HANOI, Vietnam — Openasia, a Hanoi-based investment firm with a growing group of hospitality interests in Vietnam has acquired the 37-cabin Emeraude cruise ship and set about a series of upgrades to enhance the passenger experience on famed Halong Bay.
With the acquisition, Openasia initiated the final phase of work on a three-year refurbishment that stripped the baths in every cabin and suite to its infrastructural base and reinvented the space with rain shower heads, new sinks, repositioned toilets and an aesthetic makeover that trades in the old school nautical feel for softer mosaics.
By the time the renovation is complete in April, all of the cabins will feature new beds, new wall coverings and new linens. Onshore, Openasia has moved the vessel’s dock to a new pier in Hon Gai and opened the Emeraude Cafe as a point of embarkation.
Although the boat’s ownership has changed, the management remains the same, with Kurt Walter in place as the ship’s general manager. Walter took charge of the Emeraude in 2004, just one year after the original owner, Eric Merlin, launched the vessel as the first luxury cruise ship on Halong Bay.
“I’ve been cruising the Emeraude every week for 10 years,” said Walter. “If you’d asked me 10 years ago whether I’d still be here in 2015, I’d have told you flat out no. But there is magic on this boat, and on this bay, and the experience is as vibrant and compelling today as it was all those years ago.”
Also with Openasia, the Emeraude has added passage through Luon Grotto by bamboo boat to its cruise itinerary. The 60-meter long, four-meter wide passage slips the ship’s rowboat into an enclosed salt water lake surrounded by precipitous limestone cliffs. The Emeraude will continue to call on Surprise Grotto on the first day of its itinerary.
Along with its acquisition of the Emeraude, Openasia has also taken charge of The Press Club Hanoi. First opened in 1997, the Press Club recently hired its first new executive chef in a decade, took on new food and beverage management and is planning the most significant renovation in its history from May to August of this year.