Emerald Waterways is to enter the ocean cruise market next year with its first “superyacht”.
The 100-passenger Emerald Azzurra will operate its first sailing on July 31 from Limassol to Athens, calling at smaller ports and harbours in between.
This will be followed by a series of 26 itineraries around the Aegean, the Mediterranean and onto the Dalmation Coast and the French and Italian Rivieras.
In winter, the yacht will visit Red Sea destinations such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Jordan. It will only offer warm-water cruising and will not visit polar regions.
As well as featuring smaller ports of call that larger cruise ships cannot reach, the yacht will stop in coastal waters so guests can jump off the marina platform, to go snorkelling and paddle-boarding.
Emerald Azzurra2 Itineraries go on sale on Saturday with agents receiving brochures and ‘selling guides’ from Monday.
All agents making a booking on Emerald Azzurra in the first month will be entered into a draw to win a free cruise for two people on the first sailing. The more bookings agents make, the more entries into the ballot they will earn.
Emerald Azzurra will be the first vessel owned by the new Emerald Yacht Cruises brand, which will sit alongside Emerald Waterways under a new umbrella brand of Emerald Cruises.
Last year, sister brand Scenic launched ‘discovery yacht’ Scenic Eclipse, the line’s first ocean-going vessel dedicated to expedition cruising.
Asked if it would be the first of many, David Winterton, Emerald Cruises director of marketing and global brand curator, hinted there would be more to come, pointing to Emerald Waterways starting with just two vessels, but now boasting nine on the rivers.
Emerald Azzurra pool
The 110-metre long yacht will have 50 cabins, all but six of which will have balconies (88%). They will all be ‘staterooms or suites’, with two owners’ suites, two yacht suites and two terrace suites available.
Winterton said it would rival SeaDream Yacht Club, Windstar Cruises and Crystal Cruises’ yacht product, and offer an “intimate boutique yacht cruising experience” that the company expects to appeal to existing Emerald Waterways river cruise customers, as well as new-to-cruise clients since it is “not the bog-standard cruise offering”.
“We introduced a new ship on the Mekong – Emerald Harmony – which is attracting a younger guest, and we think Emerald Azzurra will attract even younger customers still,” he added.
Winterton also predicted many new guests will transfer from the company’s river product, looking for something new, explaining that the company had chartered a number of yachts in Croatia last year to “test the water”, and found they had sold well.
Winterton said: “We tested demand and it was strong. We did the same first on the Rhine, then built our own ship there; we chartered a vessel initially on the Mekong, and then built the Emerald Harmony for that river, and so this was a natural next step after trialling yachts on the Dalmation coast. But it was a bit crowded and we wanted to take it to the next level and into the Med and beyond.”
UK sales director Joseph Grimley added: “We have 40-50% repeat rate in the river. They buy into the brand and always want to know where they can go next. This is one of the reasons that the Emerald DNA will flow from the river product to the yachts.
“We want to be quite consistent between the two brands, so the bar and lounge will be called ‘Horizon’, as it is on our river vessels, and the restaurant will be called ‘Reflections’.
Similarly, the yacht won’t be all-inclusive. Guests will enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, with wine, beer and soft drinks at mealtimes, and some excursions included – just as it is on the river cruise vessels. It will also be adult-only, as with Emerald Waterways, allowing children only 12 years old and above.
Agents will earn the same commission as they do selling Emerald Waterways river cruises, but Grimley pointed out that the price point on the yacht cruises was slightly higher, giving them greater earning potential.
Prices start at £2,965 per person for an eight-day French and Italian Riviera sailing, on an early-bird fare.
“This will be quite lucrative for agents, especially if they start to sell some of the longer itineraries and the higher category suites,” Grimley added, predicting about 50% of guests would come from the UK, with the rest deriving from Australia, America and Canada.
He said he plans to get as many agents out to see Emerald Azzurra during 2021 as possible.
Glen Moroney, owner and chairman of The Scenic Group said: “Emerald Waterways has been operating award-winning river cruises in Europe since 2014. The launch of Emerald Yacht Cruises and the stunning Emerald Azzurra are a logical extension of the Emerald Cruises portfolio, adding intimate yacht cruising of the Mediterranean to its Emerald Waterways river cruise offering.”