No longer the domain of retirees, river cruising has come into its own as the “it” way to explore, thanks to modern and comfortable ships and unpack-once ease. Many cruise lines even offer sailings designed just for families, with special room configurations and enriching activities designed to engage the entire family.
I truly believe that traveling abroad with your children is one of the most enriching experiences you can give your child and river cruising is one of the best ways to discover the incredible culture that Europe has to offer. Gone are the days of schlepping luggage over cobblestone streets, long boring guided bus tours and missing the train to your next destination because you didn’t understand the directional signs.
River cruising is my favorite way to travel and I can not wait to share why your family will love it too.
There are so many amazing cities each with their own unique charm, cuisine and places to explore. If you are taking the long flight across the pond then you are more than likely going to want to explore more than one of them. Once onboard you can unpack your luggage and get comfortable in your new home for the next week. Rivers are usually the heart of the city because when they were built the rivers were not only the main water source but also the center of commerce and trade so unlike ocean cruising your river cruise often ports right in the city center. You are able to move from city to city as you sleep not wasting any of your precious vacation time getting from place to place. The incredible itineraries bring you to some amazing places and you can often visit 3 or more countries in one week long itinerary.
When you book just a hotel and a flight it can be difficult to account for how much your vacation is actually going to end up costing you. What are the entrance fees at each of the attractions you are hoping to visit, how much are cabs going to cost, how do you calculate your dining costs? Even with ocean cruising, it can be extremely frustrating that they nickel and dime you for everything once you are on board. While river cruising is not necessarily a ‘budget’ vacation it is easier to determine your budget up front and stick with it. When you request pricing from me that price will include transportation to and from the airport, at least one shore excursion in every port, all of your onboard food and drink (including beer and wine) and in many cases even your gratuities. All you need to account for beyond that is any meals you think you will enjoy off the ship (I would plan for 2-3 lunches) and anything you want to spend on souvenirs!! The cost of a river cruise may seem high at first but when you account for everything that is included it is one of the best values in the travel industry.
Ocean cruise lines are in a never ending battle with each other to have the newest, largest, best at sea. There are skating rinks, surf simulators, bumper cars, swimming stadiums, and escape rooms making the cruise ship a destination in and of itself. You won’t find this on river cruises where the focus is ALWAYS on the destination. The onboard activities and events always teach or celebrate the culture of your destination with local artists, performers and chefs coming onboard. The excursion experiences aren’t adrenaline inducing but thought provoking. The family itineraries do a great job of catering to the whole family with tours of museums balanced out with time to run around a nearby maze, even vineyards offering juice flights to the kids while the parents enjoy some wine. Everything is incredibly balanced so everyone feels fulfilled and thoughtfully designed to highlight your destination.
To help you get a better idea of what exactly to expect from a river cruise, I have made a video outlining 5 different River Cruise Itineraries to help you decide which river best suits your family’s vacation needs.
Embed Video 5 Best Itineraries with Kids
All of those incredible activities on the ocean cruises usually means you aren’t spending a ton of time as a family. I love ocean cruising when I need a vacation from my kids but feel guilty going somewhere without them. River cruises don’t offer kids clubs, pools and activities that are going to keep your kids away all day. You will experience ports, participate in activities and enjoy a local meal together as a family. Some cruises do offer small kids clubs/programming or a special kids night out dinner where you can snatch a few hours apart but for the most part the experience is designed to bring families together.
When trying to tour Europe on your own you may worry about the dining options that are available for your picky eaters or child with food allergies. You want to enjoy a world-class meal but are concerned that there won’t be any options for your child or don’t know if you will be able to communicate your child’s life threatening allergy without a language barrier. You will typically eat breakfast and dinner onboard your cruise. Depending on your itinerary you will usually have a few days with lunch onboard as you sail, excursions with lunch included or the opportunity to enjoy lunch in a local establishment. When onboard the chef and serving team is always available to cater to every need, they can also assist you in choosing lunch locations that would be appropriate so there is no guessing. One of the reasons I didn’t think I would enjoy river cruising is because one of my favorite parts of travel is indulging in the local cuisine. But this isn’t lost on the cruise. The dinner menu is planned to highlight the local delicacies. I don’t just mean German food on the Rhine or French food on the Seine – I mean that the menu will be influenced by the regional dishes of your port and what was available at the market that day. For those who may not be as adventurous there is a menu with some simple dishes that appeal to all palates that is available every evening. It is a great opportunity for your picky eater to try something new, but have a fall back if it does not go well. Here are some tips on how to get your picky eater to try something new so you are prepared before ever set sail.
Train Travel is very popular in Europe but that requires packing up every time you change hotels, loading your suitcases into a cab or schlepping them through cobblestone streets. Not to mention the busy subway stations, finding the right train station (most major European cities have at least 2) and making it to your crowded train. Your other options are a guided bus tour where you have no flexibility in the itinerary and are stuck on a motorcoach OR a pricey private transfer. Plus the amount of planning involved could leave you overwhelmed or stressed and not excited about your amazing vacation. With a river cruise you arrive at the airport, someone is there to escort you to your pre-cruise hotel (if you booked it through the cruise company) and then make sure you make it to your ship safely. There is no need to worry about what you will do if you miss a connection or if a union strike ruins your plans for the day. Your cruise director will make any changes to the itinerary and be available to offer options before you even know there is an issue. All you need to do is show up and enjoy.
I know you are thinking I am crazy now. How could you be on a CRUISE and not have to worry about motion sensitivity. My husband is extremely sensitive to motion. Even office chairs can trigger his nausea. When we went on our first river cruise we were armed with dramamine, ginger drops, acupressure wristbands, patches even crazy glasses and he didn’t need a single one. The rivers are extremely calm and the boats are flat so there really is no rocking. River cruising has become the best option for us, even over doing it ourselves and traveling by cab, bus or train which trigger him more than the riverboat.
Being able to experience different destinations and cultures when children are still young shapes their world view and makes it so much easier to understand that even though we have differences every person in the world deserves our respect and understanding. There are so many benefits to traveling with children that I have a whole separate blog post covering the topic that you can read here. With the added intimacy and enrichment available on a river cruise I believe those benefits are even greater. Inspiring children’s sense of imagination and adventure is just the tip of the iceberg to the many things they can begin to develop on your cruise.
If you are ready to have the family vacation you’ve been dreaming of, without spending time researching, planning and making it happen, schedule a call today. I’m here to help busy working Moms plan, organize and book the perfect family vacation. With me, all you have to worry about is enjoying your well-earned time away with your family. If you are ready to stop trying to do everything on your own and see how I can help you schedule a complimentary trip planning session now.
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