While onboard entertainment is the focus of enormous ocean-faring ships, river cruises in Europe emphasize onshore activities — one major reason that families (recommended for ages 8 and up) are hopping aboard.
“River cruises are all about destination immersion,” said JD Lasica, the chief executive of Cruiseable, a consumer travel publication and booking site. “The attraction centers on the activities along your route. It’s a great way to broaden your children’s horizons.”
In 2017, Uniworld’s Jewish heritage themed Rhine-Main Discovery trip, for example, will be tailored for families. In addition to regular programming (including visits to Nuremberg’s Nazi Party Rally Grounds and the former Rothschild palace turned Jewish Museum in Frankfurt) the trip incorporates hands-on experiences for young passengers, including a visit to a medieval crime museum in Rothenburg, Germany, and a torch-led tour of the underground passageways in Nuremberg.
This year, AMA Waterways introduced Adventures by Disney River Cruises on two newly built ships with connecting cabins, a first for river cruises. Programming (zip lining through the Black Forest, clog decorating in Amsterdam, chocolate-making in Cologne) is overseen by Disney-trained staff members. (For families with teens, the brand offers hiking and biking “family breakaway” departures developed with the adventure travel company Backroads.)
A medieval joust fest in a Slovakian castle and a glamorous evening, complete with waltzing, at the Palais Pallavicini in Vienna are part of the family programming devised by Tauck. Their newest departure, in France, Family Fun Along the Seine, is scheduled for next summer and will include a scavenger hunt at the Louvre, an exploration of D-Day beaches and “Fear Factor”-style foodie games, a clever way to nudge kids to try escargot and stinky cheese.
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