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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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.

Disney successfully adds its character to river cruise market

Adventures by Disney’s cruises on the AmaViola sail by Budapest’s Parliament building.

ABOARD THE AMAVIOLA — Adventures by Disney’s first river cruising season is nearly halfway over, and so far, it has proved a successful move into a market generally overlooked by family travelers.

On this seven-day Danube sailing on the 170-passenger AmaViola from Vilshofen to Budapest, Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Adventures by Disney (ABD), said the company was already looking forward to its expansion to a second river, the Rhine, next summer, and that Disney was broadening river cruising’s demographic.

“[We’re] bringing new people into the river cruise category,” Potrock said. “They’re kind of locked into a segment of the population, and we can expand that segment by bringing families into the equation.”

ABD made its foray into river cruising in partnership with AmaWaterways, which purpose-built the AmaViola with family-friendly design details, including connecting staterooms and suites suitable for three- and four-member families, a rare feature on river cruise ships.

As you would expect with Disney, cruisers will find a family-friendly experience onboard, with movie nights and dance parties for kids. Disney Cruise Line fans will recognize the pirate party with face painting.

Kid-friendly excursions include a walking tour of Bratislava, Slovakia, where kids can complete a puzzle of landmarks; a salt mine tour in Salzburg, Austria, with train rides and wooden slides going into the mine; an Austrian park where kids can walk above the treetops on wooden ledges; and a marionette show offering children a chance to go backstage and try manipulating the dolls themselves.

Parents will appreciate touches such as the tour of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, where Adventure Guides take the kids through garden mazes and to an onsite children’s museum, enabling adults to explore on their own.

Launching the first of this kind of product has been a learning process, and Disney said it would continue to tweak the programming and dining to make it better for both adults and children.

The biggest change so far is the minimum age for its cruises: next year, Disney raised it from 4 to 6, but it still recommends 8, based on feedback and “seeing how the different aged kids were dealing with the river cruise experience,” said Terry Brinkoetter, public relations director for Disney Destinations.

The line also adjusted its dining options. Previously, everyone ate dinner together in the dining room. Now, kids can choose to eat in the lounge, supervised by Adventure Guides who hang out and play games, giving parents a chance to dine alone. Teens may eat together in the wine cellar, and many on my cruise chose to do so. The main dining room has a kids menu for when families wish to dine together.

Disney also learned on the go with its bicycling excursions, increasing the minimum age from 12 to 14 years after seeing how challenging the tour was, with rough roads (think cobblestone streets) and non-English street signs. An example of the high level of onboard service is that with no bikes suitable for younger kids such as my 9-year-old for the “ride on your own” option, the cruise director had local bikes delivered to use.

Future plans

Potrock, who was also onboard with his family, said over dinner at the ship’s Chef’s Table Restaurant that next year’s expansion to the Rhine on the upcoming 170-passenger AmaKristina made a lot of sense.

“There’s a lot of culture and character in that region of the world,” he said. “And we think there’s a lot of connection to classic Disney lore and stories there. … We think it’s going to play really wonderfully.”

With ABD expanding to two rivers for summer 2017, the next area of growth might be cruise timing, Potrock said, possibly expanding into May or September. Disney currently only offers the cruises from June through August, which works well for ABD and AmaWaterways, he said, because summer is not the strongest market for older couples, the mainstay clients for river cruises, due to the heat and crowds in Europe, but is perfect for Disney’s family-oriented approach.

Beyond that, he said he sees an opportunity to focus on the adult-only market and get “creative in terms of thematics.” With the popularity of wine cruises, he said, Disney could possibly find a tie-in with the Epcot Food and Wine Festival to create a new river cruise product.

ABD’s Danube river cruise fares include daily shore excursions; WiFi; gratuities; all onboard and some off-ship meals; unlimited wine, beer and soft drinks with every lunch and dinner; and onboard entertainment, including classes for the kids.

Ports include Vilshofen and Passau in Germany and Linz, Melk, Krems and Vienna in Austria, as well as Bratislava and Budapest.

The basic cruise price starts at $4,719 for adults and $4,489 for children. A three-day Prague extension package bumps the total to $6,008 for adults and $5,708 for children.