Europe Family River Cruising in 2018

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination Specialist & Europe River Cruise Expert

Among the newest trends in European river cruising is the addition of more family friendly cruises.  There are some great opportunities to provide vacations that are inclusive for families yet allow the adults a great vacation.  A word of warning—these cruises sell out quickly (some are already gone for the 2018 season), so if you are interested, do not hesitate to contact us to get your cruise. 

So, let’s explore the latest offerings. 

AmaWaterways and Adventures by Disney 2018

These awesome companies have partnered together to provide some unique river cruise trips on the two most popular river cruise routes in Europe—the Danube and the Rhine.  Most sailings are during the summer months, but there is also a special Christmas sailing on the Danube departing on December 23, 2018.  The 2018 sailings are now available for booking and we are happy to help you send your family on an adventure they will never forget.

They will offer eight Danube sailings aboard the AmaViola.  Four of these sailings are already sold out! The route is from Vishofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, or the reverse.  Along with the chance to visit 4 countries (Austria and Slovakia), the cruise sails through the Wachau Valley, one of the most picturesque parts of the Danube River.

Schonbuhl Castle at the start of the Wachau Valley, on the Danube River

A special feature of both of these Ama ships is connecting cabins.

On the Rhine, they will sail eight special Beauty and the Beast” itineraries aboard the AmaKristina in 2018.  One of these eight sailings is already sold out.  This cruise sails from Basel Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands (we just returned in December 2016) on this route and also visits France and Germany—4 great Europe countries.  It also sails in the reverse direction.  The “Beauty and the Beast” theme will dominate the cruise with a special film screening and activities, but the highlight may well be a visit to Riquewihr, the inspiration for Belle’s hometown in the animated film.

The half-timbered house of Strasbourg are very similar to the village of Riquewihr

For the family oriented cruises, there are only 140 spaces per sailing—Disney extra guides take up some cabins—instead of the normal 170 passengers.

There is a big advantage with the pairing of Disney and Ama—both provide wonderful experiences: Disney on land and sea and now both on the great rivers of Europe.  And with the Disney touches, it isn’t hard to imagine that any Disney aficionado would enjoy these themed cruises!

Disney for Adults

There are also an increased number of adult only adventures.  These special cruises were inspired by the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.  The special events on these sailings include culinary experiences both onboard and onshore, wine tastings, culinary walking tours and a French patisserie class.  There are 2 sailing on the Rhine (September and October) and one special Octoberfest sailing on the Danube departing on September 30, 2018—you guessed it, it will feature beer!

Tauck Bridges

Tauck offers 3 river cruises that they market as “specially crafted for family fun.”  Their concept is world travel that leads to family discovery.  Tauck started their travel services company by providing guided tours on land only, and the riverboat program is an extension of the Tauck Bridges program that first started on land.  Tauck uses its on board staff called Tauck Directors to conduct all the cruise tours and activities.  Here are the routes they plan to use for 2018:

On the Danube, the route goes from Regensburg, Germany to Budapest, Hungry and is called the Blue Danube Family Riverboat Adventure.  Among the unique features of this cruise is a scavenger hunt and other medieval games at a castle in Bratislava.  The route includes ports at 4 different European countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungry).

The Old Stone Bridge Watch Tower, Regensburg, Germany on the Danube River

On the Rhone River in France, the route goes from Lyon to Arles and is called Bon Voyage! France Family River Cruise.  We have sailed this route three times on AmaWaterways, and we would go again—it is a wonderful part of France.

Palace of the Popes, Avignon, France

On the Rhine, the route goes from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands and it is called Castles on the Rhine Family Riverboat Cruise.  Along with the visits to 4 Europe countries (France and Germany), sailing the Rhine River Gorge with its 30 castles is a memory of a lifetime. 

Katz Castle, Rhine River Gorge, Germany


Uniworld has good family cruises.  They call the cruises Generations and market these cruises as “meticulously planned to keep young travelers engaged, with plenty of free time for adults to relax and recharge.”  They also have more kid friendly menus and cooking experiences such as strudel baking and making mini pizzas.

The Generations program is designed around school breaks and they have the most experience providing family river cruises compared to the other 2 companies in this blog.  A key feature of their program is a half-off the cruise only fare for travelers 4-17 (must be accompanied by an adult).  They also have added 2 dedicated tour hosts for the junior cruisers.

The Generations family program was available on 9 cruises in 2017.  The Generations program is grouped into 6 themes. They are: 1) Art Lovers, 2) Go Active, 3) Mysterious Stuff, 4) Aspiring Foodies, 5) Curious Minds, and 6) Thrill Seekers.  On the nine cruises, most feature 4 or 5 special events for kids based on one or more of the 6 themes. 

Here are the 2017 Routes (please note: the 2018 schedule has not been released yet but we think it will be similar to the 2017 routes):

Paris & Normandy—round trip Paris on the Seine, 8 day trip; Castles on the Rhine—Basel to Amsterdam, 8 day trip; Delightful Danube & Prague—Budapest to Prague, 10 day trip; Danube Discovery & Prague-– Vienna to Prague, 10 day trip; Rhine-Main Discover & Munich—Munich to Cologne, 10 day trip; Classic Christmas Market—Nuremberg to Frankfurt, 8 day trip: Splendors of Italy–Milan to Rome, 15 days; Gems of Northern Italy—Milan to Venice, 10 days; and Grand European Discovery—Cologne to Vienna, 15 days.

Decoding the Routes and Itineraries

In a short blog like this, it may be a little confusing to understand exactly what each trip offers.  Also, it may be confusing to try and evaluate each cruise line and their offers.  This maze is where we excel—we can help you match the best route and company for your specific needs.  We have either sailed the route you are interested in or visited the port town—our first-hand knowledge will help you make wise decisions.

Our Last Thoughts

Europe river cruising is constantly changing and in most cases, the winners are the cruisers.  These new programs have brought the wonders of Europe together in a way that is much more appealing to kids and still allows the entire family to have a wonderful vacation.  The usual benefits of unpack once, see multiple sights, all meals provided and interesting things to do and see, are now more family friendly, and have expanded Europe river cruising to a new level.  As always we want to help you with your travel dreams, whatever they may be, and hope some of you with families or extended families might want to take part of one of these family friendly Europe river cruises.  Please call Hank (713-397-0188) or email him at so we can help you: Savor life . . . make memories . . . visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!


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