European River Cruises for the Family
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Family River Cruises

River cruising in the past has been primarily associated as a holiday strictly for adults, namely couples. This notion has recently begun to change with the arrival of family friendly river cruises.

Several companies are now offering cruises that finally give the whole family a good reason to try a river cruise.

The general manager of Australasia Cruise Lines International Association, Brett Jardine stated recently, “As the number of river-cruise ships and itineraries grows, it’s only natural that some cruise lines may seek to broaden their offering. Attracting more family groups would be one way of doing this.”

WHEN TO GO

One of the many reasons as to why river cruising has gained popularity amongst families is due to the time period. Most river cruises take place during the summer; which is the perfect time for a family holiday, as the children are off from school.

In addition, winter river cruises in Europe are popular because the whole family will get the chance to visit an authentic Christmas market.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES?

River cruise holidays have several advantages over those taken at sea. They allow a more in depth look at smaller towns and villages. In port, besides sightseeing, there are many activities that can be tailored to please every member of the family.

Many intriguing activities for people of all ages can be found; some of these activities consist of medieval games, dinners at unique castles such as Heidelberg Castle, Strasbourg and Koln Cathedral, chocolate tastings, and cooking classes. In addition, private tours can be booked to allow a complete customisation of the holiday to fit your family’s preferences.

Typical options for the active, thrilling adventure type include zip lining above the Black Forest, to more thought provoking pursuits such as attending a concert at Schönbrunn Palace.

RIVER CRUISE LINES THAT CATER FOR FAMILIES

Popular destinations for family river cruising include the Danube, the Rhine and Rhone as well as the Seine. Out of the various river cruise lines, the lines that are presently appropriate for families to consider are:

AmaWaterways

Designed with families in mind and accepting children as young as four, the AmaWaterways AmaViola and AmaStella offer triple and quad cabins, a rarity in the river cruise market. Plus there are a limited number of interconnecting cabins.

Cabins contain two balconies with one that you can sit in and the other a traditional French balcony. These ships offer a heated pool, complimentary Internet, entertainment on demand and an onboard fitness centre and spa. Certain sailings also offer a childrens menu to please the little one’s fussy palate!

Prague to Budapest and everything in between are the highlighted destinations of the AmaViola, whilst the AmaStella concentrates on the Danube and Christmas Market cruises.

CroisiEurope

With no age limit, CroisiEurope operates 50 vessels with some capable of accommodating more than two to a cabin. With a decidedly French flavour, the line warmly welcomes children on board and provides child friendly menus during their summer family cruises.

On the sailings that are designated for families, children up to 16 years travel free or for a greatly reduced fare when travelling with a parent, even with an adjourning cabin.

This French river cruise line offers several destinations that cannot be found with other river cruise companies. Consider sailing between Berlin and the centre of Prague on the Elbe or on the French canals past Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, or on Spain and Portugal’s Guadalquivir and Guadiana rivers.

Tauck River Cruises

Offering selective all inclusive holidays that allows children as young as three to travel, the line has been offering family river cruises for many years. Some of Tauck’s cabins can accommodate up to four passengers. Besides traditional dining, there’s a casual dining venue that younger people appreciate as an alternative.

Castles on the Rhine will enable your family to get up close to real life fairytale land with stops in Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Other popular choices include their latest addition which is an immersive family trip along the River Rhône or venturing to Hungary through Slovakia and Austria to Germany along the Danube.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

As Winner of Travel + Leisure’s “#1 River Cruise Line for Families” Uniworld has an excellent reputation because of its attentive staff, excellent dining, plush decor and comprehensive guided tours. Currently the cabins serve two people but can be adjoined to accommodate up to four.

The minimum age accepted for sailings is four years and the line is gearing towards more interactive activities onboard its vessels with their youth counsellors. Examples include taste testing with the Soda Sommelier and arts and craft workshops. Child friendly tours can also be arranged.

Adults can venture ashore for their own tours without the entire family and can be assured that the kids are left in good hands with the ‘Family Hosts’.

Uniworld has an extensive number of summer family sailings on the Rhine, Danube, Seine and Po Rivers.

CONSIDERING A RIVER CRUISE FOR 2018?

Many sailings for 2017 are already filled to capacity and that includes those for the Christmas Markets. Now is the time to take a look at what is available towards the summer of 2018.

The most important factor in choosing a river cruise isn’t just the cruise line itself but the destinations and available tours that will be of the most interest to the entire family. As the trend towards family cruising on the rivers of Europe increases, more lines and vessels will change their demographics of passengers to include families.

In comparison to ocean cruising, river cruising is always more about the destination than the onboard activities. Whether it’s a leisurely bike ride along the Danube or connecting to Venice on the Po River or even escalating up one of the oldest Ferris Wheels, the Weiner Reisenrad in Vienna, choose the holiday that will be the ideal fit for your entire family.

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Ocean or River – The Main Differences
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Ocean or River Cruises

Passengers now have more options than ever on what type of cruise holiday to book. River cruising is the fastest growing sector in the cruise industry. They are a great option if you want to relax and avoid the masses.

Whether it is the Rhine, Danube, Nile or the Amazon, river cruises are perfect for close up encounters in towns and villages. There are many differences between river cruising and those on the ocean.

Take a look below to see which type will be a good fit for you.

TOP REASONS TO BOOK A RIVER CRUISE

Arrival and departure

There are no huge port terminals and long queues to stand in with thousands of your fellow passengers. Embarkment procedures are quick and easy. Whilst docking, simply walk off the vessel and into the town. Once the journey is complete, there’s not too much trouble with your luggage either.

Itinerary and location

River cruises are better for those that want a slow and relaxing holiday. The ships often make stops right in the centre of smaller cities, towns and villages; allowing you to get a real feel for the area instead of arriving at a not so nice commercial looking port and getting on a coach to view the attractions.

More intimate

River cruise ships are not mega ships and are designed differently than a traditional cruise ship. They are narrow and not so deep which allows them to navigate the shallow waters. The advantage for those who enjoy meeting new people, is that you will get to know nearly everyone as the numbers onboard are very small compared to an ocean going ship. Cabins are designed for two people and many come with French style balconies.

Dining and entertainment

Mealtimes are designated at the same time each day on a river cruise ship. Entertainment can sometimes be based on the most recent port of call. Regional music is frequently played in the lounge and enrichment programs with lecturers are very common.

Excursions

A huge advantage is that most river cruise lines include some free excursions. There are also for-a-fee premium tours, but no matter where the vessel calls at, there will be a freebie too. Prior to reaching a designated destination, you can attend a destination guide or seminar the day/night before to pick up some knowledge of the culture and points of interests.

Child free

Whilst river cruises don’t ban families with children, most cabins on river cruise ships can only sleep two and there’s not much to keep younger children entertained. For the time being, a river cruise is attractive to couples and older passengers who don’t like the idea of children running about.

TOP REASONS TO BOOK AN OCEAN CRUISE

More choices

An ocean cruise holiday offers much more choice in terms of destinations, the number of cruise lines and ships. Because of the vast amount of passengers, prices tend to be lower on an ocean voyage when compared to a river cruise. Great deals are available all year round.

Flexibility

Last minute bookings are common and are usually great value especially if you are not fussy about the cruise line or destination. River cruises sell out very quickly simply because each ship can take so few people. With an ocean cruise, you can head out on impulse for the most part.

Non-stop activities

Ocean cruise vessels are enormous when compared to river ships. This means that your floating hotel can be an all inclusive holiday filled with a never ending amount of activities and entertainment. From full service spas, swimming pools and even a mini golf course or rock climbing wall, a holiday on an ocean cruise ship really does have something for everyone.

Dining

For foodies, nothing beats an ocean cruise. Besides main the dining room, passengers have more alternatives with specialty venues, casual dining and extensive buffets nearly all day long. For many passengers dining is one of the most important parts of their cruise holiday.

Entertainment

Extensive entertainment options from West End shows to Las Vegas extravaganzas to chamber music performances are found on a sea going cruise. Whilst river cruises focus on views and destinations; the ocean cruise experience offers much, much more.

Family Oriented

Ocean cruises have children’s centres that are popular for not only the kids but their parents too. There are children’s camps which give parents a break to head to a casino or have a meal in a specialty restaurant for instance. There are many activities that offer good family quality time. These may include aqua parks, bumper cars and bowling, depending on the ship.

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Been on an Ocean or River Cruise? Tell us which you prefer below!

Crystal Cruises to Have Largest River Vessel
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Crystal Mozart Rendering

Regular cruisers are always seeking something different for their next adventure and one sector of the industry that has in recent years been growing in popularity is river cruising.

More and more seafaring cruise lines including Crystal Cruises have been looking into this lucrative niche. Crystal is known to cater to passengers seeking ultra-luxury. They have gathered many awards for their fine service such as being voted by Travel + Leisure readers for 20 consecutive years as the “World’s Best Large Ship Cruise Line” and as Conde Nast Traveller’s Reader Choice Awards for the past 22 years as the “World’s Best Cruise Ship”.

Crystal recently made headlines with the announcement that they were extending their signature quality to the rivers of Europe. Two new river cruise ships sailing under the name of Crystal River Cruises were due to set sail in March 2017.

News in the cruise industry can change quickly and the CEO Edie Rodriguez made it known that the company had a change of plans. They will launch three more luxury river vessels than previously announced; now totaling five in all. Crystal believe this expansion will pay off, making them serious players in the river sector. The new river cruise line will now commence earlier than planned and begin sailing in 2016.

Crystal River Vessel

One of the ships scheduled to embark on July 13, 2016 along the Danube River is the former MS Mozart. This vessel was built in 1987 and is scheduled to be the largest river cruise ship on European waters, holding more than 160 passengers and measuring 75.1 feet wide. She is presently going through an extensive dry dock refurbishment and will be known as “Crystal Mozart”.

Crystal Mozart cabins all have window views and the smallest suites have a spacious 203 square feet. The deluxe suites follow at 215 square feet; whilst 322 square feet is the size of the penthouse suite. The two-bedroom Crystal Suites are the largest on any river ship measuring a massive 860 square feet. Several venues are available for dining and there is a wraparound promenade. Everything for a luxurious stay is available including a spa, salon and fitness center, an indoor pool and library.

Crystal River Cruises Suite

“Once the transformation of Crystal Mozart is completed, it will truly be the crown jewel of the European rivers” stated Edie Rodriguez.

The remaining four vessels are being built at the German shipyard, Lloyd Werft and each vessel is appropriately being named as “Crystal Bach“,“Crystal Debussy“, “Crystal Mahler“ and the “Crystal Ravel”. Their designs will be along the lines of luxurious yachts and feature the ‘best of the best’ in amenities.

Cabins will boast walk in wardrobes and king sized beds. Debuting in June and August 2017, all of the ships cabins will be suites with the smallest cabins measuring a spacious 220 square feet. The next sizes measure in at 250 square feet (deluxe suite), 500 square feet (penthouse) and 750 square feet (the two-bedroom Crystal Suite). Tentative sailing schedules will offer the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers for two of these new vessels. Both will hold 110 passengers.

The other two are more intimate with an 84 passenger capacity. One of the smaller vessels will follow the Garonne and Dordogne rivers route, whilst the other will sail on the river Seine.

All of the new vessels will feature “spacious public areas” including the Palm Court with a dance floor and glass domed roof. There will also be fitness center, spa, and library. Sporting equipment will be provided for intensive activities such as biking around the countryside or kayaking along the tributaries on exciting excursions, known as “Crystal Adventures”.

The cruise line also plans on including overnight stays which will allow passengers a chance to enjoy the essence of the ship’s destinations after dark.

Crystal River Cruises promises that no matter which of the itineraries are chosen, the passenger will be presented with many scenic stopovers along the way. Bookings for the 2016/17 season on any of the new vessels will begin on the 30th of November.

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A review of the Arosa Flora
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Experienced cruise writer Anthony Nicholas reviews the Arosa Flora Ship

The recent explosion in the popularity of river cruises has brought to the fore a whole raft of new boats and lines, each seeming to offer more enhanced facilities for leisure and relaxation than the other. With such a plethora of excellent options on offer, navigating through the choices can be something of a minefield, to put it mildly.

I sailed on the brand new, year old A-Rosa Flora on a seven day round trip cruise from Cologne to the highlights of Belgium and Holland. And, while the itinerary and sights along the way were both eminently enjoyable, it was the actual hardware – the boat herself – that made the entire adventure such a joyride from first to last.

The A-Rosa Flora can accommodate some one hundred and seventy passengers in cabins arranged over two decks; all come with sliding, floor to ceiling glass doors that open onto a panoramic Juliet balcony. The fixtures, fittings and bedding were all of an incredibly high quality, easily the finest I have ever seen on such a boat. Though not as big as the cabins on some boats, they were more than expansive enough for a week sailing along the springtime Rhine.

Flora Deluxe Suite

Public rooms comprised of a forward, horseshoe shaped panorama lounge, with floor to ceiling windows, light wood accents, and a starboard facing bar at the rear. This led into a walkway that abutted the main dining room. Lined with huge picture windows, this gave the effect of a small, intimate interior boulevard.

The restaurant is light, airy, and elegant. With vibrant colours and simple but exquisite styling, this deck gave the A-Rosa Flora a very open, sunny feel. Everything- from the flatware and stemware to the actual food itself- was of the absolute highest quality. Service across the boat was deft, efficient and a constant delight.

Flora Restaurant

On top, a small pool is surrounded by sunbeds shielded by windbreakers. This leads down to an outdoor bar, and a forward facing observation terrace sprinkled with wooden tables and white canvas chairs. Afternoon tea can be taken here when the weather permits.

Inside, a small sauna and leisure room has portholes looking out over the rolling Rhine itself. As an all inclusive product, A-Rosa includes all drinks- alcoholic and soft- for the entire itinerary, rather than just the normal lunchtime and evening wine and beer set up offered by so many competing boats.

The Flora Bar

Fitness fans will find that the boat carries a full complement of pedal bikes for use in the various ports of call.

In sum, the A-Rosa Flora is a fully inclusive, finely crafted floating ‘grand hotel’ that elevates a trip down the river to the status of a dream adventure. The staff are friendly and competent without ever being overly intrusive; you can literally be as engaged or not as you want.

To find out more about Anthony please visit Travels with Anthony

An Insight into Viking River Cruise Vessels
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After making cruising history by christening no less than 16 ships in 3 different countries – all in less than 24 hours – Viking River Cruises are enjoying a great start to 2014. Not only were these magnificent events attended by some of the industry’s top brass, but seven ships were even gifted their own ‘godmother’, as hundreds of invited guests watched Champagne smashing against the various hulls via video link.

From Mary Berry, iconic host of The Great British Bake Off, to France’s multi-award winning singer Mireille Mathieu, no expense was spared in the celebration and promotion of Viking’s new range of vessels. But when we take a closer look at the ships themselves, just what is it that makes them stand out of the crowd? Quite simply, the answer is everything.

Longship: The Unprecedented Expansion

The Longship design, which Viking began rolling out in 2012, has helped to bolster the company’s vessel numbers from 35 in 2013 to 52 in 2014 – an unprecedented expansion to say the least. With room for 190 passengers to enjoy spacious and bespoke luxury, the Longship boasts the largest river ship suite in Europe as well as completely redesigned cabins and corridors.

Furthermore, the Longship’s design was voted Best New River Ship by Cruise Critic Editors in 2012, due to their “sleek lines, stunning atrium, balcony cabins with full-sized verandahs, and hotel-style suites.” Viking  aren’t running out of superlatives either, describing their vessels as “revolutionary” and “inspired by Viking gods”, so just why is the Longship so heavenly?

Well, to start with, the Longship series has been built by Neptune Werft, the historic German shipbuilder at their Mecklenburg-Vorpommern shipyards, and designed by one of the world’s leading maritime architect companies, Yran & Storbraaten.

Viking are also awaiting patent on the designs too, which include French balconies, full-size staterooms and verandas offering 270 degree views in their 445 sq.ft Explorer Suites. And that’s not all; the rooms are quite a talking point as well, with HD entertainment and deluxe spa products in the bathrooms as standard.

Environmentally Friendly Features

Based on the ancient Nordic vessels, Viking River Cruises has tried to encapture the spirit of Norse mythology within their Longships by naming them after characters featured in Scandinavian folklore. Furthermore, with more and more people travelling by river and cruise ship than ever before, ensuring vessels are environmentally friendly has never been so important.

Not only is the Longship built with hybrid engines that reduce noise and vibration on board, but they’re also fitted with solar panels too, supplementing the fuel requirements of the engines. You’ll even find an organic herb garden on the sun deck for the chefs to source fresh seasoning.

There’s no doubt that Viking represent the future of river cruising, not only in Europe but also throughout the globe. And although their new range of Longships has been attracting all the attention as of late, they also offer numerous other vessels for their cruises to Russia, China and Southeast Asia.

The Russian fleet, which includes the Helgi, Truvor, Rurik, Ingvar and Kaun, have recently benefited from a comprehensive upgrade, offering deluxe staterooms and public areas comparable to the Longships. Guests can also enjoy panoramic views from the luxury restaurant, laundry service and even an on-board doctor.

Viking Truvor

The state of the art Viking Emerald is the stand alone ship representing the China fleet, and built in 2012 it really is a giant among men. Offering 128 staterooms, an on-board tailor and boutique, spa facilities and even a library, it’s a shame that its longest cruise is only 18 days. This is a ship you really can live on.

Viking Emerald

River cruises have always been popular, but if you’re looking for an alternative type of holiday that packs in the best of Europe’s cities and waterways, it’s hard to look past Viking River Cruises. 2014 is set to be a busy year for the company, and with their huge increases in bookings already, maybe it’s time to order a brochure.

For more information visit www.vikingrivercruises.co.uk