The days when children weren’t heard – let alone seen – on river cruises is a thing of the past.
There was a time when the words ‘families’ and ‘river cruising’ would never be uttered in the same sentence. However, all that has changed with a growing number of family-friendly river cruises designed to float everyone’s boat – irrespective of their age – plus a new ship is specifically designed for multigenerational holidays.
From exploring fairytale castles on the Rhine to a spooky Venetian ghost walk, or meeting French cowboys in the Camargue, the whole family can be immersed in authentic experiences.
CLIA UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer explains: “Multigenerational travel, where grandparents, parents and children all go on holiday, has grown in popularity over recent years.
“However, this trend has only recently been seen in the river cruise sector. With the investment in building new ships that boast multiple dining areas, swimming pools, expanded spas and more, a river cruise is a perfect fit for families.
“On board they can have shared experiences, yet also separate for me-time, and in port, they can enjoy excursions, such as days out cycling.”
Tauck pioneered family river cruises with the Tauck Bridges programme and in 2020 will launch the industry’s first-ever family cruise on Portugal’s Douro, which will be the sixth Bridges itinerary. Starting with a land-stay in the capital, Lisbon, the five-night cruise will feature hiking and cycling tours.
Tauck’s senior vice-president river and small ship cruising, Katharine Bonner, says:
“Our Blue Danube: Family Riverboat Adventure debuted in 2010 and in the years since we’ve continued to lead the category, adding additional Bridges family river cruises on the Rhine, Rhone, Seine and Douro, as well as a second itinerary on the Danube that will operate in December and take in the region’s holiday season traditions.
A-Rosa River Cruises has a long association with multigenerational cruising and is the only line offering free cruises for children under 15 on all itineraries, apart from the Douro where a 25 per cent discount is available.
In spring 2021 the line will take family cruising to new levels with a vessel specifically designed for such groups. The ship, which will mainly sail on the Rhine, will feature large family cabins sleeping up to five, a separate children’s pool and a kids’ club and restaurant area where young guests can eat together.
“We have worked hard to develop a river cruise concept aimed at families and multigenerational groups travelling together in a fun and relaxed way,” says A-Rosa managing director of the UK & Ireland Lucia Rowe. “In 2018 more than 2,400 children cruised with us and these numbers continue to grow.
“This new ship is a prototype on Europe’s rivers and something we haven’t seen before. It will open up river cruising to a completely different market segment with a host of new facilities and features tailored to the whole family.
“We want to attract the growing multigenerational sector and encourage a much younger audience to consider river cruising as a family holiday choice.
“I expect this new concept to be hugely popular with UK customers and we look forward to working with the UK trade to educate them on all that the ship will offer and how and who to sell it to.”
Luxury boutique line Uniworld features special ‘generations’ departures, with tailored programmes, events and excursions designed for families.
Dedicated hosts look after junior cruisers aged four to 12 and teen cruisers up to the age of 17. There is also a young travellers’ lounge, and kids-only film nights are on offer. In 2020 the refurbished SS La Venezia will become the line’s latest Super Ship and will feature a new ‘generations’ cruise.
This gives children the chance to take part in a scavenger hunt through Venice, a Bolognese sauce workshop in food heaven Bologna and a pasta-making session led by the ship’s chef.
In 2016, AmaWaterways introduced interconnecting cabins that are now available on seven ships, including AmaMagna, its recently launched vessel. AmaMagna is almost double the width of other modern river ships and offers family-style dining in a variety of its restaurants.
Another line known for being family-friendly is CroisiEurope, which offers special sailings in Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy during July and August with free cruises for under-16s, adjoining cabins and no single cabin supplements for solo family members travelling in multigenerational groups.
Another option is a self-drive cruise and for fans of this type of holiday, Le Boat operates the world’s largest fleet of vessels, with the highest number of destinations available in France. No previous experience is needed and holidays include detailed guides and pre-departure briefings.
Le Boat’s managing director, Cheryl Brown, explains: “A canal boat holiday with Le Boat offers a unique opportunity to experience enchanting destinations from a completely different perspective, allowing boaters to choose an action-packed adventure or a slow-paced, relaxing chance to unwind.
“Ideal for multi-generational groups, our self-drive cruisers cater to parties of all sizes, allowing entire families to stay on board and explore their chosen region at their own pace. From local child-friendly attractions and dining, to cycling along the canal pathways, there is something for all the family and even dogs are welcome on board.”
For families looking for river cruise adventures further afield, Pandaw has special promotions during school holidays where one or two children between the ages of five and 18 can travel free in a second cabin when accompanied by two adults.
High level of inclusions makes it easy to budget
Meals to suit different tastes included in the fare
Increasing number of dedicated multigenerational sailings to choose from
Plenty of quality time spent together
Only having to pack and unpack once
Uniworld has a seven-night Venice & the Gems of Northern Italy itinerary, departing 28 June, 5 July and 12 July 2020, from £2,519pp, £2,009 for children’s places, including flights. 0808 168 9110, uniworld.com
Tauck’s seven-night Douro Discovery: A Family River Cruise in Portugal, departs 24 and 29 June, 4 and 9 July 2020, from £3,150pp, cruise only, 0800 810 8020, tauck.co.uk
Le Boat has a seven-night, self-drive, self-catering cruise on the Canal du Midi in France departing 2 July 2020 from £1,369 per boat for a family of four, cruise only, 023 9222 2177, leboat.co.uk