Scenic Tours Launches Emerald Waterways

Scenic Tours announced the launch of a new premium river cruise line called Emerald Waterways, which will debut two new ships in early 2014 and is aimed at attracting a younger audience. The 182-passenger, 443-foot long sister ships Emerald Sky and Emerald Star, will debut in spring of 2014 and will cruise 7 to 14 night itineraries on the Rhine, Danube, Main and Mosel rivers.


Managing Director for Scenic Tours and Emerald Waterways, Chris Townson said “We believe we can attract a younger demographic, too, with value for money as the emphasis”, although he stressed the line would not be actively marketing to families.


Townson also said Emerald Waterways is positioning itself as a competitor to brands such as Viking Cruises and Avalon Waterways. He said the line would be competitive within the four-star range of cruise products while also boasting a handful of innovative design touches and nearly all-inclusive pricing. The most innovative new bit of design planned for the twin ships is a dual-purpose area at the aft of the ship that transforms from an indoor, heated pool with retractable roof during the day to a cinema at night. The rest of the ships’ new features have become standard, these include: good-sized suites, balconies in a majority of cabins and an open-air alternative dining space.


Emerald Waterways will include beer, wine and soft drinks at meals, shore excursions, transfers and tips within the cost of the overall fare, as does Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. Additionally, the line will offer free return flights to U.K. passengers traveling from London’s Heathrow airport and other regional airports. For passengers traveling from cities and countries outside the U.K., a spokesperson for the line said: “We can arrange flights for guests on a case by-case basis — however if the cost of the flight from a country other than the U.K. goes over an allocated budget, we would charge the guest extra. Or they can take the cruise as a ‘cruise only’ and book their own flights.”


Around the world cruising-small ship style

When talking about around the world cruises, Cunard or Holland America come to mind as they were the first cruise lines to really promote this kind of travel and both are still active with Cunard having three ships doing more than 116 day trips, Holland America with a 113 day one. However, many of the cruise lines with smaller ships are now tapping into this market and are definitely worth taking a look at.

The biggest benefit these little ships have is their passenger space ratio (which is derived from dividing the gross tonage of the ship by the number of passengers)     The idea is the greater the number, the more space you’ll have onboard.


Regent Seven Seas Voyageur ship which holds 700 passengers is doing the longest itinerary at 136 days from Auckland to London. Seabourn’s Sojourn ship which holds 450 passengers is doing a 116 day one from Los Angeles to Venice. Silversea’s Silver Whisper is the smallest at 382 passengers doing a 113 day itinerary from Los Angeles to Barcelona. All of these three ships have a space ratio of over 70 compared to a score of mid 40 for Holland America’s Amsterdam (1380 passengers) and Cunard’s QE2 (2090 passengers)


Most of these around the world sailings take place yearly in Jan/Feb but can be taken in shorter segments if you don’t have the time to take the full one.
I had a client who took a world cruise many times and on each voyage, he used the “at sea” days to write a new book. I thought it was a brilliant idea and he claimed he was much more inspired being away from home and seeing all the wonderful ports of call along the way.

So instead of heading south for the winter, choose the sea for a sail around the world and maybe you will be inspired too!

River views right from your bed

It’s amazing to see how the river cruise companies come up with such innovative ways to design their staterooms. You’ll see in the video below how Avalon Waterways changed the configuration of the cabin and now have the bed facing the window – genius idea !

(I joked that maybe it was designed by a woman because the old way used to face the TV and now it faces the spectacular scenery going by)

Do all river cruise companies have bikes onboard ?

This is popular question that I get asked when clients are inquiring about European river cruising so thought I would post the answer here for others to benefit from.


No, all of the river cruise companies do not have bikes onboard in Europe so if this is important to you, then you’ll want to look at:


1) AMA Waterways
2) A-Rosa
3) Scenic Tours
4) Tauck Tours
5) Uniworld


Avalon Waterways and Viking River Cruises are the two that do not have bikes onboard.


Happy sailing and cycling !



Bicycles on river cruises

Bicycles on river cruises

Viking River Cruises becomes Viking Cruises !

Viking River Cruises has been a leader in river cruising since they started in 1997 and has now decided to rebrand the company. They realized they wanted to tap into their river cruise passengers desire to take an ocean cruise to places they couldn’t reach. I think it is a brilliant idea and a way to keep their brand loyalty.

What is even more brilliant is that they took everything that was a negative about ocean cruising and made it a positive on their new ship, The Viking Star, which will debut in May 2015.

Some of the highlights are:
All staterooms have private veranda’s (no more inside cabins !)
An included shore excursion at every port (no more huge bills at the end of your cruise !)
All onboard meals included (no more surcharges for speciality restaurants !)
Complimentary wine, beer & soft drinks with onboard lunch and dinner (no more $9 per glass wine charges at dinner !!)
Complimentary specialty coffee & teas (no more $3 to $5 charges per cup !)
Complimentary wifi (no need to say anything more about this !)
Complementary self-service laundry (great for long trips – no more high cleaning bills !)
All port charges and govt taxes included in your price (the price you see is the price you pay !!)

All of this plus world class service, cultural enrichment and not sharing the ship with three thousand other people as the Viking Star holds just over 900 passengers.

All of us in the travel industry are looking forward to the arrival of this ship and here is a quick video to tell you more about it – enjoy !

Dreamin on the Amazon River

If a trip to the Amazon is on your bucket list, then a great way to experience the jungle atmosphere is to pair it with a voyage on the spectacular Sea Dream II. The company classifies the Sea Dream as “yachting, not cruising” and I was convinced after only a few days. Many of the cruise lines claim to do Amazon cruises but they only sail in as far as Manaus, Brazil but this was where the journey actually started heading towards Peru. There were just under 90 passengers onboard with 93 crew members so you can imagine how well we were taken care of.

The service level was the best I’ve ever experienced on a ship and the display of food would rival any five star restaurant. Chef Tomaz was very helpful in providing alternate dining options for my non-dairy diet and went above and beyond, creating a special soup for me everyday (they also offered many gluten free options too) He could be seen in the morning overseeing breakfast orders and was always very approachable. There was a small buffet area with fruits/cheese/desserts that we were welcomed to, but a staff member was always waiting nearby to carry your plate back to your table.

One of the great features of this ship (and the identical Sea Dream I) is their marina which is accessible from the stern. They would deploy the zodiacs which were stored at the bow and load us in for our daily adventures. Swimming in the Amazon – why yes you can! Not in the muddy waters but in the black water tributaries that were found everywhere as we motored along. One day we were able to get into the water with the pink dolphins (who are grey when they are born but turn pink as they age) and they were just as curious about us as we were thrilled to see them.

We visited a few villages along the way and met the locals who looked happy and healthy even though they were living in such remote places only accessible by boats. Their whole lives are based around the river and it was fascinating to see how they lived. They have to build their homes on stilts due to the rising water levels. We were invited into the home of an elderly midwife who gave us an acai berry drink, lovingly mixed with sugar (and ants!), which we drank to show our gratitude.

A trip to Monkey Island had us all laughing like little children when the squirrel monkeys would dive from the trees onto us, landing on our heads or shoulders and jumping from one person to the other.

The zodiacs were also used to take us out on expeditions in the jungle and the four guides that we had along with us were so informative and passionate about the Amazonian area, made us appreciate all the different species we were able to see.

During the day, the guides were able to spot birds, reptiles and animals embedded in the foliage that had us straining our eyes to focus on. I was thankful for a new camera purchase that had a great zoom lens to capture many pictures including the one of a sloth hanging out in the trees. One day we paddled through the reeds to completely immerse ourselves with surrounding vines and were treated to sounds like being at a symphony with the instruments consisting of birds chirping, monkeys squealing and frogs croaking – it was breathtaking.

We were lucky on the night expeditions as the full moon illuminated the zodiacs through the darkness where flashlights would light up the eerie eyeballs of the caimans in the water. The guides were fearless of the river and many times would thrust their hand into it and pull up a snake, frog and even a small caiman for us to photograph.

As we neared the end of our voyage, an unforgettable day was celebrated as we had breakfast in Brazil, lunch in Columbia and dinner in Peru. Disembarking in Inquitos, we were very sad to say goodbye to the hardworking staff on the Sea Dream II plus the new friends that we shared many amazing adventures with.

Saint Lawrence River Cruise

This cruise in 2012 was actually a combo ocean and river cruise in that it started in the bustling city of Boston and cruised on the open water before reaching the St. Lawrence River and finishing up in Montreal, Canada.

More details and picture captions coming soon

Seine River Cruise-Paris to Normandy

Picture this – your voyage begins from the romantic city of Paris and your ship is docked a half hour walk from the base of the Eiffel Tower !

From the top deck, we could see the tower and the fun glitter show that occurs every night at 9pm for 5 minutes.  This wonderful journey down the Seine River in France was rich with art, gardens and history.
Everyone should visit Normandy once in their life to appreciate those who sacrificed so much for our future.


Yangtze River Cruise-Chongqing to Shanghai

The Yangtze River is the largest river in Asia and the third largest in the world. This was the most interesting cruise I have even been on and learned so much about history and customs that so many of us still use today.  There were night excursions, mountain tours, Sampan boat rides, the most amazing view over the Three Gorges Dam and a far greater appreciation of what the locals went through when this project was being built.

Spent a few days in Shanghai after the cruise and absolutely loved this city, so easy to get around.