The 443-by-38 foot, 182-guest MV Emerald Sky is the first in a four vessel platform called the “Star Ship” class for newly formed Emerald Waterways, a premium division of Australian-owned deluxe operator Scenic Tours. Emerald Sky and its sisters Emerald Star (due in May 2014), Emerald Sun and Emerald Dawn (both due in 2015) will operate cruises of varying length on the Rhine, Moselle and Danube Rivers. The “Star Ships” are a product of Holland’s De Hoop Shipyard, which was founded in the late 19th Century. De Hoop is one of the most prolific European builders of inland and high seas ships. Emerald Sky was christened in a gala ceremony at Amsterdam on April 9, 2014. The ship’s godmother is Twiggy, who rose to worldwide fame as a supermodel in the late 1960s. Twiggy went on to an acting career in films, Broadway and television. Emerald Sky has four passenger decks, starting at the top with the turf-lined Sun Deck (4), which is encircled by a walking/jogging track. Sun Deck features shaded and open seating areas along its nearly 400 foot length. Like most modern European river cruise vessels, Emerald Sky has a telescopic wheelhouse that can be lowered into the deck below to clear low lying bridges. The wheelhouse is open for guests to visit on a regular basis. Weather permitting, special lunch and dinner buffets are held on the open deck at various times throughout a cruise. At the aft end of Sun Deck, there is a trio of putting greens. On the next level, Horizon Deck (3), there is the sheltered Terrace at the front of the ship. An adjacent buffet and bar directly inside makes this an excellent al fresco spot for an informal breakfast or lunch. Smoking is permitted here. Many European river cruise ships have their own live spice gardens and the Emerald Sky is no exception. Directly aft of the Terrace, the Horizon Bar features counter top seating that faces the front of the ship through a wall of glass. In addition to a hot entrée, cold cuts, soup and other snacks, there is a salad bar at lunchtime in the Horizon Bar. The Horizon Bar, shown facing aft, is at the forward portion of the multi-purpose Horizon Lounge, which is used for port talks, low key evening entertainment and lectures. This is a forward-facing view of the Horizon Lounge, which features full length windows on three sides and sleek, modern furnishings. Vivid, colorful art panels provide a striking contrast to the clean surfaces and muted colors at the port and starboard entrances to the Horizon Lounge. The upper level of Emerald Sky’s dramatic Reception foyer is directly aft of the Horizon Lounge on Horizon Deck. Backlit panels, vitrines with artwork and spherical chandeliers are among its decorative highlights. Here is another view of the futuristic, mirrored Reception foyer from the bottom landing of the staircase. On the Vista Deck (2) level of the foyer, there are high definition LED screens and a wide vestibule. The reception desk is located on the starboard side of the Vista Deck level of the foyer. A concierge desk is located on the port side of the Vista Deck level of the foyer. One of the most innovative spaces on any cruise ship is the dual-purpose pool and cinema on aft Horizon Deck. In the daytime, it houses a heated infinity pool that overlooks the ship’s wake. Directly above, a glass ceiling can slide open in balmy weather. At the end of each day, the deck lifts up from the bottom of the pool to seal off the space for use as an enclosed lounge that is served by a bar on the port side. In the evening, the space transforms even further into a comfortable cinema that can accommodate up to 30 guests. Generous buckets of fresh-popped popcorn are served at showtime. Located in the forward portion of Vista Deck, the Reflections Restaurant is the main dining room. Full length windows on either side provide panoramic, near-water level views. Dining settings in the Reflections Restaurant include pressed linens, flowers and elegant tableware. Breakfast and lunch in Reflections include a buffet as well as a selection of made-to-order courses. Near the entrance to Reflections, there is a wine cellar with a wide array of vintages. White and red wine, local beers and soft drinks are included with lunch and dinner aboard the Emerald Sky. In addition, specialty coffees and tea are available round-the-clock at no charge. Emerald Sky’s cuisine is attractively presented and plentiful. This is a spinach gnocchi dinner appetizer. There is a small gym on aft Vista Deck with a rowing machine, workout bench and stationary bike. Across from the gym, there is a massage room offering a number of treatments and massages. A full-service beauty salon is located at the base of the forward stairtower on Riviera Deck (1). Sleek, airy passageways span the length of Emerald Sky’s accommodation on Horizon, Vista and Riviera Decks. A number of interesting innovations are part of Emerald Sky’s overall stateroom design. Instead of a sign that hangs on the door, the flip of a switch inside each cabin turns on a tiny “do not disturb” red light in the passageway. Emerald Sky’s stateroom doors are opened with tiny magnetic chips instead of keys or the more prevalent key card found on most modern cruise ships. There are five categories of accommodation on the “Star Ships”. The largest and most lavish staterooms are four 315-square-foot Owner’s Suites with separate living room and bedroom. Guests in Owner’s Suites and Grand Balcony Suites are served continental breakfast, pre-dinner canapés and post-dinner sweets. Owner’s Suite guests are also allowed four complimentary laundry items and an invitation to the captain’s table for dinner. Owner’s Suites have a separate indoor/outdoor balcony area that can be opened up to the elements with the push of a button that lowers a wall-sized window. Owner’s Suites have a private walk-in closet. Owner’s Suite bathrooms are tile and marble surfaced and slightly larger than standard stateroom bathrooms. In addition to a hand-held shower control, Owner’s Suite bathrooms have a rainforest shower head. Owner’s Suites and Grand Balcony Suites have their own Nespresso coffee machines and a selection of specialty coffees. There are eight Grand Balcony Suites measuring 210-square-feet. Two complimentary laundry items per day and an invitation to the captain’s table for dinner are special perks for guests in this category. Grand Balcony Suites have their own separate balconies that can be opened up to the elements with the push of a button that lowers a large window. Sixty one Panorama Balcony staterooms measure 180-square-feet and feature a glass wall that can open up into a French balcony with the push of a button. Panorama Balcony staterooms have compact bathrooms. This is the shower head in a Panorama Balcony cabin. Eighteen 162-square-foot Emerald Staterooms are located on Riviera Deck and feature windows at near-water level. There are two 130-square-foot Single Staterooms on Riviera Deck. All staterooms come with complimentary Wifi access, bathrobes, slippers, bottled water, telephone, safe, climate controlled air conditioning, a flatscreen television and a mini-fridge. A pair of headsets is also provided in each cabin, enabling guests to hear tour guides during walking tours to local sites.