Disney river cruises to have ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme

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Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” river cruise features a tour of Riquewihr, a French village that evokes Belle’s hometown from the movie. Photo Credit: Yoshihiro Takada
 

Adventures by Disney is amping up its themed river cruise experiences for 2018, adding “Beauty and the Beast” themed sailings along the Rhine River.

On six departures in 2018, Adventures by Disney will pay tribute to the villages and culture that inspired Disney’s Beauty and the Beast films. The sailings will feature a Beauty and the Beast-themed dinner as well as other culinary experiences inspired by the film.

There will be screenings of both the live-action and animated versions of the film on the ship and a tour of Riquewihr, a French village that evokes Belle’s hometown from the movie.

Adventures by Disney is also offering two epicurean Rhine cruises during the fall. Hosted by chefs and sommeliers, these adult-only sailings will highlight food and beverage experiences both on and off the ship. Activities will include winetasting, gourmet food and wine demonstrations and workshops, culinary walking tours in several ports, a French patisserie class, local beer and wine pairings, and craft cocktail seminars.

Adventures by Disney’s eight-day Rhine river cruises will sail on AmaWaterways’ 158-passenger AmaKristina, cruising through France, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

For 2018, Adventures by Disney will also offer six Danube sailings aboard AmaWaterways’ 170-passenger AmaViola.

The departures will include a new adults-only Oktoberfest sailing in September 2018, which will visit Germany during the annual Oktoberfest celebration, and will include themed parties and festive culinary offerings both on and off the ship.

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The eight-day Danube cruises sail through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. They include visiting scenes from the movie “The Sound of Music” in Salzburg, exploring Devin Castle in Bratislava, and taking a traditional Austrian folk dancing lesson in Melk.

Adventures by Disney entered the river cruise market last year when it partnered with AmaWaterways on family-focused river cruise itineraries. AmaWaterways thus has designed its newest vessels to better accommodate families, including providing sets of connecting staterooms and suites.

Adventures by Disney worked closely with AmaWaterways to reimagine shipboard spaces and activities to offer programming for kids, teens and adults.

Bookings for Adventures by Disney’s 2018 river cruise vacations open on March 2.

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River cruise news to watch

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Bohemia Rhapsody New Year’s Eve Cruise | Pragues Eve Cruise | Prague

Last year was a challenging one for river cruising, so as we round the bend into 2017, it’s worth pointing out some buzz-worthy stories on the horizon that could help the industry get its groove back.

When it comes to buzz, we can certainly count on Crystal Cruises, which will unveil two of its first four “river yachts” this summer – the Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler (the Crystal Ravel and Crystal Debussy will follow in spring 2018). The company promises some pretty over-the-top features on its first set of river newbuilds, such as multiple, sleek-looking dining venues with open-seating, and all staterooms built above the waterline – something that hasn’t been done before on a river cruise ship. The renderings released of the yachts last summer evoked chic and contemporary interiors, and river cruise insiders are surely champing at the bit to see how Crystal delivers on its lofty river cruising promises.

Speaking of buzz, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is bound to help reignite some much-needed hype for river cruising in France, which took a big hit following the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris. The company remains committed to launching the latest in its Super Ship class of vessels, the 128-passenger S.S. Joie de Vivre, on France’s Seine River.

In true Uniworld style, the company didn’t hold back with the Joie de Vivre, which will be christened in March. Features include a collection of fine art and antiques acquired from both auction houses and private collections, and a pool area with a hydraulic floor that by night can turn into Le Club l’Esprit, a dance floor or outdoor cinema. Travel Weekly will be there to report on the unveiling of the Joie de Vivre firsthand.

It will also be Adventures by Disney’s second year offering river cruises in partnership with AmaWaterways, and we’ll be watching to see how that product continues to grow and evolve. Disney has already made some tweaks including raising the minimum age from 4 to 6 and adding an adults-only sailing.

CroisiEurope’s ongoing and arguably aggressive expansion will continue in 2017 with four new ships: a 132-passenger vessel on Portugal’s Douro River; the 106-passenger Symphonie II on the Rhine; the 135-passegner Douce France II on the Danube; and the 60-passenger Indochine II on the Mekong. The French company is coming on strong and it definitely has our attention.

In fact, Portugal’s Douro River has been experiencing growing interest of late, with Emerald Waterways also launching a new ship there this year: the 112-passenger Emerald Radiance (the Scenic-owned company is also launching the 138-guest Emerald Liberte on France’s Rhone and Saone rivers this year, hopefully also sparking renewed interest in France).

Closer to home, the American Queen Steamboat Company will be adding the 166-passenger American Duchess on the Mississippi River in June, a former gaming vessel that is being converted into an all-suite paddlewheeler with unique loft suites.

Lastly, we’ll have our eyes on developments on exotic rivers. Momentum seems to have quieted a bit on rivers such as Southeast Asia’s Mekong and on China’s Yangtze, so we’ll be watching to see how much and whether river cruise lines invest beyond Europe, including in places such as India where it’s rumored that AmaWaterways may be eyeing the possibility of a new ship in 2018.

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.