One of the world’s top river cruise lines is ready to make bigger waves: Emerald Waterways is building a luxurious new ocean-going ship, the Emerald Azzurra, that will set sail in the Mediterranean in 2021. The newly built vessel will have room for just 100 passengers and styling akin to a megayacht. That smaller size will enable the ship to access ports of call not typically visited by cruise ships in the Adriatic, along the coast of Northern Africa, the Red Sea, and around the islands of Greece, according to the company.
The Emerald Azzurra will be the first ocean-going ship from Emerald Waterways, which was voted one of the world’s best river cruise lines by Travel + Leisure readers in 2019. Under the new Emerald Yacht Cruises brand, the company hopes to win over travelers interested in sailing Europe beyond rivers like the Rhine and the Danube. “It’s a new niche for the market,” said Jayne O’Brien, managing director USA for the company. “There isn't anyone doing it quite the same way.” O’Brien added that the company might launch even more ships in coming years.
For now, the Azzurra is likely to be a hot ticket among travelers: The ship will have megayacht styling and sleek staterooms, most of which come with private balconies. The vessel will also have a small infinity pool and a watersports platform equipped with staff-driven Zodiacs, paddleboards, snorkeling gear, and other water toys for guest use. There will be two restaurants and two bars on board, with all meals included.
Among the inaugural sailings for the Azzurra is an eight-day trip in the Aegean Sea that visits Cyprus, Turkey, and the Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini. Also on the agenda is a nearly two-week journey from Cyprus that travels to Israel and Egypt, then continues through the Suez Canal and ends in Aqaba, Jordan, one gateway to the fascinating country that offers far more than just the iconic ruins of Petra.
Alas life on a superyacht doesn’t come cheap: Fares for eight-day trips start at around $2,900 per person, or about $360 per day. The good news? Most amenities are included in the rate, including all meals, beer and wine, airport transfers, a selection of shore excursions, and free Wi-Fi.
The Emerald reveal comes at a time of rapid growth of small-ship cruising: Among the brands that will launch expedition vessels in coming years are Ponant, Seabourn, Silversea, and Viking.