Emerald Yacht Cruises enters the market with first 50-cabin vessel for affordable yachting holidays

Katherine Lawrey
Artist's rendering of Emerald Azzurra off the Amalfi Coast

Emerald Waterways is building its first 100-passenger ocean-going super yacht, which will sail in the Mediterranean from summer 2021. Emerald Azzurra will be the first custom-built vessel for Emerald Yacht Cruises, a sister company for the river cruise line, to be launched under the newly formed Emerald Cruises umbrella brand.

David Winterton, director of marketing UK and global brand curator for Emerald Cruises, exclusively revealed the details to Telegraph Travel ahead of the first voyages going on sale today: “Our first brochure covers the Aegean, the Adriatic, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. It’ll be a year-round programme, from July 31, 2021 through to December 2022.”

He said the focus initially would be on the Mediterranean but the company wasn’t ruling out taking the yacht further afield. “Emerald Azzurra will be able to sail all around the world, barring polar areas. She's equipped for the Panama, Suez and St Lawrence canals. We’ll see how we go with the Med, but who knows what the future holds.” 

Itineraries will include major highlights as well smaller, lesser-known ports, with the yacht’s size providing a distinct advantage over bigger cruise ships. 

Emerald Azzurra's Sky Deck

Colin Downing, managing director UK at Scenic Group, the parent company of Emerald Cruises, explained: “Bigger ships often have to dock a way out of town and coach their passengers in or anchor out in a bay and use tenders to transfer passengers. That won’t be us, we’ll slide right into harbours, so our guests can step onto the quayside and walk straight into the heart of a place.”   

Winterton added: “This will be small ship cruising, exploring the nooks and crannies of Mediterranean and Adriatic coastlines. We’ll be able to stop where we fancy to let guests go snorkelling, paddle boarding and swimming. It’ll be a beautiful experience you don’t get on bigger ships.” 

As well as offering a full programme of cultural and active excursions, the crew will help guests to make the most of their free time exploring destinations. “That freedom will be part of the experience,” said Winterton.

“I’ve been fascinated by The Greek Islands with Julia Bradbury. She did Santorini as we all know and love it, but then she went exploring off-the-beaten track on a hike, and that’s what we want our guests to do.” 

Yacht Suite, one of 50 staterooms and suites

Emerald Azzurra is currently being built in Vietnam, where the Scenic Group has its own team in place. The company will be keen to keep the build on track, after the launch of its Scenic Eclipse six-star discovery yacht last year was delayed by strikes in the Croatian shipyard where it was under construction.  

Downing said the move to Vietnam afforded more control: “We build our ships to European standards using a yard in Ha Long and local labour for economies of scale. Our Australian owner Glen Moroney is heavily involved in the design and his wife Karen does all the interiors. It really is a family affair – they pay close attention to the finer details.” 

The 110-metre long ship will have 50 cabins, three bars and restaurants, a wellness centre, including spa, gym and sauna, three tenders and a Zodiac. There will also be a marina platform to allow easy access to the water for swimming and water sports.

Winterton said: “We’ll offer an innovative boutique yachting experience. There are a few cruise lines in the yachting market, but we’ll have the edge because Emerald Azzurra will be a brand new yacht, and 88% of cabins will feature a balcony. The design will have a distinct nod to our river Star Ships. Loyal guests will know exactly what they’re getting.” 

Pool deck

In line with the Emerald Waterways experience, prices will include return flights, transfers, gratuities, meals with complimentary wine and beer, plus excursions. An eight-day French and Italian Rivieras with Corsica itinerary, departing August 14, 2021, starts from £2,965pp. 

Downing said: “We’re targeting a different market [to the six-star Scenic Eclipse] – a younger, more active crowd, that wants to sail into ports like Monaco and enjoy that lifestyle at an affordable price.” 

So far, the company has only confirmed one yacht, but given the growth in Emerald Waterways’ river cruise fleet, from two ships in 2014 to nine now, future growth is likely. The company has a strategy of chartering ships to test the market – for summer 2019 and 2020 it has offered yacht charters in Croatia, which Winterton described as like “floating focus groups”. 

“As a brand we act swiftly to respond to guest’s demands to ensure we continually evolve our offer,” he said. “There’s plenty of room for growth and we have ambitious growth plans for the UK.”