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Travel and Tours

 January 20, 2016
Emerald Waterways Continues Its Expansion; Adds Two New Ships - New Itinerary For 2017

 Emerald Waterways, winner of Cruise Critics 2015 Editor's Pick for "Best River Line for Value," is continuing its steady expansion as Europe's newest river cruise line. Besides a new ship (Emerald Belle) that will sail on Europe's Rhine and Danube rivers in 2016, 2017 will see the addition of two more new ships -- The Emerald Liberté in France and the Emerald Radiance in Portugal -- one sailing on France's Rhône and Saône rivers and the other dedicated to a new itinerary that cruises on Portugal's picturesque Douro River. Fares for the seven-night sailings will start at US$2,195/CAN$2,945 per person, double occupancy, for the Douro and US$2,695/CAN$3,245 for the Rhône and Saône, both with 30 departure dates. A 15-day offering combines both cruises into a single adventure at fares from US$5,385/CAN$6,185. Early-booking pricing is set through February.

The new Star-Ships will bring Emerald's total fleet to seven and will be smaller versions of the original design in order to best take advantage of the rivers' structures. The Emerald Liberté will carry 138 guests in 70 suites and staterooms, while the Emerald Radiance will sail with 112 guests in 56 suites and staterooms, both with a 3-to-1 guest-crew ratio. The only difference in the ships is on the Emerald Radiance, where the pool will be on the top deck and will not hold a cinema. A new category of stateroom will also appear on the Radiance with 330 sq. feet of living space and panoramic floor-to ceiling windows on two sides. The Emerald Liberté ship will have the Emerald signature onboard heated swimming pool with a retractable glass roof, which transforms into a cinema in the evening.

Guests on the Douro will enjoy stops in Portugal ranging from the World Heritage city of Porto to the Roman settlement of Regua and in Spain - Vega de Terron and Salamanca. Highlights include many of the region's best sites and activities: the Roman ruins in Lamego; Portuguese cooking and cocktail demonstrations; pre-historic carvings showcased in Coa Valley Museum; tapas tastings; and dinner at a traditional local wine estate. A day trip to Spain's Roman city of Salamanca offers a first-hand look at the seat of the Spanish language and a feel for life in medieval times. Four-day extensions are offered to Lisbon (US$650/CAN$825) and Madrid (US$695/CAN$880) and includes sightseeing, one dinner and breakfast.

Emerald's France sailings began in 2015 on a deluxe charter -- but will be offered in 2017 on the company's newly built, star-ship the Emerald Liberté. The eight-day voyage travels from Lyon to Arles along the picturesque Rhône and Saône Rivers, passing through Chalon-Sur-Saône, Tournon and Avignon. Guests will visit several of the quaint country villages that are synonymous with this region and be introduced to its rich history with tours of the area's castles, palaces and ruins including ancient Lyon; the Hospices de Beaune, one of Europe's finest examples of 15th-century French architecture; and Arles's 2,000-year-old Roman Amphitheatre, still in use today. And of course, the region's wine and culinary offerings are highlighted through tastings of the region's wines, cheeses and olives on-board and ashore. Guests may choose to extend their journey with a three-night extension in Nice, which includes a tour of Monte Carlo and Monaco, breakfast daily and one dinner.

Guests on the ships will have a choice of two restaurants: Reflections, the main dining room, and The Terrace for light breakfast and lunch; and will enjoy accommodations in the new type of cabin design that replaces the French balcony, common to most ships, with an indoor balcony complete with decked area and an ingenious open-air system. All ships also feature an onboard hairdresser, massage therapy room and fitness area, as well as bicycles free for use by all guests.

Launched in 2014, Emerald Waterways caters to the four-star-plus market by using five-star ships and service and a near all-inclusive pricing plan. The cruise fare includes all transfers to and from the ship; all onboard (and some on-shore) meals; unlimited tea and coffee; wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; bottled water in the cabins replenished daily; continental breakfast, pre-dinner canapés and after-dinner sweet treats served in the top suites; complimentary WiFi onboard the ship, a shore excursion daily; and more -- as well as all gratuities on and off the ship.