I was invited by Emerald Cruises to experience the brand new Emerald Azzurra yacht that debuted three months ago. I spent a glorious two weeks sailing her from Dubrovnik to Athens, with port stops in Montenegro, Albania, Greece, and Turkey. It was a perfect mix of well-known ports and off-the-beaten-path destinations where the big ships can’t go. She is a solid 4-star product targeting premium active travelers who want to immerse themselves in a region and have a comfortable place to call home during their journey without breaking the bank.
Top 10 features that make Emerald Azzurra special:
- Her sleek design is a real head turner.
She can travel at speeds up to16 knots to get between destinations quickly to allow for longer stays in each place. She has a stabilizer system that does a great job of smoothing out the rough patches and three specially designed high-speed tenders that can travel up to 27 knots to get her passengers to port in a flash when anchored in small harbors.
- She is intimate.
With only 50 staterooms and 100 passengers max on board, there is never a crowd or a line to wait on. Her demographics are a mix of mostly North Americans, British, and Australians with a smattering of other nationalities. The Amici Lounge, located off the reception lobby, decorated in shades of grey, glass, and chrome-accented with fresh pink orchids, provides the perfect place to mix and mingle. The crowd was quite social, and friendships between passengers and crew were made easily. The ship’s officers are very visible and interactive and provide passengers inside access to the bridge and engine room.
- She is designed for maximum enjoyment of the ocean views and breeze.
There is lots of open deck space, including an aft infinity pool and full bow Jacuzzi on the top decks, surrounded by thick cushioned day beds and loungers. The perfect spots to relax in the sun or shade and enjoy the scenery. Her observation lounge on deck 4, offers floor-to-ceiling windows with indoor and outdoor seating. A quiet spot to enjoy a book or a game of chess or cards. The main restaurant spills out onto an open terrace to enjoy alfresco dining. And all but six staterooms include a private balcony.
- Well-designed large staterooms and suites
The majority of the staterooms are balcony suites measuring 301 square feet. They have plenty of storage space. A large closet and several deep drawers easily organize your items. A desk/vanity provides a multitude of 110 and 220 outlets to charge your devices with additional outlets and USB ports at both bedsides. A large flat-screen TV and infotainment system stream international news channels, music, movies, and cruise information. The beds are custom designed and one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on. They can be set up in a queen or twin configuration. A lounge chair with an ottoman and loveseat completes the layout.
Large sliding glass doors with electric black-out shades lead to a small balcony with two chairs and a side table. The bathroom is large with a huge medicine cabinet and a large drawer. The walk-in glass shower provides plenty of space to move around without bumping your elbows. There are a plethora of mirrors for makeup and dressing. Six staterooms offer large picture windows instead of balconies with similar storage space in a slightly different configuration at 205 square feet. The larger suites measuring 400 to 1162 square feet offer separate sitting rooms, walk-in closets, large terraces, a Nespresso machine, a complimentary mini-bar filled daily, and room service.
- Wellness Program is included
A Wellness Director provides complimentary consultation and lectures on how to live a more healthy lifestyle and conducts daily yoga, Pilates, and stretching classes for no extra charge. Also included is the use of a high-tech infrared sauna, a fitness gym with cardio and strength machines, and different types of crystal-infused drinking water to refresh and relax your mind and body. A full-service spa provides face and body treatments in addition to hairstyling for a fee.
- Long hours in port allow for immersive interaction
Several ports include in-depth touring of the cultural and historical sights with expert local guides. Included tours typically last three to four hours and are rather energetic. There is a lot of walking, sometimes over uneven and hilly terrain. More active alternatives such as biking and hiking tours are offered as well in some locations. Included Emerald Plus options add local food tastings, cooking demos, and musical performances in unique venues. Many port days last from 8 AM to 10 PM or later, allowing plenty of free time afterward to sample local drinks and cuisine and interact with the residents on a more personal level. Included E-bikes are another fun way to travel around on your own. For those who want to explore further afield, extra cost Discover More tours are offered but need a minimum number of passengers to operate.
- Water Sports Marina
The aft lower deck provides a marina with floating mats, trampoline, kayaks, paddle boards, and snorkeling equipment. The water toys and activities are included when anchored in calm harbors, but operation is weather dependent.
- Relaxed Open-Seating Dining
La Cucina is the main dining room that features daily breakfast and lunch buffets and a la carte dinners. Table sizes range from 2 to 10 seats and are first come-first served. The Executive Chef purchases local products when available, and the menu usually reflects the areas visited. There are also standard menu items along with a 21-day rotating menu of some Emerald cuisine favorites found on Emerald’s River Cruise ships. In addition, there is a coffee and snack bar serving continental breakfast, sandwiches, salads, fruits, and flatbreads made to order daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. Self-serve specialty coffee machines stand at the ready in the Amici and Observation Lounges around the clock.
- Experienced International Crew
Emerald scored some great staff from other luxury and premium cruise lines. Most have been sailing the high seas for 5+ years and are friendly and eager to please, and their pride in what they do shines through. They knew our names after one encounter and learned our preferences quickly. The officers were generally keen to hear passenger thoughts on this new product and implement quick changes based on that feedback.
- Unlimited wine, beer, and soft drinks during lunch and dinner
The variety of wine and beer selections offered was quite impressive. Each meal introduced a new white and red to choose from. Most were European vintages from France, Italy, and Spain, with an occasional California winemaking an appearance. There were also a couple of local wines from Croatia and Greece that the food and beverage manager picked up along the way. In addition, there were two types of rose available throughout the voyage. The beer selection included European lagers, pilsners, and wheat beers, along with Guinness, Corona, and some mainstream American styles. Cocktails were also available at reasonable prices, expertly prepared by the onboard mixologists.
Emerald Azzurra is the perfect place for those who want to explore in style and feel rested at the end of their vacation. I know I did, and I can’t wait to get back!