The Australian company Scenic is no stranger to the river cruise business, and its founder, Glen Moroney, is no stranger to travel. It all began in 1987 when Moroney started his tour business with bus jaunts out of Melbourne. His company earned praise for quality and service and soon offered a dazzling array of tour packages to hundreds of destinations. So it was hardly a surprise when Moroney went into river cruising, launching a total of 14 “Star-Ships” since 2008. Scenic now operates deluxe river trips from the Douro in Portugal to the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and the Mekong River in Vietnam.
Emerald Waterways is Scenic’s entrée into a new demographic: a more budget-conscious traveler who appreciates a fully inclusive cruise experience at a value price. Judging by its wins in both 2015 and 2016 as Cruise Critic Editor’s Pick for Best Value for Money, Emerald has more than succeeded. Emphasizing port calls and excursions, Emerald gives its guests a look at the culture, history, and local life of the places it visits. Then, returning to the ship, passengers are treated to first class hospitality on sparkling new ships. The latest of these, Emerald Liberté, has added a new itinerary to Emerald’s offerings. Plying the Rhône and Saone Rivers from Lyon to Arles or vice versa, the ship tours one of the world’s great wine-growing regions, and the towns associated with it.
Emerald Liberté carries just 138 passengers, but it includes bells and whistles like an infinity swimming pool at the stern that turns into a movie theater at night. Guests are treated to staterooms that are masterpieces of spatial design, feeling far more spacious than they really are. Created by Glen Moroney’s wife Karen, a brilliant interior designer, these 170-square-foot staterooms feature a new balcony concept in which the room’s floor-to-ceiling window descends about half way down, opening the room to the river breezes. Meanwhile, in the ship’s galley, executive chef Teo Petre, who hails from Bucharest, Romania, presides over breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. These feature familiar comfort food appreciated by her large complement of British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealander passengers. Americans will feel right at home too when served favorites like chateaubriand, John Dory, and even surf and turf. Chef Petrie puts great style on every plate.
Complimentary beer and wines served at lunch and dinner reflect this voyage’s route. From Châteauneuf-du-Pape to Beaujolais to Provençal rosé, the ship’s cellar consistently provided excellent vintages at every meal. And to go along with these wines, Emerald launched a relationship that is truly unique in Rhône River cruising: They invited Fabien Morreale, fourth runner up on France’s version of the television show Top Chef, to prepare a meal expressly for passengers.