Emerald Luna cruises the Rhine, Main and Moselle. Credit: Emerald Cruises

A fairytale voyage onboard Emerald Luna

Author: Dave Monk

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Discover mighty castles, mysterious monasteriesand picture book medieval towns on a memorable two-river cruise aboard Emerald Luna

Early-morning mists were rising on the Moselle as I walked alone round the sun deck, taking a moment to watch the vineyards and villages glide slowly past.

Standing on top of a river ship is one of the best places to greet a new day, with a rising sun and the soft chirrup of birdsong adding to the serenity of the verdant landscape.

This was a journey of castles, monasteries and medieval towns, with a rolling backdrop of steeples, patchwork fields and children waving from waterside campsites.

Starting in Frankfurt, we also had the pleasure of sailing along the most beautiful part of the Rhine, between Rudesheim and Koblenz, seeing ruined fortresses high on hillsides and hearing legends such as that of the maiden whose irresistible singing lured sailors to their doom at Lorelei Rock.

See Europe's loveliest stretches of water with Riviera Travel. Credit: Emerald Cruises

Our first visit was to Eberbach Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery, where medieval murder mystery The Name of the Rose was filmed with Sean Connery. As far back as the 12th century this was a major wine production centre, and one hall is still filled with ancient barrels and huge grape presses.

Back on board, we took a sharp turn at Koblenz to join the Moselle and stopped at Bernkastel-Kues for a walk around this picturesque town, overlooked by the castle after which it was named.

Next came Trier, the oldest city in Germany. Dating back to the Romans, it still has its amphitheatre – the scene of bloody duels – and a remarkably well-preserved bath house.

Turning back along the Moselle, we then stopped at charming Cochem, where the road to the church is lined with temptations in the form of ice-cream parlours, patisseries and wine shops.

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Here we also enjoyed a private visit to the town’s 1,000-year-old castle, where we tasted the local wines while a lute playing minstrel kept us entertained.

At Koblenz there was a chance to visit the impressive hilltop Marksburg castle, but I chose instead to enjoy a free day on board our ship, the 180-passenger Emerald Luna.

After a pleasant swim in the pool (large for a river vessel, it’s covered at nights to become a cinema), I took one of the ship’s e-bikes out for a spin, recalling that I’d once cycled these same paths as a teenager.

Our last full day was spent in the city of Wiesbaden, admiring its grand avenues, villas and churches, before sailing to our final port of Mainz, where we stayed overnight.

World of Cruising's Dave Monk enjoys life onboard Emerald Luna. Credit: Dave Monk

With a few hours to spare the next morning I was tempted to visit the Gutenberg printing museum, but instead used some onboard credit to pay for an hour-long ‘inner calm’ massage by wellness coach Jelena, who also ran the ship’s fitness classes.

There was even time for a last lunch on board before we departed to catch our flight home. This voyage into past centuries isn’t what you first expect when boarding ultra-modern Emerald Luna, the ninth and latest in the line’s ‘Star-Ship’ fleet.

The vessel, introduced in August 2022, is like a floating upmarket hotel. Glass doors swish open as you approach and the interior is full of mirrors, gleaming chrome and floor-to- ceiling windows. Futuristic spiked globes sparkle in the atrium.

Introduced in 2022, Emerald Luna is Emerald Waterways' first new river cruise ship since 2019. Credit: Emerald Cruises

In Premium Balcony cabins such as ours, the top half of the window is powered, dropping down at the touch of a switch to give stunning river views with fresh air.

Decor in the public areas is mostly neutral, with the odd splash of pink in a chair and footstool. In the bar they’ve made a feature of wine bottles on open-sided shelves – something unthinkable on an ocean vessel that could sail into bad weather.

Onboard tech is used to good effect, with passengers tapping on and off the ship using cards with QR codes, and tuning their personal audio devices to specific tour guides by pointing a scanner. Instead of printed paper, the next day’s schedule is displayed on large screens, with guests expected to take a photo on their phone for reference.

On our cruise the passengers were mainly Brits with a smattering of Americans, Canadians and Australians too (Emerald is based Down Under).

Life on board was pleasantly sociable, with the modest numbers helping us all to get acquainted. Most days, as well as a guided tour, there was the option of an Emerald Active excursion, such as hiking or cycling, and Emerald Plus trips, such as the private visit to Cochem Castle.

There was one optional Discover More experience – a wine-tasting visit to Schloss Johannisberg – that cost extra, but the complimentary trips were just as good.

Our excellent cruise director, Wes, led a nightly talk about the following day’s tour, with the odd joke thrown in. Then, after a first-rate dinner, we enjoyed a quiz, live music from a visiting singer or simply the chatter of guests bonding over drinks.

Dress codes and schedules were relaxed, and regular river cruisers will already know the joy of mooring right in the middle of towns, often late into the evening or overnight, so you can stroll to local bars, shops and restaurants and have drinks or dinner on land.

Koblenz is set at the convergence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Credit: Shutterstock

On a voyage like this it’s up to you whether you want to steer your own course or go with the flow. We enjoyed a mix of independent shore trips and escorted excursions – and I reckon that’s the perfect recipe for a great cruise holiday.

Get on board
A 10-night ‘Rhine Castles & Moselle Vineyards’ cruise aboard Emerald Sky, from Amsterdam to Basel via Utrecht, Nijmegen, Koblenz, Bernkastel, Cochem, Rudesheim,Mainz, Kehl and Breisach, departs July 20, 2024. Fares from £2,404 per person.

180 guests

1 restaurant

47 crew

1 pool

Great for: Visiting medieval towns in ultra-modern luxury
Don’t miss: Top-deck views of the Rhine Gorge and its castles
Best bar & restaurant: There’s only one of each – the spacious Horizon Bar & Lounge and the stylish Reflections Restaurant – but they’re both excellent
Value for money: Good, as fares include tips and most tours
Saving the planet:
Complimentary water bottles can be refilled at the drinks station, and instead of gifts such as backpacks, Emerald gives each guest 50 euros onboard credit
Star rating:

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