Emerald Sky Review
We sailed on the MS Emerald Sky from 21 June to 5 July 2014 from Amsterdam to Budapest. During those 15 days we got to know this new ship fairly well and liked everything there was to see.
Forget all those “artist impressions” photos on the Evergreen Tours and Emerald Waterways brochures, websites and Facebook pages – the real ship is a bit different, particularly in the furnishings, but not in a bad way.
Click the buttons below to see my reviews of the Amsterdam-Budapest cruise product and the day-by-day account of what we saw and did:
- Built: De Hoop shipyards at Lobith, Netherlands.
- Launched: 9 April 2014
- Length: 135 m
- Width: 11.45 m
- Decks: 3
- Passengers: 180
- Cabins: 80
- Grand Balcony Suites: 8
- Owner’s Suites: 4
- Hotel crew: 34
- Nautical crew: 7
We boarded the Emerald Sky in Amsterdam and had no cruising reference point, as this was our first cruise. It was evident that this is a new ship, as everything was clean and shiny. When we traversed other ships at ports to get into ours, we could see how old and tired some of them were.
After downing the welcome cocktail, we went to Reception to check in and collect our electronic door keys. You touch a depression in the door handle and the door unlocks.
Our cabin was like a little hotel room, but it was quite inviting. The bulk of the crew is indeed managed by a “Hotel Manager” – Istvan. There was a pillow menu the first day, but we didn’t see it again. Sleep quality was perfect. Both of us use sleep apnoea machines, so it was nice to see a spare European power point next to the bed on each side. Such small features can be a big thing for passengers who don’t need to unplug a light or clock radio as is the case with many hotels.
Each night we received a programme of the next day’s activities and useful information.
There is a camera in the front of the ship (the bow) and you could always see its vision on the TV.
We carry an Aussie power strip board that plugs into a 230VAC European two-pin socket (which are the main kind in the cabins) via our adapter. There was also a multi-pin socket next to the coffee machine and one Aussie/Chinese socket in the bathroom. We did not need to unplug anything to fit our board.
It is debatable whether the extra price of a full balcony is worth it (we got a free upgrade having booked 18 months earlier), but the folding glass door and curtain were able to trap the hot air when we were on the sunny side of the ship.
The air conditioner cuts out when the sliding window is lowered. Lesley liked using the balcony to do a puzzle on our iPad or check out Facebook.
The water pressure in the shower was just right. The taps have an indented stop position so that you can easily get a comfortable 38C temperature and good flow without guessing. You can go past those positions if you are a tough guy and want a hotter shower.
We used the integrated clothes line for hanging up some washing. Passengers were requested not to hang wet clothing on chairs in the balconies. Shampoo replenishment was not done in the final couple of days, so we had to squeeze the bottle to get the last of it.
Towels were replaced every day, even if you hung them up as per the “Save our rivers” placard. I suppose they would not have dried out by the next morning, so no complaints there.
Given that half the cupboard is taken up by the minibar and safe, you’ll be struggling to hang many clothes in there. There are six generous drawers in the vanity, which will take care of other clothes and belongings. At our grade of room (Grand Balcony Suite), the mini bar was not free.
The top deck is laid out for easy dismantling and removal of seating and railings, as happens during three days (or more) in the Main-Danube Canal, which has many low gantries and bridges near the locks. The ship’s bridge also drops as low as possible, with barely a chink peering out (periscope anyone?). No passengers can go up on such days.
There is no “steering wheel” on this modern ship – just a couple of joysticks that look more like gaming devices.
When we reached one of the three tallest/deepest locks, the railings were temporarily raised so we could all go up and watch the lock in operation while sipping champagne.
We also had a barbecue (the cruise director kept calling it a “grilling”!) one sunny afternoon after we cast off from Melk and headed for Linz.
The perimeter of the Sun Deck was good for walking/jogging if one needed exercise, but we had plenty of that each day while seeing the sights. Not sure if anyone bothered to use the golf putting green either. The artificial turf can generate a bit of static electricity, even in summer, so watch out when going downstairs, if you are sensitive.
At many points, the cruise director was in the bridge room giving a commentary on the sights we passed. There are loudspeakers on the sides throughout the length of the ship, so you could always hear her.
On each side of the ship are the controls for the side thrusters, used by the crew to gently park the ship against the dock.
This is the third level (where our cabin was) and it features the Horizon Lounge. This is used for the light breakfasts/lunches at one end of the bar, daily briefings, entertainment and for what one does in a lounge – lounging around. There is an excellent automatic coffee maker that was used constantly but it did not break down. Below the coffee machine was the ship’s library with books on the ports we visited and related themes. It also had some board games.
Each corner of the Horizon Lounge has a monitor that was used for the daily briefings and the occasional Football World Cup screenings. The rest of the time it was showing the bow camera vision.
There was live keyboard music and singing by Peter (the crew don’t have surnames). He belted out a lot of popular tunes each night.
The Terrace is a small deck in the front of the ship where a few people can lie on sun chairs or eat a light lunch or breakfast. It was a good place to watch the locks in operation. The radar and antennas can be raised and lowered to avoid hitting low-flying bridges. There was always a crew member up front during lock transit, communicating with the bridge.
Each day, going through a lock might involve a thud and scrape, so a crew member could be seen painting over the scrapes the next time we docked.
At the aft of the ship is the swimming pool, which can be covered over and the room turned into a cinema for just 19 people. Bookings are required. Lesley went one night and enjoyed “Captain Phillips”. The bar attendant provided everyone with refreshments and popcorn.
This is Level 2 and features the Reflections Restaurant, gym and massage/beauty centre.
The restaurant has a variety of table configurations, so you can sit as a couple or as a larger party.
The restaurant crew were attentive, prompt and professional. We had unlimited wine/beer/juice/soft drinks during meals.
The food was excellent and plentiful – five-star hotel quality. The chef said that they knew exactly how many choices to prepare and everyone got their choice – certainly this was the experience at our table.
The product isn’t just for Australians, so there were many clues in the crew’s language/spelling/pronunciation to suggest that North Americans were the main market.
The gym is small but it was used by some people.
This floor also leads to the main engine room, where some of us got detailed tours by the Chief Engineer. He patiently took 4-5 groups through his domain, which also includes a smaller and quieter engine at the front of the vessel. We also saw the sewage disposal plant, which can generate pure water at the end of its operation.
This is Level 1, the lowest level, which houses some cabins, the crew quarters and the laundry. The engine room also extends down to this level.
The kitchen is at this level and is accessed from the middle of the bar on the Vista Deck, so passengers can’t get in the way of the serving staff. Chef Mihai showed us around his domain, which has only eight staff. The menus are pre-determined by headquarters and provisions are pre-ordered, so the only flexibility he has is to change the date of some menus within the four-day provisioning period.
The ship is loaded with enough diesel fuel in Amsterdam to last the entire return voyage. The waste products are also processed on board and discharged in Amsterdam.
Fresh water is taken on board at most ports and local electricity is also used.
The MS Emerald Sky is a great ship (like her sister Emerald Star) and perfect for this cruise. We had a great time on board and had no complaints.
Where Is the Emerald Sky Right Now?
- The Shiptracking.eu site lets you see where any ship is. Click here to see its current location.
- APRS.fi also shows its location here.
Here is a short post-launch video from Evergreen Tours that covers most of the ship:
Here is a URL that shows 360-degree views of the ship: