Seatrade Week: Emerald Cruises Is Building Second Superyacht

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Emerald Sakara

06 October, 2021

While Emerald Cruises’ first oceangoing superyacht, the 100-passenger Emerald Azzurra, doesn’t set sail on its inaugural “Best of the Red Sea” voyage until January 28, 2022, the oceangoing line is already moving forward with capacity growth.

On Tuesday, during the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami Beach, FL, the line announced that it will build a second 100-passenger superyacht, Emerald Sakara, debuting in first quarter 2023. That ship’s name carries a Sanskrit mantra meaning, which is that “thoughts become things.”

Also new for Emerald, the new ship will sail to the Seychelles, a new destination. An eight-day “Tropical Charms of the Seychelles” itinerary will call at Port Victoria (Mahé Island), Sainte-Anne Island, Cousin Island, Praslin Island, Grande-Soeur Island, Curieuse Island, La Digue Island and Aride Island.

Emerald Sakara then will join sister Emerald Azzurra in operating voyages within the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Red and Black Seas. Sales opened this week for Emerald Sakara’s initial 32 departures.

More Capacity, New Opportunities

A capacity increase is needed because demand is strong, according to David Winterton, global director of brand and marketing, Emerald Cruises.

Case in point? He explains that Emerald Azzurra’s Black Sea sailings sold out within two weeks of being released, even during a pandemic era.

If travel advisors wonder who's sailing on Emerald, Americans comprise one-third of all Emerald guests, with people from the United Kingdom also comprising one-third. Then, about 10 percent are Canadians and the rest hail from across the globe.

But, "the dominant markets are definitely the U.S. and the U.K," Winterton says.

Fast-Paced Growth

There's no doubt that Emerald Cruises—formed in 2013 and with its first river sailings in 2014—has been on a fast-paced navigational path. Formerly called Emerald Waterways, the new branding of Emerald Cruises better reflects its diverse ocean-and-river products.

The line operates eight branded Star-Ship river vessels in Europe, one vessel on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, and the chartered Nizhny Novgorod, sailing Russian waterways. Starting in January, guests will board the first ocean sailing of Emerald Azzurra, with the second superyacht arriving in 2023.

Steel has already been cut and construction is under way on the new 361-foot-long Emerald Sakara in Ha Long City, Vietnam.

“Just like we did eight years ago on the rivers, we are bringing our own style of innovative and contemporary cruising to the world’s celebrated oceans, and we cannot wait to welcome guests on board our two superyachts to explore some of the world’s most incredible regions with them,” says Winterton.

The two vessels will be essentially identical. “We know we have a winning formula,” he stresses. That means 88 percent of Emerald Sakara’s 50 cabins will have balconies. Also, as with its sister, the new ship will also offer more space per guest than similar vessels of her size.

Describing the public spaces, Winterton cites “a lovely infinity pool on the back of the yacht." Guests can also expect such elements as a spa, gym and marina platform. 

Four Scenic Group Ocean Ships

By 2023, Scenic Group—parent company of Emerald Cruises—will have built four new, oceangoing vessels. In addition to Emerald’s two superyachts, the Scenic brand is "restarting" voyages on Scenic Eclipse in January, plus sister vessel, Scenic Eclipse II, will arrive in 2023.

That said, the two brands' ships are very different in style, Winterton says. Scenic Eclipse, for example, is an ultra-luxury, all-inclusive “Discovery Yacht” and that expedition vessel sails to the farthest corners of the Earth such as Antarctica. It also carries a submarine and two helicopters onboard. In contrast, Winterton says “the Emerald Cruises’ yacht product is very much more relaxed, contemporary, modern—like a superyacht experience.” In addition, he stresses that guests also have the freedom to go off and explore each destination independently. It's a more relaxed cruising style.

Emerald also is a more active brand. While there aren't any submarines or helicopters, Emerald Cruises’ oceangoing ships will offer an activity manager who will put on yoga sessions, plus the ships will carry two Zodiacs, paddleboards and snorkeling gear.

Winterton also explains that the Emerald Cruises oceangoing brand isn’t all-inclusive as Scenic Eclipse is, although there are complimentary elements. “It’s all we need,” Winterton says, explaining that Emerald's fares include all onboard dining; complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks at lunch and dinner; a number of excursions and onboard activities.

Age-wise, Emerald's guests also trend a bit younger than the Scenic brand's guests. The average Emerald guest is in the 40- to 60-year age range. “We’ve very much carved out this active style,” Winterton stresses; plus, guests like the combination of a lovely floating hotel room and the chance to explore independently in many destinations.

Emerald "restarted" this year on the river cruise side and the ocean side will kick off in January. "It’s been very positive, but of course, we have to build confidence in cruising once again," he notes. While industry experts, including Winterton, say that could take some time, he's encouraged by the exuberance of the brand's loyal past guests: “They have been very confident.”

“I think where it’s been harder for the industry is to build that confidence in new travelers” (new-to-cruise guests), he believes. But he adds that the buzz flowing publicly about the restarted voyages is good, there are slightly fewer guests onboard with 60 to 70 percent capacity on many Emerald voyages, and service levels are higher than ever. So, those who do sail are finding it a positive experience and tell others.

“I think that the challenges have been in the flying,” he says, citing changing entry regulations and COVID-19 testing requirements—varying by airline, country and destination. “I think that’s been the concern” for guests, he believes. Emerald is working to help guests in the event something does go awry with its 'Cruise with Confidence' and flexible booking policies.

From Winterton’s perspective: “This year, everybody is learning. Next year, we hope to be back to normal.” He says the line is sailing with all vaccinated guests, and as the year has progressed, all vaccinated crew.

On the trade side, Scenic Group is moving its sales office for both brands from Boston to South Florida, which positions the team within the "world capital of ocean cruising," so to speak. This week, the sales folks are attending Seatrade Cruise Global in Miami Beach, FL and meeting with advisors attending the show.

Right now, many small ships are joining the global cruise industry's fleet. That said, Winterton isn't worried about competitors. He's confident that “Scenic and Emerald will be a big player in the ocean market, so look out for us as we’re going to grow over the next few years.”

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