • Peach chunks with chocolate ice cream and vanilla sauce
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • International cheese selection with dried fruits and nuts
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Sun Deck Barbecue Lunch

Outdoor barbecue on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

On the day the Emerald Star was docked in Rudesheim on the Rhine River, we had a delicious barbecue buffet cooked and served on the sun deck. The galley chefs prepared a nice selection of typical salads like coleslaw and potato salad, baked potatoes, and grilled bratwurst, pork, chicken, and beef. We washed the delicious meal down with ice cold beer or nice rose wine.

The day was sunny and warm, and the crew set up covered seating where guests could sit in the shade if they wanted to stay near the food. Some guests opted to take their plates down to the Horizon Lounge where it was cooler (but further from seconds).  

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Sun Deck Putting Green

Sun deck putting greens on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

The Sun Deck on the Emerald Star has a walking track, putting green, and giant tic-tac-toe board. 

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Sun Deck

Emerald Star river cruise ship Sun Deck
Linda Garrison

Guests on the Emerald Star enjoyed sitting on the top deck in the sun or in the shade when the ship was on the Rhine River.  Because of low bridges on the Main-Danube Canal, the sun deck was closed most of the time while the ship was sailing there.

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Ship Sun Deck

Emerald Star river cruise ship Sun Deck
Linda Garrison

 The Emerald Star Sun Deck features both seatings in the sun and in the shade.

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Horizon Lounge

Horizon Lounge on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

The Horizon Lounge is the busiest place on the Emerald Star (except during meals). It features lots of comfortable seating, a 24-hour complimentary self-service specialty coffee/tea bar, and several video screens used for presentations and strategically placed where one can be seen from every seat in the lounge. The lounge also has a fully equipped bar, with bartenders who quickly learn your favorite drink. 

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Horizon Bar and Lounge

Emerald Star river cruise ship Horizon Bar and Lounge
Linda Garrison

This photo shows the size and great views of the river from the Horizon Lounge. The bar is forward near the bow. 

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Horizon Bar

Emerald Star river cruise ship Horizon Bar
Linda Garrison

The Horizon Bar is very modern in style and lights up in the evening. Very dramatic look if you are ashore after dark or sailing on another ship and pass by.

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View of the Forward Terrace from the Horizon Lounge

View of The Terrace from the Horizon Lounge on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

This bar offers great river views and is located next to the Horizon Bar where a light buffet breakfast and lunch is set up. This was a favorite place for many guests to sit if it was too hot on The Terrace.

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The Terrace

The forward Terrace on the Emerald Star river ship
Linda Garrison

The Terrace is found forward on deck 3 and is a terrific place to sit if the weather is good. It certainly has some of the best views on the Emerald Star. 

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Indoor Swimming Pool and Cinema

Swimming pool and aft lounge on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

The Emerald Star is marketed as a four-star, deluxe product, but this indoor/outdoor swimming pool with a retractable roof is a five-star river cruise ship experience. The pool is heated and too small to swim, but perfect for relaxation. 

On some evenings, the swimming pool is covered, and a large screen is set up at the end of the ship. This transforms the aft lounge into a cinema. 

The aft lounge has quiet seating, a bar, and a 24-hour self-service specialty coffee/tea machine like the one in the Horizon Lounge. Small complimentary bottles of water are also available in this lounge. 

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Atrium on Horizon Deck

Emerald Star river cruise ship atrium
Linda Garrison

The interiors of the Emerald Star river cruise ship are sleek and contemporary. These large chandeliers are lovely by day or at night.

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Grand Balcony Suite

Emerald Star river cruise ship Grand Balcony Suite
Linda Garrison

The Emerald Star river cruise ship had five different types of cabins and suites:

  • Emerald Single Stateroom — The ship has two single staterooms for solo travelers. They measure 117 square feet, are found on deck 1, and have one bed and a window that does not open. The bathroom has a nice shower, and the room comes with a bathrobe, slippers, hairdryer, personal safe, and individual temperature control. Like all the accommodations on the Emerald Star, the single staterooms have a mini-bar and complimentary water that are restocked daily, along with complimentary Wi-Fi.
  • Emerald Stateroom — The ship has 18 staterooms on deck 1 that measure 162 square feet each. The interior and amenities in these staterooms are identical to those in the Emerald Panorama Balcony Suites, but they do not have the large panoramic window that opens since they are on the lower deck.
  • Emerald Panorama Balcony Suite — The 60 Emerald Panorama Balcony Suites are located on decks 2 and 3. These staterooms have all the amenities found in the staterooms on deck 1, but also feature a huge panoramic window that opens at the push of a button. As seen in the next photo, it's like having a balcony built into the cabin, so it can be enjoyed in all sorts of weather.
  • Emerald Grand Balcony Suite — The 8 Grand Balcony Suites on deck 3 of the Emerald Star are larger than the Panorama Balcony Suites because they have a combination sunroom/balcony as seen in the photo above. This makes these staterooms about two feet wider than the Panorama Balcony Suites. The Grand Balcony Suites also come equipped with their own Nespresso machine and guests can order continental breakfast served in their cabin. They also get treated to late afternoon canapes and evening sweets delivered to the suite. The bathroom and storage areas are identical to the Panorama Balcony Suites.
  • Emerald Owner's Suite — The 4 Owner's Suites on deck 3 of the Emerald Star ​is true two-room suites, with a separate bedroom and sitting area. They also have an outdoor balcony with the Grand Balcony Suites. The Owner's Suites have all the amenities found in the Grand Balcony Suites, but also have a walk-in closet, larger bathroom, and complimentary iPad to use during the cruise.
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Panorama Balcony Suite

Panorama Balcony Suite on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

We stayed in one of the Panorama Balcony Suites on the Emerald Star. It had plenty of storage space for two guests, with a closet, six large easy-open drawers, and two spacious medicine cabinets behind the mirrors in the bathroom. A small nightstand is on each side of the bed, and two bright reading lights make reading in bed easier. 

Like all the accommodations, it had a large flat screen television with several English speaking channels, cameras looking out over the bow and sides of the ship, and in the Horizon Lounge. The daily schedule and menu were also on the television.

The ship has European (220-volt) plug-ins, so guests will need to bring an adapter plug to recharge their electronic devices like mobile phone, cameras, tablets, and laptop computer. The cabins have three plug-ins on the large cabinet/dresser, but the audio devices are plugged into one for charging. Another plug-in is next to the bed near the baseboard.

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Panorama Balcony Suite Bathroom

Emerald Star river cruise ship Panorama Balcony Suite
Linda Garrison

We've included this photo to demonstrate that the bathroom entrance in all the accommodations is next to the bed, which is different than most ocean and river cruise ships. It's a convenient location for whoever sleeps next to the bathroom. The bathroom has a blue night light, which might bother some sleepers who require darkness, but the door slides closed easily. The shower is large, and the two storage cabinets behind the mirrors in the bathroom are among the most spacious we've seen.

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View from Panorama Balcony Suite Window

View from Panorama Balcony Suite Window on the Emerald Star river cruise ship
Linda Garrison

The Emerald Star sails the Danube, Main, and Rhine Rivers for Emerald Waterways. We sailed on an 8-day "Rhine-Main Discovery" from Nuremberg to Amsterdam. About 2/3 of the guests on our cruise were doing the 15-day "Splendors of Europe" itinerary, which is a combination of the "Danube Delights" from Budapest to Nuremberg plus our itinerary. 

Views like this one make sailing on the Emerald Star and other river ships exciting. Sometimes you're in the cabin, glance up, and see a castle or fortress as the lovely river ship glides by. It's one of my favorite things about river cruising, and an excellent ship like the Emerald Star makes the experience even more memorable.

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