Q – Your site is amazingly thorough and helpful. Thank you. I found an answer to a question about how you would rate Emerald but I’m not sure how long Emerald had been in existence at the time of your answer. You appeared to not say a whole lot but were overall very positive and, after researching Emerald’s site, I have to agree with you that their ships are attractive, their panorama staterooms are very nice , plus there are the pool and cinema. I watched their videos with interest in the fact that they do not try to use all perfectly pretty and coifed looking travelers (a la Viking’s videos) but show real looking people. I saw a mention in another question referring to (cannot remember exactly how it was worded) the “lower rent” clientele (American) of Emerald who didn’t want to spend as much money, were looking for package deals, didn’t care about the history of the areas, etc… This American didn’t read it thoroughly enough to see how much sarcasm may have been involved 🙂 Originally, we were thinking Uniworld or Viking but the former seems a bit cramped for stateroom space and the latter, though they enjoy a great marketing department, hard to tell if they are any better than the rest. Basically, review overload is getting to me. So here are my questions at the end of my rambling:
– Would you recommend Emerald for first time river cruisers who enjoy local history and sites, walk, hike a bit, bike a bit, like to eat good food, drink some good wine? Five star resorts are a bit pricey for us, we’re basic middle class+ who don’t need to spend top $$$$. We just want a nicely appointed vacation cruise with a considerate, thoughtful staff who enjoy what they’re doing. And if not Emerald, a close second as far as pricing and comfort?
– Trying to figure which river, if any, might be a better choice in regard to the low water level possibility? Original plan was Budapest/Nuremberg trip, with our own plans to Prague.
– You said most all cruise lines provide bicycles? Thank you for your help!
A – Taken in order – We do think that Emerald might be a viable option for you. It has a somewhat younger demographic, is an excellent value, and the boats are new and moderne-minimalist. They are not fully inclusive so there is going to be some significant extra cost involved.
The big question is how well you would enjoy very much in the minority in terms of fellow guests who hail mainly from Australia, New Zealand, and the British Isles. You will detect, we think, some bias against Emerald by some river cruise agents because it is somewhat more difficult to book than its US-based counterparts.
All of that said, and reading your question carefully, yes we think you should consider Emerald alongside another good value option like Avalon.
You run river level risks on all of Europe’s major rivers but we think that the Elbe and the Danube probably offer the highest risk, with the Rhine close behind. But don;t make a decision on this basis as no one can really predict, months in advance, how the “River Gods” will be behaving. We’d stick with your Budapest – Nuremberg plans. We like the river and the route.
Bicycles are used on all of the river boats. The best bikes and riding program are on Scenic.
As to “review overload” – well that is why we launched this site. Amateur reviews written by folks using pseudonyms, many working in the industry, is going to shed more shadow than light. And yes, Viking River does have an excellent marketing department. With 60 vessels, they better have.