Emerald Azzurra is the line's first yacht and only holds 100 passengers and features a marina platform. Credit: Emerald Cruises

Sleek, sexy and stylish – that's Emerald Azzurra

Author: Vicky Mayer

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Onboard Emerald Azzurra, Vicky Mayer discovers a private world where guests are treated to a unique small ship experience.

When is a ship not a ship? When she looks like the sort of hi-tech yacht you’d see in Monte Carlo or Puerto Banus, she carries only 100 passengers with 64 crew and measures a compact 360 feet long.

With only six passenger decks and 50 cabins, Emerald's Azzurra launched to great fanfare in March this year, promising discerning travellers the chance to try out luxurious yacht-type cruising without the eye-watering price tag I’m in Venice to take a look on board before the ship sails to Croatia and, as we reach the dock on a water taxi, I’m blown away by her sleek and stylish hull.

On board, her contemporary style is confident and assured. Everywhere you look, light bounces off the silver and chrome staircases while the common areas are decorated in a cool palette of greys, taupe and silver.

Deck three is where guests enter and leave and, if you sail on Emerald Azzurra, this is where you’ll spend most of your time. Here you’ll find reception, the sumptuous Amici Lounge and 70s-style bar. This is a great spot to grab a fantastic Italian coffee (the best I have ever tasted on a cruise ship), enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or catch up with friends.

The Observation Lounge is a great spot to watch the world go by. Credit: Emerald Cruises

According to the friendly staff, plans are in place to extend the dance floor and bring in guest DJs here as the passengers already seem to like a bit of a boogie once dinner is over. Also on deck three at the stern is main restaurant La Cucina, where you can enjoy a buffet breakfast, lunch, and a sit-down three course evening menu. The restaurant also extends outside, giving guests the chance to dine al fresco.

Befitting its status as yacht-style cruise ship, the outside areas are seriously stylish. On the Sky Deck you’ll find a jacuzzi and outdoor bar where a barman will mix a drink of your choice so you can sit back in the bubbles and toast the ship and your new found cruise buddies.

The infinity pool on deck six is equally popular, with luxurious sun loungers and day beds – blink and you’ll think you’re in an Ibiza beach club. Adjacent to it is the Aqua Café which serves light snacks, coffee and irresistible gelato.

Quiet moments are catered for too – on deck four you’ll find the Observation Lounge where you can watch the world go by with a book in your lap from the onboard library.

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Emerald Azzurra is the first ocean-going ship for Emerald Cruises. Credit: Emerald Cruises

Emerald Azzurra may be compact, but her designers have cleverly taken all the cool stuff from bigger ships and included them in smaller versions. I particularly loved her pocket-like boutique that sells great gifts like Ray-Ban sunglasses and tiny Steiff teddy bears.

The spa area is a revelation too, boasting a well-equipped gym, hairdresser and treatment rooms that use luxurious ESPA products.

This ship is designed to ensure plenty of space for guests in public areas, with only 100 passengers at any one time. And even better, if you decide to have a ‘sea’ day while everyone else is out exploring, you’ll probably have the ship to yourself.

One of Emerald Azzurra’s biggest plus points is her onboard water sports marina. Like a luxury yacht, it offers guests the chance to enjoy fun sea activities from the marina platform including kayaking, snorkelling and paddleboarding.

Even more fun (and the lazier option) is the giant sea trampoline. And for early birds, sunrise yoga on the top deck is well recommended.

Dine inside or al fresco with La Cucina’s knock-out Mediterranean fare. Credit: Emerald Cruises

Bedroom bliss
The ship’s cabins are on decks three to six, with accommodation that includes six 182 sq ft ocean-view cabins with no outdoor space and 36 Balcony Suites with private balconies at 285-306 sq ft.

At the top end are two larger Deluxe Balcony Suites with separate bedroom and living areas, two Terrace Suites with a balcony and private terrace, two Yacht Suites with large private terraces and two Owner’s Suites, with up to 1,192 sq ft that includes a large bedroom, separate living area and private outdoor decks.

All the cabins are decorated in a contemporary style with super comfy beds dressed in 600 thread-count linens, and roomy marble bathrooms with power showers and ESPA bath and skincare products. The final touch is the addition of brightly patterned Missoni towels, which are also poolside. Each cabin also has a minibar, USB ports, a kettle and an Illy espresso machine.

Emerald Azzurra is a ship that could fit in alongside the hi-tech yachts of Monte Carlo. Credit: Emerald Cruises

Food for thought
Food always plays a special part on every cruise, but it’s of particular importance on a luxury ship. Though we were on a whistle-stop lunchtime tour, I was seriously impressed. Our buffet lunch not only looked amazing, it tasted fantastic too. I chose a small caesar salad and cous cous as an easy entrée with a knock-out main course of melt-in-your- mouth bourguignon and seasonal steamed vegetables.

Room for dessert? Of course! The pastry chef is a master of his craft with a wide range of sweet treats on offer. My strawberry tart with sharp lemon sorbet was as good as you’d find in any top-end Paris patisserie.

The Mediterranean-inspired dinner menu changes daily. Expect dishes like tuna ceviche with mango, mint and lime; beef tenderloin with black truffle butter and fondant potatoes; and filet of sole with a lemon-caper sicilian sauce and ratatouille cream. Alcoholic drinks at lunch and dinner are included in your ticket, with popular options including a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a French Côte du Rhône.

All the cabins have super comfy beds. Credit: Emerald Cruises

Small but mighty
It’s always a pleasure to cruise on a luxury ship but there’s something even more special about sailing on a ship this size. With high-end design, friendly yet discreet staff, great cuisine and some seriously cool outside space, you’ll love every minute of this yacht-style ship.

Get on board

An eight-night ‘Gems of the Arabian Peninsula’ cruise aboard Emerald Azzurra, from Doha, Qatar to Dubai, UAE, via Sir Baniyas Island, Abu Dhabi, Khasab, Oman, Fujairah, UAE and Zighy Bay, Oman, departs January 2, 2023, from £3,827. emeraldcruises.co.uk

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About Vicky Mayer

Vicky began her career working on young women’s magazines before moving on to TV and entertainment titles. Her passion, though, has always been travel, so as Editor of World of Cruising, she combines her love of magazines with the chance to shout about cruise holidays around the world.