The Emeraude is a product of one man’s quest into history who was so intrigued and fascinated by the beauty of the boats he had seen in Hai Phong harbor that he embarked on a two-year search which took him to the French Maritime Museum, where he was able to locate the family that had built the original vessels. This man is Eric Merlin, and indeed, his vision has enabled the replication of the original "Emeraude", which, along with its sister ships, Perle, Saphir, and Rubis, transported passengers through the enchanting waterways of Ha Long Bay.
Without getting too historical, let’s recall that the early part of the 20th century saw the entirety of Vietnam under French Colonial Control. Long before, a Bordeaux family by the name of Roque left the Old World in search of fame and fortune and found it in Indochina. The Roques were the engineers of the charming steamers, which so captivated the mind of Eric Merlin.
Painstaking measures have been taken to recreate the authenticity of the original vessel; French architects were commissioned to fashion the boat based on original photographs housed in the Paris Maritime Museum. Two million dollars later, it is safe to say that the Emeraude reigns alone as the largest steel craft in Ha Long Bay, fitted with current safety measures and evoking an historic and romantic past. Its maiden voyage was in December of 2003, and it has sailed daily since that time.
Cruising the breathtaking Ha Long Bay aboard the Emeraude is unlike any other experience, as mood, furnishings, architecture converge to recall the grandiose era of one of France’s most prized colonies. The serenity and limpid waters of the bay clasp 1969 limestone monoliths, half of which have been named by the Viet Namese according to their likenesses. Their majesty tend to take one’s breath away, whether espied from the Sun Deck, which is the uppermost on the ship, or your cabin’s porthole. Nature splendor is offered in an almost equally luxurious floating habitat, and what better way to experience the Bay of the Descending Dragons?
You may select the only suite on board, or any one of 38 deluxe cabins: within each are en suite private bath with shower; individual temperature control system, separate sink area with hot running water opposite which you can find your closet and shelving areas for your wardrobe. The beds are made with crisp white linens and sport reading lights (as if you’ll have time to read!); blankets are provided together with plush towels and toiletries. Cabin walls are covered in grass cloth and adorned with photographs of the times. Soft music, evoking the 1920’s era, can be heard throughout the ship. A small souvenir shop of local arts and crafts, as well as honorary "Emeraude" sweatshirts and caps, can be found on the main deck.
There are other enticing amenities which make this the cruise of choice: a 6 am Tai Chi class on deck, which will not only relax you and ready you for the day ahead, but also avail you of the most captivating sunrise of your earthly life. Onboard massages which can be delivered to your room, and believe you me, you will slip into something between bliss and a comatose state after you’ve succumbed to the hands of the seemingly guiltless masseuse. If you spared yourself the massage, join the others in a joyful kayak romp as the Emeraude drops anchor for a while. Can’t boil water? Heck, you can learn how to make tomato roses, among other delicacies, if you avail yourself of the afternoon cooking class. Everyone’s invited, including children.
Best of all the extracurriculars is the visit to the Sung Sot Grotto, which the French dubbed "Grotte des Merveilles". The name describes the reactions of visitors as they enter the 3 chambers of the grotto, which was discovered in 1911.
Last but not least, is the food. Chef Lien, originally Chinese, has an impressive resume of prestigious Hanoi based restaurants and hotels. He brings that expertise to the Emeraude, in constant cooperation with the Press Club, which assists in training and delivery of foods. On your cruise, you will enjoy three delectable meals: lunch and dinner on the first day, and a European breakfast on the next day. An entire journal can be devoted to the flavors and aromas of these meals.
Thus your itinerary on the classic cruise looks something like this:
DAY 1 HA LONG ARRIVAL - OVERNIGHT CRUISE (LUNCH/ DINNER)
12pm: Arrive at Emeraude Pier, Bai Chay – Ha Long City.
12-1pm: Welcome cocktail and check in on the Sundeck, presentation of the trip.
1-6pm: The Emeraude cruises through Ha Long Bay towards Bai Tu Long Bay, Tip Top Island and other scenic locations including Yen Ngua, Con Coc Mountains and a floating fishing village.
1-3pm: A Vietnamese lunch based on fresh seafood is served between 1pm and 2:30pm in the Emeraude restaurant
3-4pm: Optional excursion to Sung Sot Grotto (Grotto of Surprises) , weather and tide permitting. We provide French and/or English speaking guides to escort you. For those wishing to spend a relaxing afternoon, surrounded by this unique landscape, the Sundeck and its bar is the perfect location. Afternoon tea with pastries on the sundeck or in the restaurant and an aperitif before dinner for pre-booked of minimum group of 15 people.
4-5pm: The Emeraude cruises to the Trinh Nu (Drum Cave) & Hang Trong (Virgin Cave) grottoes, where we anchor for the night
5-7pm: As soon as the cruise anchors down, swimming is possible from the back of the boat. Rental kayak is available and allows you to visit both grottoes.
7-9pm: Vietnamese dinner is served in the Restaurant. After dinner, the Sundeck is waiting for those looking for an unforgettable, romantic evening.
Accommodation and overnight on board.
DAY 2 HA LONG SUNRISE CRUISE - DEPARTURE (BREAKFAST)
6:30am: Tai Chi Class on the Sundeck
7am: The Emeraude sets sail once again, heading toward Tuan Chau Island, passing the islands of Dinh Huong, Ga Choi, Dau Nguoi , through the breathtaking scenery of the bay leading for Halong City
7-8:30am: European breakfast is served at the Restaurant
To see more photos of the Emeraude, please click on this link