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Why should grown-ups have all the fun when it comes to cruising the world’s rivers? Cruise Lines are competing for families with kids, offering incentives to entice children and multi-generational families onto the water.

Ship designs are evolving to suit the smaller cruiser – and European river cruising in particular is perfect for kids, teens and tweens with a thirst for knowledge about castles and medieval history.

Here is what’s on offer for the younger cruiser:

  •  A tonne of history in art, architecture, medieval history… this is a history lesson better than any book.
  • Group activities  like cooking classes, shopping at the markets with the ship chef, language lessons, arts and crafts.
  • Most luxury river lines offer exercise options like e-bikes that are perfect for multi-generational families, with all stages of fitness and levels of energy. Picture granny riding alongside the grandkids, each perfectly happy.
  • The GPS and guided tours allow the kids the freedom to explore the local towns like treasure hunters armed with their own personal maps.
  • Relaxed dining is also far more common on a river cruise, meaning no long structured meal sitting times, perfect for short attention spans. Kid friendly meals are more likely to be offered on a river cruise also – although tasting the local cuisine is more often the fun part!

Top five river cruise lines for kids

AmaWaterways with APT & Adventures by Disney

AmaWaterways with APT have aligned with Adventures by Disney, a company that offers immersive adventures for families and they hold five weeklong Adventures by Disney cruises on the Danube.

Imagine riding a toboggan during an shore excursion to the winter Christmas Markets as a family, taking a hike along a waterfall, visit the famous storybook Heidelberg Castle, or go tubing or snow biking, or curling at Germany’s indoor ski hall, or zip line through the Black Forest. Explore Alsace via horseback, take part in a clog-painting activity in Holland or start a macaroon-baking class in France, these are family moments that make memories.

Castles along the Rhine

The minimum age for sailing is 4, but the recommended age is 8 and older. AmaStella and AmaViola both have the line’s customary twin balconies (an open one that you can sit on and a French balcony that opens for fresh air).

The accommodations include 12 staterooms that can house up to three family members each; six sets of adjoining cabins that can be connected via an internal doorway, accommodating families of up to five; and four suites with convertible sofa beds that can accommodate families of up to four. The ships also feature a heated pool, complimentary Internet, entertainment on demand and an onboard spa. Complimentary bikes are also available to borrow. A kids menu is available on the Adventures by Disney voyages, as well as local meals.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Uniworld offers an abundance of family-friendly itineraries with sailings on the Rhine, Danube, Seine and Po Rivers. The minimum age is 4, and children up to age 18 pay half price.

The sailings on the luxury river line are designed to be fun and interactive. Some onboard activities include dessert-making with the ship’s pastry chef, tasting local soft drinks with the resident Soda Sommelier, craft workshops and local language classes. The Young Travellers Lounge, available on all multigenerational Uniworld ships, has a PlayStation, a wide selection of games, movies and candy jars. Every family-friendly cruise itinerary also features onboard visits from local children or teens.

Parents can also go onshore and leave their children in the care of Family Hosts for Junior Cruisers (ages 4 to 11) and Young Cruisers (ages 12 to 18), who will supervise and coordinate onboard activities. Each night the child receives a special pillow gift from the destinations visited.

Onshore excursions with the kids are also carefully designed with the whole family in mind. The Generations Collection is a series of cruises designed around the entire family. Enjoy an eight days cruise exploring the castles along the Rhine. Or Embrace the holiday spirit in Germany, the land where many Christmas traditions began, and find the magic of the season from Nuremberg to Frankfurt. Family adventures await you in Paris and northern Italy with cruise itineraries designed especially tom please the little travellers.

Christmas market delights

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises accommodates children six (6) months of age and up and while there are no dedicated Junior Activity programs nor supervised care services available on board, this is a luxury river cruise experience that is perhaps best suited to the teen or tween cruisers.

In Austria, the kids will delight in the visit to the confectionary store. Explore Krems, one of the oldest and loveliest cities in the Wachau Valley. During a guided walk, you will stop at a chocolate confectioner’s shop to meet the owner, watch a demonstration and enjoy a sweet treat.

Chocolate tasting at its best

Learn about the musical greats in Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart and filming backdrop for “The Sound of Music,” with this full-day excursion to the renowned Austrian city. Enjoy its traditional Christmas markets and sample holiday treats at Stiftskeller St. Peter. Then enjoy a scenic ride by tram to the top of Pöstlingberg hill, with its commanding view of the city below.

Your little ones will be excited by a visit to charming Artstetten Castle, a site commemorating Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. Meet with a member of the Hohenberg family. Princes and Princesses are real!

Kings and Queens of the castles

Tour the Old Town of Bratislavia, enjoy and visit a traditional Bakery to sample typical Slovakian pastry or see an exquisite display of horsemanship, demonstrated by equestrian and human champions alike, with a visit to a farm and stable located in the hills outside Budapest. Your experience also takes you aboard a carriage for a charming ride in the woods and on a walk to meet some of Hungary’s unique, endemic animals.

Scenic

Scenic caters to children age 12 and up.

Take the guided biking tour of Viena. This cycling tour leaves from the ship and takes you through mostly flat paths. We cycle upstream along the river and then cross to the Danube Island. On the Danube Island, we go downstream along the river and cross the Danube again using the Prater Brucke and cycle back through the Prater Park. The rout will be approximately 16 km long.

Splish Splash! in the thermal baths: Bath Szechenyi is located on the Buda side of Budapest and is known by locals as one of the ‘secret spots of Budapest’. Bath Szechenyi also known as Császár Baths are hidden in the backyard of a Classicist-style building in Buda, and is one of the Oldest and most beautiful Turkish baths in Budapest. The local guide will provide you with a ticket (valid for using the thermal pools plus the use of changing cabins), and will explain all the practicalities.

Scenic Freechoice excursions to please even the most active and curious minds, from hiking to ruined castles, authentic baking classes with German gingerbread, visit a local farm and cuddle the farm animals, canal boat cruises and Christmas markets, Amsterdam cycling tours, cheese markets and more.

Family bike riding around Europe

Avalon Waterways

Avalon allows children from the age of eight and above.

For those who believe that life is about trying new things as a family, Avalon has a great selection of interactive excursions created for the different kind of “doer.” These hands-on experiences include joining a painting class in an art studio, creating your own signature confection at a chocolate factory, or for the active families, and for those who need to get out and about, Avalon offers a host of expert-guided, yet self-powered excursions.

You could take a leisurely pedal around an ancient village, or calmly paddle down a legendary river. From light hiking to speedier strolls, these excursions are sure to burn out the most active families.

For the history buffs (or students) Avalon offers a History Tour through the waterways of Europe where you can explore living history, go deeper than the books with European history and politics – visit the places with onboard historians help you retrace the allies’ footsteps throughout France on the Western Front. From the Seine to the Danube and beyond, glide down centuries of politics and culture on these cruises.