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on a river cruise to eat and drink all day, so
subsidising those that do seems silly.
What if there was a halfway house where
the basics are included – three meals, wine
or beer with food, one excursion a day,
gratuities, transfers and wi-fi? You choose
the rest from a menu of experiences like a
wine-tasting tour of the Rhine Valley at
$55, or a half-day tour of Salzburg, home
of The Sound of Music, at $145.
In a nutshell, that ’s the offer from
Evergreen. The result is a holiday which,
with free flights, can mean savings of up to
$2,500 on a popular trip like Amsterdam
With just a few dates left in October
2014, Evergreen is already declaring this
marketing approach a big success.
So as we pulled out of Amsterdam and
onto the Rhine after a launch ceremony
presided over by sixties fashion icon Twiggy
she is 64 and the face of fashion for British
high street chain Marks & Spencer – we felt
we were witnessing something different.
The Sky had left its D utch builders just a
few days earlier and, even as our luggage was
stowed beneath the beds in our cabins, men
in blue overalls were still putting the finishing
touches to the shipyard’s handiwork.
The 41-strong crew of mainly Romanians
had assembled for duty just a week before.
The kitchen had yet to ser ve its first full
meal. The pool – ingeniously, its floor rises on
hydraulics, leaving the water beneath – had
yet to receive its first swimmers.
Over the next eight days, our journey
would transport us to Basel through the
stunning Rhine Gorge, a wonderland of
castles and characters with stories as riveting
as Game of Thrones.
On the way, we would explore museums,
farms and tiny cuckoo-clock villages; taste
local sausage and wine in Cologne, Koblenz,
Rudeseim, Heidelberg and Breisach.
River cruise ships have limits on their size,
set by the many locks on the water ways. The
Sky is the regulation 135 metres (443 feet),
so it’s what ’s inside that counts.
She features three decks throughout
(most river ships have 2.5). The 182 guests
are accommodated in 72 suites and 20
staterooms, including two single cabins.
The upper level Horizon Deck contains
one-bedroom Owner’s Suites at 29 sq m;
and Grand Balcony Suites, which include
a full outside balcony, at 19 sq m. Emerald
Balcony Suites are 17 sq m and have an
Fac t file
CRUISE LINE: Evergreen Tours
VESSEL: Emerald Sky
MAX PASSENGER CAPACITY: 182
TOTAL CREW: 41
PASSENGER DECKS: 3
ENTERED SERVICE: April 2014
FACILITIES: Roof with sunloungers,
golf and running track; front terrace
for drinks and light lunches; small gym,
massage room and hair salon; flatscreen
TV, wi-fi, mini-bar, iron and safe in cabins.
BOOKINGS: 15-day Deluxe River Cruise
from Amsterdam to Budapest through
15 cities, towns and mystical castles from
$6,525 per person, twin-share with free
flights to Europe. For more details, see
your local CLIA travel agent, phone 1300
383 747 or see evergreentours.com.
innovative floor-to-ceiling window that
opens electronically to a “half balcony”.
Two single cabins at 12 sq m – and
the capacity to create another eight with
special deals on double rooms – make this
a particularly singles-friendly vessel.
There is a hair salon where a “wash, set
and blow-dry” costs around $45, while
massages cost about $88 for 60 minutes
in a small treatment room.
staircase was fitted within a fortnight of that
first tour and will feature on the entire Star
Cabins are light and neat, with a safe,
mini-bar and capacious drawers. A wide-
screen TV had movies and news channels,
and the wi-fi service worked well.
So how does the Sky stack up against the
competition? Rafting on Europe’s rivers has
a few downsides. But it does allow you to
The Lafayette is the opposite. As bland
as a bowl of porridge. Hard to grasp that,
like the Sky, she is just two weeks old. She
already looks past her prime.
So how did the Sky shape up? Rather well,
actually. Neither garishly over-the-top nor
beige, the Sky is as modern as an Apple and
equally as cutting edge.
There was another opportunity to
compare her at Koblenz. The Scenic Sapphire,
‘Our journey would transport us to Basel through the stunning Rhine Gorge, a
wonderland of castles and characters with stories as riveting as Game of Thrones.’
Public areas are spacious, with a fresh
and sleek interior design by Karen Moroney.
The vibrant chrome-and-glass look marks
out the Emerald fleet as more sophisticated
and sleek, with no stuffy drapes or oversized
furnishings. She is as cool as a Soho cocktail
bar, with cocktails to match.
Passengers don’t get the chance often, so
a meeting with the owner and designer saw
a flurry of suggestions from inaugural guests.
Mr Moroney took careful note and promised
removable side tables in the cabins to
allow beds to be separated. A new entrance
take a sneak peak at what other passengers
When the Sky pulled alongside the
Uniworld Antoinette and CroisiEurope’s
Lafayette at Breisach, the opportunity was
too good to miss.
Antoinette is classic Uniworld – as
flamboyant as a flambé, with a huge glass
chandelier in reception and crystal decanters
in the cabins. Nothing is understated. After
all, the Antoinette calls herself “the most
luxurious river cruise ship in the world”. Let
them eat cake? Not on this ship.
from stablemate Scenic Tours, was moored
around the corner.
The first Space Ship built in 2008, the
Sapphire has butler service and owner’s
suites at the rear that really do rival hotel
suites. She recently scored almost 10/10 in
passenger ratings, and has 48 crew to 169
passengers. But the public areas, despite a
$1 million-plus refit less than a year ago, lack
the sparkle and freshness of her little sister.
Food on the Sky is plated up from
one of the largest kitchens on Europe’s
waterways. Dinner, served in the ›
Right: An Emerald Sky Owner’s Suite. Left (clockwise
from top left): a statue at Heidelberg Castle and
the castle turrets; decorative onboard desserts; the
ship’s heated swimming pool; a game of golf
on the top deck; a waiter prepares the ship’s
dining room for dinner
RIVER CRUISE THE VERDICT
RIVER CRUISE THE VERDICT
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