Disney river cruise starts with a party in a beer tent

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Disney Adventure Guides were resplendent in traditional German outfits and happily got many of the kids up and moving. Photo Credit: Paul Heney
 

This summer, Adventures by Disney is offering river cruises for the first time. Paul Heney and his son are on the AmaViola, experiencing the new product. 

VILSHOFEN, GERMANY — Adventures by Disney’s inaugural season of European river cruising is proceeding with the start of the company’s fourth river cruise today aboard the AmaViola.

The company, in partnership with AmaWaterways, is offering five cruises on the Danube between Vilshofen and Budapest, Hungary, this summer, plus a sixth holiday-themed cruise in December.

My son, Matthew, 9 and I spent a day in Prague on our own, adjusting to the time zone, before taking a luxury coach to this tiny southwestern German town this morning, along with 34 other adventurers. Most of the 140 passengers aboard the ship are from the U.S., with just a handful of Canadian guests and a couple from the U.K.

The cruise started off interestingly, with everyone getting OFF of the ship (after the mandatory safety drill) and enjoying what Disney called “Vilshofenfest,” an Oktoberfest-type celebration held in a small dockside tent.

The writer's son wearing a lederhosen apron. Photo Credit: Paul Heney
The writer’s son wearing a lederhosen apron.Photo Credit: Paul Heney

While a five-piece German band played, we snacked on beer, sodas and German pretzels. Four male dancers treated us to traditional dances, as well as a fascinating synchronized performance with whips. A young woman who was introduced as the local “beer queen” explained the cultural aspects of the evening.

Disney Adventure Guides were resplendent in traditional German outfits and happily got many of the kids up and moving. Children were given aprons to wear that made them appear to be dressed in similar German outfits — my son needed some convincing to keep his on!

Afterward, the Adventure Guides encouraged the children — there are roughly a couple dozen on board — to eat a more casual kids-only dinner upstairs in the lounge area, leaving us adults time to chat about destinations, politics, and other less-interesting-than-Pokemon topics. My son gladly complied, as did most of the kids I noticed.

While the ship, which I found bright and cheery, does not have “Disney” plastered on it literally or figuratively, there were touches to be found. Our welcome snacks included sandwiches in the familiar shape of Mickey Mouse’s head. I noticed “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” from the Lion King playing in the hallway. One young traveler who ventured to the adults’ dinner was referred to as “princess.”

Tomorrow, the ship docks in picturesque Passau, Germany, and excursions include a walking tour, a tree top adventure and a hike to a castle overlooking the city.

Scenic creates new itineraries for 2016

Scenic is introducing several new river cruise itineraries for 2016, including a new route on the Danube, a longer combined France cruise and an extended 21-day Christmas Markets cruise bookended by Paris and Prague. 

Starting next year, Scenic will begin sailing an 8-day Iconic Danube river cruise from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary, which will begin with a pre-cruise stay in Munich. The cruise will go from Passau to the Austrian cities of Salzburg and Vienna and will finish in Budapest. 

The 21-day Christmas Markets cruise will begin with three nights in Paris at the Marriott Opera Ambassador, and will include guided excursions of the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. Other highlights include the German cities of Wurzburg, Freudenberg and Nuremberg, as well as Vienna. The itinerary concludes with three nights at the Prague Marriott hotel.

Additionally, Scenic has combined its Gems of the Seine and Breathtaking Bordeaux cruises to create a 21-day itinerary that combines Paris and the Seine with France’s Bordeaux region. 

With the launch of two new vessels this year, the 169-passenger Scenic Opal and Scenic Jasper, Scenic’s European fleet consists of 12 vessels.

Adventures by Disney to offer river cruising

Adventures by Disney, Walt Disney Company’s tour operator brand, on Monday said that it is getting into the river cruise game through a partnership with AmaWaterways.

Starting in 2016, Adventures by Disney will offer four sailings along the Danube River during the summer months, and one holiday-themed sailing in December 2016. The itineraries travel through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

Adventures by Disney will charter the 170-passenger AmaViola, a ship that is launching in 2016 and is being custom-built to cater to families. Family-friendly features on the AmaViola will be six sets of connecting staterooms, as well as some rooms and suites that can accommodate families of three or four people. Shipboard spaces are being reimagined to allow for activities geared towards passengers of all ages.

Bookings on the five cruises open Tuesday to past Adventures by Disney guests and members of the Disney Vacation Club. Bookings to the general public open Wednesday.

At an event in New York to introduce the cruises, executives from Adventures by Disney and Ama Waterways said the partnership had been two years in the making.

“We’re constantly on the lookout for … new destinations and new formats,” said Ken Potrock, senior vice president and general manager for Adventures by Disney. Two trends they identified, he said, were multigenerational travel and river cruising.

For Ama’s part, the line has already been accommodating families, particularly on its Christmas markets cruises, Schreiner said.

On the Adventures by Disney sailings there will be wine tastings, fine dining, music, dancing and an onboard fitness center geared toward adults, and movies, karaoke, relay games, chess lessons on an oversized board, video games and themed nights for children and teens.

There will be eight Adventures by Disney guides on each sailing in addition to the existing AmaWaterways crew.

Unlike the oceangoing Disney Cruise Line, however, the river product will not carry a complement of Disney characters, and there will not be character- or movie-themed excursions. “We bring the stories of Europe to life,” but not the stories of Disney, Potrock told the audience.

The Adventures by Disney sailings will take place July 7, 14, 21 and 28, 2016, and will include a nighttime illuminations cruise through Budapest; a horse show at the Lazar Equestrian Park in Hungary; a visit to the Devin Castle in Bratislava, Slovakia; a private marionette performance and strudel making demonstration at the Schonbrunn Palace in Austria; a falconry show at the Hohenwerfen castle in Austria; an Oktoberfest event at a German brewery; and biking in every port.

The holiday-themed sailing, departing Dec. 22, 2016, will include visits to the Christmas markets in Budapest and Vienna, and a boys choir Christmas performance at the Hofburg Palace Chapel in Vienna.

Potrock said the company would gauge interest with the first five cruises but said it was “in a position to very quickly expand.”

Passengers can add a three-day pre- or post-cruise extension in Prague.

Adventures by Disney, which launched in 2005, offers 30 guided vacations on six continents.