River Cruise Advisor revisits Emerald Sun on her voyage from Bucharest to
Budapest. Story by Monte Mathews
In 2015, Ralph (Grizzle) embarked on Emerald Sky on an extraordinary new itinerary. offered by Emerald Cruises. In very detailed fashion, Ralph highlighted the sights he’d seen as Emerald Sky plied the river. His detailed reports on all ports of call on this epic journey are not to be missed. You’ll find the links to all Ralph’s adventures at the end of this article.
Very little has changed in the eight years since they were written. Ralph’s story provides a great guide of what to see and highlights the significance of the places in this fascinating part of the world. We hope our concentration on what’s on offer today on Emerald Sky will further enhance your interest in this fascinating itinerary and this wonderful ship to see it on.
Why Choose This Danube Itinerary?
Initially, my travel companion had reservations about visiting Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia,
Croatia, and Hungary. These destinations may not be at the top of everyone’s travel list.
However, I strongly urged him, and you, to reconsider. If you have already experienced
the Danube, embarking on this journey will provide an entirely new perspective. Our
itinerary began in Bucharest, Romania, which we flew into to start our trip. After a
comprehensive tour of Bucharest and an overnight stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel, we
traveled to Giurgiu on the Danube and embarked on the Emerald Sun. This captivating
journey takes you through two former Soviet Bloc countries, two countries from the
former Yugoslavia, and concludes in another Soviet Bloc country, Hungary. It offers a
unique opportunity to delve into the past, present, and glimpses of the future of these
resilient nations that have overcome recent and ancient challenges. Each country we
visited had its own distinct recollections, from Serbia’s longing for Tito as the only non-
EU member among the five, to the forward-looking perspectives of Croatia and
Hungary. The itinerary goes beyond a mere history lesson, showcasing remarkable
architecture, encounters with ordinary locals, and visits to exquisite churches. We even
had the chance to explore a Bulgarian archaeological site dating back to 11,000 B.C.
The schedule also allows for leisurely mornings and afternoons spent sailing along the
river, simply taking in the beautiful scenery from the Sun Deck.
Introduction To Emerald River Cruises
My previous experience with Emerald Cruises was in the South of France several years
ago. They offered one of the rare cruises that navigated the Rhone/Saone Rivers, going
up the Saone. Since then, I have been a loyal fan. Emerald Cruises, owned by the
same company as Scenic Cruises, was founded by the visionary Australian couple,
Glen and Karen Moroney. Their journey began in 1986, offering bus tours from
Melbourne. Today, they lead a very successful cruise company with 26 ships and
counting. Karen, responsible for the stunning decor across their fleet, favors neutral
color schemes that complement the picturesque views outside. Emerald attracts
passengers from English-speaking countries around the world, and it was no surprise to
find many fellow Australians on board. The remaining passengers consisted of a diverse
mix of Brits, Canadians, Americans, one couple from New Zealand and one from
First-Rate Accommodations On Emerald Sun
Emerald Sun is the sister ship to the one Ralph sailed on in 2015. It’s one of eight
Emerald Ships that sail through Europe’s rivers from the Douro in Portugal to the
Danube. Five identical sisters were launched between 2014 and 2017. Emerald Sun is
meticulously maintained. With a crew of 51, many of whom are citizens of the regions
we sailed through, Emerald Sun measures an impressive 135 meters (442 feet) in
length and can accommodate 180 passengers. It boasts 72 suites, all featuring an ‘all-
weather’ balcony with floor-to-ceiling windows that can be electronically opened to let in
the refreshing breeze. The top-of-the-line Owner’s Suites, of which there are four, offer
additional luxuries such as a separate living room and bedroom, a walk-in wardrobe, a
complimentary minibar, and an exclusive invitation to dine with the captain. There are
also 19 Staterooms on Deck 1. While they lack the expansive views of the suites, they
offer the same amenities of every other accommodation: A flat-screen HDTV with an
infotainment system, a stocked minibar, luxurious toiletries, and remarkably comfortable
hotel-style beds. Staterooms on Deck 1 are a great choice for budget-conscious
Second-To-None Facilities On Emerald Sun
Passengers board the ship on Deck 2. They are greeted by a breathtaking three-tiered
Atrium. On Deck 2, there’s the elegant Reflections Dining Room. Deck 3 is home to the
Horizon Bar and Grill, a bright and airy space that serves as the heart of the ship. It
hosts numerous activities ranging from Port Talks to Cocktail hours and Late Riser’s
Breakfast. The Sun Deck, located above the Horizon Bar, offers a magnificent setting to
enjoy the breeze, indulge in a good book, engage in friendly conversations, or relax
under the canvas roofs that provide shade. The most delightful surprise awaits at the
back of Emerald Sun, where an Indoor Swimming Pool with a retractable roof, lounges,
a bar, and even a swimming machine can be found. In the evenings, the pool area
magically transforms into an intimate movie theater. Additionally, there is a Spa and
Wellness Center overseen by a Wellness Coach, who conducts invigorating morning
Stretch sessions that become increasingly popular as the days go by.
Dining Experience Aboard Emerald Sun
The ship’s Dining Room comfortably accommodates all passengers in a single seating.
In the mornings, a remarkable buffet awaits, offering a wide variety of breakfast foods.
An omelet station, skillfully manned by a fast-moving chef, is located at one end.
Alternatively, table service is available for those who prefer it. The Horizon Bar extends
breakfast service for an additional hour, catering to those who may have missed the
morning feast. Lunch is a culinary delight, featuring sensational salads, a daily pasta
option, and delectable desserts. The dessert section of the buffet is particularly
memorable, offering gelato and ice cream. Each evening, at the conclusion of the Port
Talk, the Executive Chef concludes presents a suggested menu for dinner. With the
culinary staff primarily hailing from the region, this presents a wonderful opportunity to
explore the culinary traditions of each destination on the itinerary. The Hungarian
Goulash, for example, surpassed any we had tasted during our extended stay in
Budapest. For those seeking familiar options, the regular menu offers plenty of choices.
The kitchen is also accommodating for special dietary needs and food allergies.
Why choose Emerald?
This extraordinary adventure aboard this exceptional ship unfolded flawlessly. Every
aspect of the journey lived up to its promises. The camaraderie among passengers and
crew grew stronger day by day. The Cruise Director and Ship’s Entertainer were
constant presences, both on Emerald Sun and during the outstanding shore excursions.
Our suite, elegantly designed with a streamlined aesthetic, was impeccably maintained
by our steward, who visited twice a day. The Reflections Dining Room consistently
offered excellent breakfasts and lunches. Following the Chef’s nightly recommended
menu allowed us to savor the cuisines of the countries we traveled through. Desserts
were always a delightful treat, and the selected house wines flowed generously during
lunch and dinner. Finally, a remarkable surprise awaited us as we sailed into Budapest:
Emerald Sun timed our arrival perfectly to coincide with the setting sun and the
breathtaking “light show” performed by Budapest’s monuments each night. It was a
magical conclusion to an absolutely unforgettable cruise.
Here are Ralph’s links to every port we visited and the shore excursions you will have in
- Enchantment Of Eastern Europe, Exploring Bucharest, Chasing Dracula & Boarding Emerald Sky
- Enchantment Of Eastern Europe, Touring Bulgaria For Two Days On Emerald Sky
- Enchantment Of Eastern Europe, Through The ‘Iron Gates’ & Into Serbia On Emerald Sky
- Enchantment Of Eastern Europe, From Croatia To Budapest & A Special Night Cruise