The Rise of River Cruises: Multi-Generational Fun and Exploration

For the vacationing family, finding something new and exciting to do that can cater to the needs of a group can be difficult.

Organizing transfers, hotel arrangements, meals, and entertainment can become an enormous hassle when dealing with a large group of people. Each person has their needs and sometimes one activity, one hotel, one restaurant, just won’t make everyone happy. Too many times family vacations have turned out to be a disaster when they should have been fun and relaxing. Luckily, there’s a new option that you might not have heard of – river cruising.

Mediterranean river cruise
Mediterranean river cruise, Venice Italy

River cruising is an emerging vacation option for single cruisers and older families, which offers a different take on the classic cruise. The ships are much smaller, usually accommodating between 90 to 200 guests. River cruises cater to guests who enjoy enrichment, upscale dining, and tremendous service. These cruises are focused heavily on the destination, offering incredible excursions and enrichment programs, as well as regional fare included on onboard menus. The size of these vessels allows them to pull right up to ports (no tender necessary) and even gain access to smaller, hidden ports that are unavailable to the standard cruise ship.

River cruising is available on the Yangtze in China; the Nile in Egypt; the Volga in Russia; the Mekong in Cambodia and all throughout Europe’s many rivers including the Rhine, Rhone, Main, and the Seine. There are a select number of ships that also have itineraries in the Galapagos Islands. These vacations are all-inclusive and provide local entertainment and excursions for no extra charge.

Cruise lines like Avalon and Uniworld are the perfect option for parents to introduce travel to their mature teens and share an enriching vacation with their adult children. These cruise lines are also a wonderful choice for multi-generational family travel, offering something for everyone.

With so much included, it’s no wonder that river cruising is becoming so popular! This alternative to ocean cruising has exactly what you need for a relaxing, comprehensive, and enjoyable family vacation. Let’s take a look at the highlights.

Size of Ship

River ships have fewer guests than even the smallest of the larger cruise lines, which means you will experience a more exclusive vacation. While these ships may be smaller, that doesn’t mean there’s less staff. The staff to passenger ratio is much higher in comparison to contemporary cruise lines, meaning you and your family will receive more personal attention and the best quality service. Also, because these are not mega-ships, they can deliver you to the center of the city, with no need for transfers or tenders. They can also access many ports that a cruise ship would be unable to reach. It’s truly a 5-star service at its best!

River cruise guide
River cruise on the Danube River, Budapest Hungary

Transport, Lodging, Financials

Let’s be honest, there is nothing worse than a botched pre- or post-trip transfer to or from home. This stress of running into problems is minimized with a river cruise because most river cruise lines offer free or discounted airport transfers (regardless of airline). River cruise lines such as Uniworld partner with 5-star boutique hotels across Europe, which makes land stays or extended vacations easy as pie (no more worrying about last minute bookings and vacancy). In addition, meals, excursions, and entertainment are included in the cruise fare, so all you have to do is enjoy your trip. Avalon Waterways even offers an all-inclusive drink package (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) to their clients.


Since river cruising is new to the cruising world, the ships boast modern and elegant designs that truly reflect the featured destination with their décor. For instance, on the Victoria Jenna, a Uniworld vessel that cruises the Yangtze River in China, you will find silk curtains and a night club called the Yangtze Club. This style is also reflected in the food and amenities onboard. When dining in a Panorama Bistro on one of Avalon’s ships you will be treated with the food you are familiar with along with delicacies found at your travel destinations. So, if your itinerary includes a cruise on the Seine in France expect some delectable pastries and crepes.

Yangtze River
River Cruise, Yangtze River, China

Specialized Programs

To make river cruising even more attractive to families there are many programs and activities offered to satisfy the whole crew. Here are a few examples of programs your family can both enjoy and learn from as you explore your destination.

  • Uniworld’s Multigenerational Family-Friendly Program tailors each excursion to families and the activities offered to depend on the destination. This program also offers bicycles and Nordic walking sticks for the whole group, along with special family-centric onboard programs, entertainment, and meals.
  • Uniworld’s Epicurean Adventurer Program. This innovative program takes wine lovers and foodies (so your kids can have fun too) on a journey through the flavors of the world. It includes a wine and food pairing event, onboard culinary demonstration and tasting, as well as a private Uniworld -only regional wine tasting onshore. Onboard, your kids can enjoy a cooking class with the pastry chef and create their own pie or cookies.
  • Avalon ChoiceSM Cruising. This is the most recent addition to the Avalon Waterways experience and allows for a more personalized, innovative sailing program. Instead of the one-cruise-fits-all model, Avalon breaks the mold by offering fully customized vacations from shore excursions to onboard dining. This is a great option for families who may have different interests and dining habits and want to make sure that everybody is satisfied.

As you can see, river cruising is a non-stressful and all-inclusive vacation option for families. For more information and a list of available itineraries, give your travel agent a call, where an agent will be glad to help you find the best cruise for your family.

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