European river cruises used to be an adults-only vacation geared mostly to older adults looking to sightsee along rivers in Europe while only needing to unpack once. Generally speaking, European river cruise lines either discouraged children as passengers or had age minimums that excluded kids.
And then something shifted. Starting around 2010, a few river cruise lines began dipping their toes in the kiddie pool and offering limited sailings during school vacation weeks where families with younger kids were allowed. For a while, it didn’t take off as a concept, probably because river cruises remained off the family vacation ideas radar of most parents.
But the river cruise companies have persisted, eventually expanding their offerings so it’s no longer just that kids are allowed onboard—but rather that families are actively catered to with options like family-sized rooms, kids clubs, and family excursions.
Which Companies Offer European River Cruises for Families?
Fast forward to 2024 and I find myself dazzled by the many options and offerings for families looking to enjoy a European river cruise. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights for families with kids, teens, and those traveling as a multigenerational group.
- Tauck Bridges: Tour operator Tauck helped pioneer the family river cruise trend and offers an exceptional program for families. Called Tauck Bridges, the program includes pools, putting greens, and shore excursions like Louvre treasure hunts to make a river cruise fun for all.
- Adventures by Disney: ABD uses AmaWaterways ships for its European river cruises, and the company adds the Disney magic with offerings like Junior Adventurer dinners and kid-and-adult friendly shore excursions.
- Uniworld: Uniworld’s Generation Collection incorporates lots of imaginative play into its shore excursions to bring history to life for kids. There’s also a kids’ lounge and a kids’ table at dinner.
These are only a few of the many European river cruise companies (and some closer-to-home U.S. river cruises as well) that are making families a core part of their audience. Others include CroisiEurope and Avalon Waterways.