Scenic Vs Emerald: Battle of the River Ships

With river cruising becoming ever more popular we thought we’d shine a spotlight on the Australian owned cruise lines Emerald Waterways and Scenic Tours. Confusingly they’re the same company, yet two entirely different brands – but don’t worry, the team are here to slice straight through that confusion, much like the proverbial Gordian Knot!

Both lines are new to the industry, with Emerald only starting in 2014, whilst Scenic launched their European ships in 2008 but where do the similarities end? investigated which out of the two is the best river cruise line…


On-board entertainment

Emerald have an amazing and unique feature in that their pool area can turn into a cinema at night! The floor lifts up out of the pool and seals over to become a comfy area of arm chairs to sit back and relax with a film. Don’t believe us? Then watch the video below… (Don’y worry – they drain the pool first!)


Emerald also have spa and beauty salon, mini golf on the top deck (Royal Caribbean eat your heart out!) and entertainment from local musicians and entertainers.

Emerald Hairdresser

Scenic Ships don’t all have a pool but entertainment on board includes a spa and Scenic Sundowners, (which is a cocktail reception as the sun goes down.) Bottoms up on those Margaritas! Oh – all the drinks are free on-board as well (bottoms up indeed!)

alcohol on scenic 



Scenic are a luxury ultra-all inclusive brand – to the point where you don’t need to bring your wallet with you unless you want to buy some souvenirs! Absolutely everything is included in the price, so that you don’t have to dip into your Euros to pay for tips, drinks or excursions, meaning that you can keep the cost of your holiday down.

Emerald are the slightly cheaper of the two as they are the premium brand but your price includes most excursions, free flowing wine and beer with dinner as well as all port charges and tips.

However, both tours come with return flights to the UK included in the price, as well as airport transfers to or from your ship.



The most unique thing about Scenic ships is probably that all rooms come with a butler as standard, giving you that extra bit of luxury. You may have cruised before and never been able to afford the top suites that come with butler service – so Scenic offer the unique chance for every class to enjoy this.

You won’t be priced out of luxury!

Depending on what room you’re in – your Butler will even sort your laundry for you, as well as run you a bath or bring you room service 24 hours a day.


Emerald don’t offer a butler with every room but they do have much roomier rooms as standard. A standard room with Emerald could be the same size as a large suite on another line – meaning that you have plenty of space to relax in and call your own! You can also have continental breakfast served to you on your balcony. – A butler or extra space! Oh, decisions, decisions!


Scenic boast being named “favourite river cruise line” for the third year running by the Telegraph, with 97% of guests saying that they would recommend them to a friend. Emerald might not have won awards (because they are the new kids on the block!) but they have one of the best staff to customer ratios on the waterways.

Both lines will allow you to get the Eurostar over to your destination instead of flying if you’d prefer, which saves you the hassle of the airport experience!



Excursions on Scenic have plenty of choice, with Scenic Enrich and Scenic Freechoice giving you up to five options of what sightseeing to enjoy. You can also use the Scenic Tailormade option and use the exclusive GPS system and headset to take yourself on a tour without the guide! No other river cruise line has these headsets and they give you the freedom to wander off at your own pace – without getting lost! You can even use these headsets when you’re in your room and listen to information about the passing villages and towns. You also have bikes provided to take excursions for free.

Scenic excursion

Emerald is marketed towards a slightly younger market than those at Scenic tours and usually you will be given an hour’s guided tour and then given some time to explore yourselves. You’ll be told the day before in a 15 minute chat from your Emerald Waterways Cruise Director about what is going to happen the next day, which makes sure that you don’t miss anything! It’s worth remembering that Emerald have tours that are not included in the price – with optional excursions being available for you to buy but this only serves to give you more choice!



Both cruise lines will give you a complimentary TV package with movie channels, English TV and music channels. Emerald and Scenic will also give you water bottles that are replenished daily, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi. If you’re used to ocean cruising – it might surprise you how fast their Wi-Fi is!

Scenic has walls lined with art and the lounge is bigger than any other river cruise lines. They have flat screen TV, mac mini system in rooms, individual climate control, hair dryer, telephone, safe, luxury bathrobes and slippers, a large umbrella and they’ll even supply you with Nordic walking sticks. Scenic will even replenish your mini bar daily for free – so enjoy your complimentary nightcap!

river cruising

On-board Emerald you can enjoy a sun lounging deck, fitness centre and there are flat screen TVs in your room with an entertainment centre that has pre-loaded films. Emerald do also have a mini bar in each room – but sadly you have to pay to use it!

river cruising



Both lines have fantastic dining options – as river cruising perhaps beats the dining that you get at sea! With smaller ships there is more intimate dining experiences, but which of the two is best?

Scenic space ships have 5 dining venues including the exclusive Portabellos Italian restaurant (that only seats 30 guests) and the River View Terrace (which serves everything from BBQs to high tea alfresco style.) The main dining room serves a 5 course evening meal and La Table Rieve offers a 6 course tasting menu with a matching menu of wines. All drinks are included apart from ultra-premium brands, which are available to buy on a special occasion. You can even have a glass of Moet with breakfast if you’re feeling extremely decadent!

river cruising

Scenic River Cafe

Emerald has The Terrace restaurant, a great spot at the bow of the ship to relax with alfresco dining. Reflections main dining restaurant offers informal buffer food with a four course dinner in the evenings and the majority of food pays homage to local cuisines and cultures. Horizon bar and Lounge has floor to ceiling windows and allows you to relax and drink in a light and airy atmosphere. It’s worth noting that Emerald has drinks that are included in lunch and dinner – such as free flowing beer and wine, but extra drinks won’t be included in what you pay for.

terrace food on emerald


Battle of the Balconies

Emerald have an exclusive innovative balcony, as their balconies are “indoor” with a retractable window – meaning you can have fresh air and sunshine right in your room.

Indoor balcony

On Scenic the balconies are signature “sun lounges” as 83% of rooms have floor to ceiling windows leading to a balcony, which has a retractable window if the weather is less favourable! This is called “the scenic sun lounge system”…  but it seems to us that is the same as emerald, just outside!

Balcony Suite & Sun Lounge



Emerald and Scenic are both modern vessels, but we think Emerald has the edge when it comes to décor, what do you think?

The décor on-board Emerald is like:

Emerald Interiors

Emerald Interior


This décor on-board Scenic looks like this:

Outdoor decor scenic

interiors of scenic


Fleet stats

In terms of who rules the river, Scenic have a fleet of 12 ships, with the Scenic Jasper and Opal being their newest vessels.

Scenic ships are called “space ships” because, literally, they are full of space! All of their newer ships have an outdoor balcony and junior suites have an amazing 250 square feet of space – and panorama suites have a whopping 325 square feet of space – with wrap around floor to ceiling windows.

Royal Panorama Suite Scenic

Emerald’s newest ships are called “star ships” (these river cruise liners seem to like naming things after the skies don’t they?) “Star ships” have dazzling features which include the outdoor pool with a retractable roof – which turns into a cinema at night.

River cinema

The Emerald fleet is smaller, with just 5 ships, but with these five ships launching in the last year alone, we are sure they’re set to grow!


It’s a close call, we’re not sure who we would vote the best out of the two! What do you think? Who would you rather sail with? Let us know in the comments below!

To learn more about Emerald Waterways: click here 

To learn more about Scenic Tours: click here 


Bulletin Editor

Editor and Creative Copywriter of's bulletin blog, bringing you cruise news, tips and guides daily! - Contact: [email protected]

About The Author

Bulletin Editor

Editor and Creative Copywriter of's bulletin blog, bringing you cruise news, tips and guides daily! - Contact: [email protected]

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