Stay Seine on a river cruise

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European River cruises are going child-friendly with Harry Potter themed itineraries, ungraded family cabins and cooking classes made for kids. Go on, get your cruise on. 

Many families avoid European river cruises for fear they’re too expensive, a ‘luxury’ option, better suited to retired couples than families. But that’s changing. An increasing number of cruise lines now offer kid-friendly cruises on the Danube, Rhine and Seine. There’s even one based on Harry Potter. 

The Pluses

Smaller ships mean fewer people and a chance to enjoy each other’s company. It’s possible to charter an entire cruise for multi-generational getaways. With less people on board, you’ll be able to enjoy a more immersive, personalised experience at each destination. 

River cruises tend to have more port stops and shore excursions, especially if you choose to float down the Rhine or Danube. On both routes, you dock in big towns – like Basel, Strasbourg and Cologne. 

On board there’s plenty of activities if you ever tire of the view. Try language lessons, art or cook up a French feast.  

Most ships offer all-inclusive deals. With your meals and transfers already paid this type of touring won’t leave you all at sea when it comes to unexpected expenses.

The Minuses

The size of the boat might promise an intimate and relaxed chill-out space, but it also means fewer dedicated kids’ activities. Unlike the big ocean liners, there are no huge entertainment facilities. Kids Clubs are rare. 

Rooms tend to be smaller, and not all lines have family room configurations. 

Common spaces on river boats are typically a lounge room, library, a couple of dining spaces and a top deck. Families with children who love to run will need to be mindful of other guests. 

You may also find it trickier to book a family-friendly river cruise than one on an ocean liner as there are fewer on the market. River cruising heavyweights like Viking, Scenic and APT have no kid-specific options.

The Cruises

Quite a number of cruise-liners are now creating family-friendly cruises. Expect more to come as demand increases. 

Disney river cruises have partnered with Ama Waterways to create twenty-one cruise offerings in 2019. Disney already have Danube and Rhine Disney cruises on custom-built family-friendly vessels with three or four-berth cabins. The 2019 summer itineraries on the Seine have been specifically targeted to young families, with the optional addition of a resort stay at Disneyland Paris at the end.

Tauck have pushed forward a couple of fantastic family itineraries, including the ‘Blue Danube’ from Budapest to Regensburg. Off-board activities include fencing at Devin Castle in Slovenia, bike riding in Austria and flying high at Prater Amusement park. 

Uniworld provide hosts especially for 5-12 and 12-18 year olds.  It’s also crafted shore excursions to suit a younger crowd. Think pasta-making in Italy and chocolate-hunting in Germany.

The latest standout, however, receiving the most buzz, is the recently launched Harry Potter River Cruise from Barge Ladies Cruise Company. The cruise stops at some of the best-known locations featured in the film and JK Rowling’s books. It is expensive but then – it’s Harry Potter, so worth the price tage for mini-fans. 

Read more here about the best river routes to take in Europe with your family. Or discover top cruise tips for kids and parents.

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