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River Cruise Options Abound for Family Cruise Vacations

Each major river cruise line now offers itineraries for family cruise vacations.

family cruise vacations

A family takes bike riding Adventures by Disney river cruise excursion.

(Photo: Disney)

In 2015, the average age of a cruise passenger was 47, according the Cruise Line Industry Association. In the last decade, river cruise lines have been attempting to bend the curve younger by offering more options for family cruise vacations than in the past.

This effort to offer more family vacations has been helped by new river cruise ship design and by creative shore excursion options for young explorers. While a river cruise ship may not offer a ropes course or water slides, they have become a more attractive option for family vacations in recent years.

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Family cruise vacations on a river cruise are about togetherness, as there just isn’t enough space on these boats to give children their own dedicated space. It’s more than likely you will be sleeping in the same cabin as a child (or paying for a separate cabin) and eating almost all meals with your children, so not much couple time.

Also, while many cruises have young minimum ages for children, a family cruise vacation on a river cruise works best for easier-going older children who might enjoy exploring new cultures. Toddlers who might get overwhelmed by change and older children who are high energy may do better with a different vacation option.

River cruise lines do their best to accommodate younger passengers whenever possible. AmaWaterways, for example, just launched two ships, the AmaStella and the AmaViola, which have family-sized cabins that sleep three family members, as well as cabins that can be connected by a door. Mealtime is often less formal for family-friendly river cruises, as well, which helps kids enjoy themselves. Many river cruises offer kids-friendly food options on their family vacations, and some will even offer a kids-only meal event, with children seated by age. Also, once you reach your daily destination, there will be excursion options that are more fun for younger travelers than the typical museum tour.

A river cruise line may allow small children on board, but that doesn’t mean they will have what you might need for your child during the cruise. Parents often have to bring toddler beds or high chairs, if needed, and cruise lines usually won’t have baby food to offer. Consider booking with a AAA travel counselor who can help you learn what a river cruise line can and can’t provide on family cruise vacations.

Many of the family vacations offered by river cruise lines will be centered on historical sites in Europe, especially along the Danube and the Rhine rivers, but there also are a few offerings for family cruise vacations in Asia and Africa. Whatever cruise you take, consider allowing some lead time in the region before you climb aboard a river cruise. This will give your children time to shake the jetlag and acclimatize themselves to the region before the cruise.

Here are a few river cruise options to consider for your next family cruise vacation.

family cruise vacations

Adventures by Disney Rhine river cruises aboard the AmaKristina give travelers the opportunity to revel in the beauty of four countries – France, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.(Photo: AmaWaterways)


As mentioned above, AmaWaterways has launched two ships with family-friendly cabin accommodations. Also, the cruise line has partnered with Adventures by Disney to offer a handful of family-friendly itineraries along the Danube River. Be warned, though, that these Disney-themed river cruises sell out quicker than Hamilton tickets, so be sure to work with your travel agent to find out when new itineraries might be announced. You can also follow the cruise line’s social media and keep their reservation number on speed-dial.

Tauck River Cruising

Tauck has been offering family vacations since 2010, so they have experience. The cruise line has recently doubled the number of family cruise vacations they are offering from 10 to 20, according to a Cruise Critic report. Like many cruise lines that offer family cruise vacations, they offer these itineraries during summer and school vacation times. Expect hands-on shore excursions where young travelers can new skills they hopefully will never need in the workplace, like swordfighting and archery.

UniWorld Boutique River Cruise Collection

According to the same Cruise Critic report, UniWorld has nearly tripled its number of family cruise vacations since 2015. These UniWorld family-friendly cruises in Europe offer some unique advantages, including the chance to leave children onboard for cultural exchanges with local families, as well as lounge space dedicated to more kid-friendly activities.

This is just a sampling of the family cruise vacations being offered by river cruise lines. By the time you read this article, it’s likely that cruise lines will offer more family cruise options. Work with your AAA travel agent to find the itinerary that works best for you.

Have you taken a family-friendly river cruise? What advice can you give to those taking a family river cruise for the first time? Tell us in the comments.

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