Make no mistake, river cruising is very different to its ocean counterpart. No less enjoyable, in fact a river voyage delivers the world to you in a totally different way.
Whether you’re looking to embark on a culturally immersive adventure in Europe or Asia or something a little different in the USA (on the Mississippi) or even in Australia (such as the Murray River), the notable differences you’ll encounter from an ocean cruise are significant and widespread. And for the sake not just of your sanity and your precious holiday time but also on that of your fellow passengers, it’s important to recognise these and plan accordingly as part of the research process, well before progressing to the booking stage.
We have sussed out some of the key things to think about if you’re looking to take your kids on a river cruise.
There’s a high likelihood you will need two or more cabins
Most river vessels are built for couples and few cater to families of any size let alone larger families. Selected ships, such as those belonging to AmaWaterways do feature staterooms capable of accommodating families of four in interconnected staterooms.
Bucking the trend, this line in fact sails selected itineraries in partnership with Disney Cruise Line, making them incredibly popular and well suited to families. However these are largely in the minority compared to the conventional river cruising operation model.
The limited number of interconnected staterooms on these AmaWaterways vessels however sees them booked out in some instances over 12-months in advance. If you are travelling on any other river cruise line, you’ll need to ask your travel agent if the rooms you are booking are able to be connected.
In most cases this is not possible, but more rooms offering this functionality are beginning to appear. This will save you from needing to go out into the hall each time you are wanting to visit the kids in the next room.
There will be few, if any activities specifically designed for kids
Typically, river cruise guests are a little older, with kids old enough to look after themselves or long since moved on from the family home dynamic.
With this in mind, children are typically not catered for, with entertainment skewed towards a more refined guest. Nights are generally spent appreciating live classical music or enjoying a night of wine tasting as opposed to glitzy over the top shows, while activities ashore are also generally more sedate, such as visiting wineries, cheesemakers, art galleries and museums.
The dinner menu will offer more quail and duck than pizza and nuggets
River cruise lines pride themselves on the wide array of locally sourced food offered to their guests. This is evident in the form of high quality food and beverages suited to sophisticated palettes featuring on the daily menu.
Subsequently, this means food for those less developed taste buds isn’t offered. If you are particularly worried about what your child may enjoy or want to eat onboard, reach out to your cruise line and ask for them to consider the needs of your child for your voyage.
Look for a ship with a swimming pool
Often, the most child-friendly amenity you’ll find on a river cruise ship may be the swimming pool. Thankfully, more river cruise lines are investing in pools for their top decks.
The plunge pools are on the smallish side but do provide relief from the heat, while also providing an opportunity for kids to burn some energy.
River ships aren’t designed for prams
If you have a smaller child who still requires the use of a stroller or pushchair, consider that often, river boats are tied up next to each other and require you to walk through each one ship before finally reaching the shore.
Most modern ships have a single elevator, however these only operate between the interior decks and do not go to the top. If you’re trying to access other decks, consider it might be a struggle to access other decks easily.
In most cases, you’ll pay full fare no matter the passenger’s age
On river cruises, there is no discount for guests under a certain age. So if you think it’s going to be a cheaper option to take your kids, you will be in for a surprise. Guests may be entitled though to a multiple cabin discount, depending on how many staterooms you are booking.
Have you taken your kids on a river cruise? Let us know in the comments below!