One of Halong Bay’s icons sails past a milestone this week, as Emeraude Classic Cruises celebrates its 10th year as one of Vietnam’s most distinctive travel experiences.
The anniversary marks a decade of rapid tourism growth in Halong Bay, most notably punctuated by its inclusion as one of the New 7Wonders of Nature in late 2011.
Launched on Halong’s turquoise waters on a December morning in 2003, the cruise’s old-world appeal is anchored in the history of its namesake: a French-owned paddlewheel steamer that plied the bay between 1906 and 1937.
The Emeraude debuted with 34 colonial-inspired cabins and one Paul Roque Suite. Its French captain, world-class instruments and adherence to international maritime standards set a new precedent for safety in the bay.
Half a year after its launch, the Emeraude introduced Vietnam to the joys of glamorous caving, with its annual black-tie Wine & Dine Cruise Classic, now also in its 10th year. The mid-May overnight cruise and culinary extravaganza is attended by some of the country’s most noted figures and is still the only annual wine dinner in Vietnam that continually makes waves in the local and international press.
By 2008, two new suites--the Emeraude Suite and the Captain’s Suite--offered prime lounging space and an additional element of privacy for the ship’s growing roster of VIP passengers, including US Senator John McCain, who cruised with the Emeraude on separate visits in 2009 and 2012. Five other US senators have also cruised with the Emeraude.
In June 2012 the Emeraude underwent its most extensive refurbishment to date, with renovations to its deluxe and superior cabins, the installation of fresh furnishings, wall coverings and light fixtures, and a complete redesign to its bathrooms. The revived Emeraude set sail with a seasoned Vietnamese captain at the helm. Captain Nguyen Van Quan’s journey from a young boy on his mother’s rowboat to captain of the Emeraude is indicative of the opportunities tourism has brought to Vietnam.
On the eve of its 10th year anniversary, the Emeraude published a 112-page book by author Pam Scott with research by entrepreneur Eric Merlin. The volume, titled ‘Jewels of Halong Bay’, chronicles Merlin’s discovery of a vintage postcard in a Paris flea market in 1999, the story of the Roque brothers who made a fortune in colonial Indochina, and the resurrection of the Emeraude as a living piece of French-Vietnamese history.
“Much has changed in Halong over the past decade, yet there is still nothing out there quite like the Emeraude,” said Kurt Walter, the cruise’s general manager, “It is a vessel worthy of this spectacular destination, and of a legacy that is every day in the making.”