Think of river cruising and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the domain of retired couples who like to relax and watch the scenery, or young active types who like to trek across cities, visiting museums and learning about history. However, the river cruise industry is evolving fast. Many river cruise lines have recognised that river cruising can be a fun and educational holiday for children. As such, they have developed a multitude of European river cruises which are perfect for families.
With family cabins that sleep four in one room, or adjoining cabins that sleep up to five, families are well accommodated on many river cruise ships. Whilst you won’t find waterslides, climbing walls and zip lines like you may do on large cruise ships, there are on-board facilities that children will love, from swimming pools to cinemas.
You’ll find an abundance of activities for children of all ages to enjoy once ashore as well, with a range of excursions which have been designed with young travellers in mind such as making Venetian masks in Venice or making marzipan in Germany.
The Best European River Cruises for Families
There are four river cruise lines in Europe which are great for families with children. These are:
AmaWaterways was the first river cruise line to design ships with families in mind. AmaStella and AmaViola debuted in 2016 with adjoining cabins that connected via an internal doorway, provining accommodation for families of up to five (or four plus a nanny). These ships also feature suites with sofa beds to accommodate families of four in comfort and style. Children under 11 are also permitted to share a bed with two adults if desired.
The real game-changer in the family river cruise industry, however, is new ship AmaMagna which launched in May 2019. This double-width ship is the world’s biggest river cruise ship and sails on the Danube, which is wider than other European rivers. On-board facilities that kids will love include the Theatre, where children can not only watch movies, but also play on the Playstation and Nintendo Switch, as well as a selection of board games and, importantly, a decent-sized swimming pool. Most of AmaWaterways’ ships have bicycles that guests can use ashore, and AmaMagna also has child-size bikes – perfect for exploring as a family!
AmaWaterways also has a partnership with Disney. The cruise line offers ‘Adventures by Disney cruises’ on the iconic Danube river, with activities including live falconry shows at ancient castles and magical carriage rides in Budapest.
Miniumum age to sail with AmaWaterways: Children must be 4 years old or over to sail, but AmaWaterways doesn’t recommend their river cruises for children under 8.
Discounted fares for children? No
Luxury river cruise line Tauck is something of a pioneer in luxury river cruises; offering family-friendly itineraries since back in 2010. Tauck’s family-friendly river cruises are the ‘Tauck Bridges’ range and are on offer during the summer holidays in July and August.
As an all-inclusive river cruise line, holidaying with the kids is made easier by gratuities, hotels, luggage service, airport transfers, beverages and shore excursions all being included in the price of your fare. Tauck also ensures that its cabins are perfectly equipped for families. Full-size sofa beds mean that four guests can fit comfortably into one suite on certain ships.
One of the best things about Tauck is that its family river cruises include a range of interactive activities and excursions designed to enthral both adults and children. How about sword fighting lessons or a race against time through a hedge maze in the grounds of a grand palace? Then there are rides on an antique ferris wheel in Vienna, marzipan folding in Germany and bicycle rides through the forests lining the Danube. The possibilities are endless, and there is bound to be an activity for every day of your river holiday.
Recommended age to sail with Tauck: Children must be at least 3 years old to sail with Tauck, and shore excursions also have minimum age ratings assigned to them.
Discounted fares for children? No
Uniworld is known for its opulent river cruise ships, but this luxury line isn’t just about adult-only indulgence. Uniworld also hosts family cruises as part of its Boutique River Cruise Collection. In fact, it is consistently voted number one in Travel + Leisure’s ‘World’s Best River Cruising for Families’ category year after year,
Uniworld’s family river cruises are all about helping you make new discoveries together: exploring exciting new destinations home to unforgettable experiences. On-board, guests can make desserts with the ship’s pastry chef and taste local soft drinks with a Soda Sommelier, indulge their creative side with craft workshops and brush up on their local lingo in language classes. Plus, there are culinary activities for adventurous diners, thrilling experiences for adrenaline junkies and exciting excursions designed to broaden inquisitive minds.
Uniworld also offers a Family Hosts service for Junior Cruisers (ages four to 12) and Young Cruisers (ages 13 to 17), where children can enjoy specially co-ordinated activities. They can also sit at the Young Traveller’s Table along with their friends and the Family Hosts, leaving parents to enjoy a romantic meal for two. Young travellers also receive surprise gifts on their pillow on each night of the cruise.
Miniumum age to sail with Uniworld: Children must be 4 years old or over to sail with Uniworld.
Discounted fares for children? Yes. Children aged 4 to 17 get a 25% discount when travelling with an adult (except in suites).
For budget-conscious families, French-owned family-run river cruise line CroisiEurope could be ideal. During the summer holidays in July and August there are on-board kids’ clubs with activities such as sports and water games and an end of cruise show which is presented to parents and grandparents. Special menus are also provided for children.
At other times of the year, no children’s entertainment is provided, but CroisiEurope cruises are still popular with families. All shore excursions are included which makes it easy for families to explore each port of call.
One child is allowed to share each cabin with two adults, or children are allowed to stay in the cabin next door from age 5. Single parent families will be pleased to learn that the single supplement is waived when travelling with children.
Miniumum age to sail with CroisiEurope: There is no minimum age on most sailings, but children need to be at least 7 years old to sail on the Volga, the Mekong and in South Africa. Cota are not provided for babies.
Discounted fares for children? Children under 16 sail free of charge during the school holidays in July and August on a selection of cruises in Spain, Portugal and Italy. At other times they receive a discount of 20% after flights, taxes and other charges.
Would you like to embark on a family river cruise but aren’t sure which cruise line or itinerary to choose? Click the button below or call our Cruise Concierge team on 0800 197 0854 to find the best voyage for your clan of adventurers.
What river cruises offer activities for an 11 year old girl?
Hello Faye, it depends on the cruise line. In general, there are plenty of excursions exploring local cities, towns and landmarks. Uniworld offer their exclusive ‘Generations’ cruises which are designed for children and families, you can read all about our cruise expert, Sara Macefield, and her time on board here: Family fun aboard Uniworld’s ‘Generations’ river cruises. Thanks, Emma.