The name “Emeraude” has special meaning in Ha Long Bay because the first international tourists to join excursions and discovery tours of this UNESCO World Natural Heritage site arrived on the Emeraude cruiser.
For Ha Long Bay and many generations of tourists, the Emeraude will forever be a beautiful story of the golden age of international travel, along with its comfortable amenities even in those early days. Every day, those beautiful memories are being preserved and given new life by Emeraude Classic Cruises, a member of Thien Minh Group (TMG), in this unique wonder of creation.
Above all, today’s Emeraude Classic cruise ship embodies the spirit of adventure and wanderlust of three young men who were open to discovery, going wherever the wind took them. From the moment a vintage box was opened at a flea market in Paris, France, the journey from France to Vietnam to build the Emeraude Classic cruise ship would officially begin.
One day in December 1999, a young Eric Merlin, a third-generation businessman from a family with a long history of doing business in France, coincidentally found three postcards in a box with the word “Indochine” engraved on it in a flea market in Paris, the magnificent capital of France. One of the three postcards had an image of a steamship in Ha Long Bay with the word “Emeraude” written above.
The postcard had a dual effect on the young businessman. The image piqued his interest in the origins of this mysterious ship while inspiring him to find a new line of business for himself, perhaps even recreating the Emeraude to once again sail the waters of Ha Long Bay.
It was a surprise even to Eric that an idea that flashed in his mind the moment the Indochine box was opened would lead him on a cross-continental journey which included more than a thousand letters sent throughout France before he was finally able to locate the Roque family, the original owners of the first Emeraude steamship in Ha Long Bay.
The Far East adventures of the three Roque brothers
In 1828, in the small village of Brusque in Aveyron, France, Mr. Jean Roque married Marie-Magdeleine. The couple had four children, including three sons, Victor (1829), Henry, Xavier, and the youngest, a daughter named Sylvie. After finishing school, the three Roque brothers moved to the port city of Bordeaux to find work, and both Victor and Xavier later worked for a trading company called Tardieu.
In 1857, with a love of adventure and fueled by the desire to conquer new lands prevalent at the time, the two brothers Victor, then 29 years old, and Xavier, 23 years old, set east to the Philippines to wait for an opportunity to travel onwards to Vietnam. They had heard that the French government at the time was planning on taking military action against Vietnam. The three brothers hatched a plan that Henry would stay behind in France to hide the fact that the brothers Victor and Xavier had left for the East without a word to their parents.
In 1859, the three Roque brothers reunited in Vietnam when Henry left France for Tourane, today known as Da Nang, to assist his two brothers in selling military supplies and other necessities to the French army. It took 8 years from the day the Roque brothers left France for all three to return to their homeland in wealth and prosperity. They later bought the Chateaux de Montifray in the Loire region. In 1868, Xavier married and had two sons, Emile and Paul. Xavier’s two older brothers, Victor and Henry, would remain single. Victor died at the age of 67. Henry died in 1911.
Paul Roque and the inspiration for the Emeraude Classic
The predecessor of today’s Emeraude Classic was the 80-ton single-paddle steamship Emeraude, capable of carrying goods and 20 passengers around Ha Long Bay and the Red River area. Paul Roque, the second son of Xavier Roque, ordered the ship built in Hong Kong. Paul came to Indochina to replace his second uncle, Henry Roque, in taking over the family business after earning a law degree and gaining experience working at a law firm.
The original Emeraude was green, one of four identical ships distinguished only by their names and the colors of their funnels, including the Emeraude, the red Rubis, the white Perle, and the blue Saphir. At the time, all four ships were equipped with modern amenities, including electricity, fans, bathrooms, refrigerators, and even a dark room to develop film. World-class service was ensured by a French manager. With the launch of the Emeraude and its three sister ships, the first international passengers appeared in Ha Long Bay.
In 1921, Paul returned home, ending more than six decades of adventures for the Roque family in Indochina. He married in 1926 and had three children. In 1954, France withdrew from Indochina, and the limited liability company Paul established, Société Anonyme de Chalandage et Remorquage d’Indo-Chine, or SACRIC for short, likewise disappeared. On the evening of March 16, 1937, the steamship Emeraude was on its way to Hai Phong when it hit a reef 7 kilometers from Cam Pha Port and sank into the Gulf of Tonkin. There were no casualties from this incident, according to police reports.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the new Emeraude Classic, built in Hai Phong, made its appearance in Ha Long Bay in December 2003, just as Eric Merlin had hoped on the day he opened the Indochine box in Paris. Measuring 55m long, with 3 decks, 2 bars, 1 restaurant, and 37 cabins, including a cabin named after Paul Roque, the Emeraude Classic is an homage to the entrepreneurial spirit of many generations of French businessmen.
Tran Trong Kien: A pioneer in bringing adventure tourism to Indochina
In 2015, Emeraude Classic Cruises became a member of TMG, Asia’s leading tourism group, under the leadership of businessman Tran Trong Kien. In the world of tourism, Mr. Tran Trong Kien is known as the pioneer who brought adventure tourism to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia while tirelessly introducing Vietnam as a beautiful, peaceful destination to the world
Before taking over the Emeraude Classic brand with the aim of continuing to showcase its beauty in Ha Long Bay, Mr. Kien founded the Buffalo Tours brand in 1994 while he was a medical student in Hanoi. Although trained to become a doctor, with his love for travel and Vietnam, Mr. Tran Trong Kien later became a successful businessman in the tourism industry.
Under the leadership of TMG, the Emeraude Classic continues to embody the spirit of entrepreneurship for young businesspeople who aspire to take to the seas in a quest to conquer new worlds. Emeraude is the coming together of many eras, generations, and cultures. Because of this, the Emeraude Classic is likened to a living museum that plies the emerald waters of the heritage site of Ha Long Bay night and day.
Its fascinating history is a focal point of the Emeraude Classic. The first international tourists came to Ha Long Bay on the original Emeraude, and today, the Emeraude Classic continues to showcase the timeless beauty of wondrous Ha Long Bay to both domestic and international tourists. The ship with a mesmerizing backstory is the perfect blend of timeless charm and the undaunted spirit of exploration, and the daring of youth.