There's a huge choice of river cruise operators, but only a handful truly understand the needs of family groups. The choice can be overwhelming, so we've hand-picked a few of our favourite family-friendly river cruise lines who we know are able to ensure that everyone enjoys themselves:
With a history of crafting superb small group tours, Tauck have a number of family travel options grouped under the Tauck Bridges Family Travel banner, designed to spark a passion, inspire a sense of wonder, and enrich an understanding of the world we live in. There are family departures (suitable for 8 years and above) on the Rhine, Danube, Seine and, new for 2020, on the Douro during the summer months, plus a magical Christmas Markets tour on the Danube in December.
Itineraries offer a variety of family activities, from biking through the countryside and hiking to castles, to specially arranged sightseeing trips like a scavenger hunt in the Louvre, marzipan making in Passau and even kayaking on the Douro. The dedicated family host makes sure there are plenty of crafts and projects taking place, and children are encouraged to meet local dancers, musicians and artists who come aboard to share their talents.
Uniworld's Generations departures also take place during the summer and Christmas holidays, designed 'for your world travellers in training'. Departures on the Danube, Rhine, Seine and Po feature shore excursions which are tailored for families and on board there's a host of activities, including cooking classes and dessert-making with the ship's chefs and hands-on destination-themed craft workshops, not to mention movie nights, a games room and two dedicated family hosts to oversee all activities for Junior Cruisers (ages 4 to 12 years) and Teen Cruisers (ages 13 to 17 years).
European Waterways offer the ultimate in slow travel, with luxury barges in southern Burgundy, the Loire Valley, the Canal du Midi and Alsace-Lorraine accommodating between 8 and 12 people, perfect for larger families to charter. A superb choice for all ages, this allows those with hectic lifestyles to enjoy some precious family time together. You can let the little ones steer the vessel, children's bikes (and helmets) are provided for a ride along the towpath, there are visits to castles, palaces and old fortified cities, and tailored activities for teenagers or younger children can be arranged at your request with everything from tennis to paintballing to horse riding on offer. Add your own onboard chef making meal arrangements enjoyable and flexible and you've got the ultimate family escape.
For the most intrepid families, discover Asia with Pandaw, who operate itineraries along the Irrawaddy, Chindwin, Mekong and more. The vibrant sights and sounds of Vietnam and the stunning temples of Myanmar and Cambodia can all be explored in comfort on these traditional-style vessels. Included daily excursions, cultural performances, movie nights and mountain bikes to explore rural villages, temples and countryside mean there is plenty to keep everyone entertained, and if you travel in the school holidays a second cabin for one or two children between 5 and 18 is free.
With an array of options designed for a variety of families, a river cruise might just be the holiday that works for everybody.