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Taking a luxury river cruise is a great way for families to explore Europe.

There was a time when luxury river cruises were very much an adults-only pursuit. Not any more. Now some of the world’s most opulent river cruise boats welcome families on special itineraries and sailings.

It makes a lot of sense. Rivers are calmer than the ocean, so no seasick tummies and no packing and unpacking toys and tiny suitcases. Multi-generational groups are all well catered for and mum and dad still get to enjoy the luxury they’re accustomed too.

Take Uniworld for example; it is hard to beat this company for the lavish interiors of its custom-designed river cruisers, the gourmet food or the standard of service. Yet this boutique river cruise collection was a pioneer in the family market, welcoming little travellers with open arms. In 2017 Uniworld is offering more family sailings than ever before, with eight European itineraries to suit children. Added to which, children cruise half price on selected sailings. There are some inventive offerings for minicruisers; on the eight-day Castles on the Rhine Tour, for example, families have the opportunity to ride aerial cable cars, go on a Koblenz scavenger hunt, visit the mysterious Marksburg and Rheinstein Castle and climb trees in the forest. On the 10-day Danube trip children are kept active with rowing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. They can also tackle a Segway ride and try a Giant Ferris Wheel in Vienna. Parents will be glad to know they also get the opportunity to expand their minds at the Speyer Technik Museum. Cruises to Paris and Normandy aboard Uniworld’s newest Super Ship, SS Joie de Vivre, (designed to reflect the ‘joy of living’) are also on offer, as is a festive Christmas Markets itinerary in December.

Uniworld goes in for personalised service and that applies to younger guests as well. After all, no two kids are alike, so a range of onshore excursions and onboard activities cater for children, tweens and teens.

“In 2017 Uniworld is offering more family sailings than ever before.”

Tauck have also embraced the luxury family market. Strüdel making, a scavenger hunt in the Louvre, making marzipan faces in Passau, meeting cowboys in La Camargue and dining in a fairytale castle along the Rhine are all experiences available.

The newest France family holiday is all about everything français, with five nights aboard a newly redesigned Tauck riverboat, the MS Swiss Sapphire, exploring Monet’s garden, D-Day Beaches, Rouen and Versailles. To start with, families will have two nights on the left bank in Paris with a chance to bike along the Seine and ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Once on the cruise, little ones will love visiting the D-Day Academy where a hands-on visit provides your family with a unique look at the history of the 1944 Invasion. Children can don wireless radio headsets in a jeep or Dodge Command car, receive a map briefing and see Allied and German vehicles and weapons.

Crystal River Cruises, the river cruise division of luxury line Crystal Cruises, is a very opulent fleet of river cruisers. The first river cruise, on refurbished 160-passenger Crystal Mozart, set sail on its maiden voyage from Vienna in July 2016 and four more brand-new river ships will launch between June and August 2017. Onboard its ships, Crystal River Cruises offers amenities not usually found on river vessels, including king-size beds, an indoor swimming pool and complimentary kayaks, electric bicycles and watercrafts to use while in port. Crystal is not aiming at the family market but for those with older children and teenagers. The twobedroom Crystal Suites, available on all the new ships, are the cabins to head for.

This article appeared in volume 8 of Five Star Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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