Disney to expand and tweak its river cruise program

Adventures by Disney (ABD) dove into the family river cruise market this year, offering departures on the Danube in partnership with AmaWaterways. How did their early sailings go? Well enough that ABD already announced that it will expand its river trips next year to the Rhine.

However, there will be one notable change in 2017 when the AmaViola and AmaKristina sail the Danube and Rhine respectively: No 4- or 5-year-olds.

In its first year of family river cruising, ABD set the minimum passenger age at 4 with a recommended age of 8, but that minimum has been boosted to 6 for year two.

“We continually review our policies and make adjustments from time-to-time as needed,” said Amanda Adler, public relations manager for Disney Destinations. “The level of activity on these itineraries is more suitable to children who are eight and older.”

Those itineraries include excursions like bike rides, walking tours and sledding into a mine. On a recent ABD Danube sailing, Travel Weekly writer Paul Heney found the company making some adjustments on the fly, like raising the minimum age from 12 to 14 on particularly challenging bike excursions and procuring appropriately-sized cycles for younger guests when the onboard options weren’t a great fit.

Accommodating a virtually all-ages clientele adds extra layers of difficulty to many aspects of a cruise, from designing excursions to crafting dinner menus. But Disney isn’t alone in trying to cater to a wide range of clients aboard family sailings. Tauck’s family river cruises also set the recommended age at 8, though passengers 4 and up are permitted, and Uniworld’s Family Adventures also have a minimum age of 4, with some activities specifically geared toward tweens or teens.

Uniworld began its multi-generational departures in 2010, and this year it more than doubled its family sailings from five departures to 13 cruises.

“Uniworld is in touch with its customers and listened to the need for more multigenerational family itineraries,” said Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld’s CEO. “These departures are designed for families of all ages to participate in programming like hiking, biking, cooking demonstrations, language lessons and more.”

As ABD gains more experience on Europe’s rivers, we can expect that it will fine-tune its itineraries and excursions to better entertain and accommodate all of its young passengers just as it does on its ocean cruises and in its parks. Ages 6-plus, of course.

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