The shores of the Middle-Rhine valley have more medieval castles than any other river valley in the world
It is no secret that the dollar has gained significantly against the pound and the euro in recent months, making travel to Europe far more affordable this year than it has been recently.
It is also no secret that river cruises have gained popularity in the last few years, enabling families to see numerous destinations on a single trip. Uniworld, a specialist in European river cruises, is offering two dedicated packages for families this summer: “Castles Along the Rhine” (from Amsterdam to Basel on the River Ambassador) and “Paris & Normandy” (along the Seine on the River Baroness).
“We had noted at industry events, seminars and on our own cruise ships, a definite interest in family and multigenerational travel,” says Guy Young, Uniworld’s president. “Based on this feedback, we made the decision to be the first river cruise company to actively try to reach the family travel market. Our product department reviewed our itineraries and determined which [of them] would best suit a family program.
“Families are not only looking to travel together,” says Young, “but are also [wishing] to share in meaningful experiences.”
To choose which routes would be right for families, Uniworld had to ensure there would be sufficient activities both on and off the ship to keep people of all ages entertained.
“Sailing the Rhine River between Amsterdam and Basel exposes families to fairytale castles, breathtaking landscapes and old-world towns,” says Young. Options on the Rhine cruise include visits to the Technik Museum in Speyer and the Siegfried Museum, which has self-playing musical instruments. The Middle-Rhine valley has more medieval castles than any other river valley in the world, making ancient history come to life from the ship’s deck.
In France, families can look at history up close when they visit Normandy and see where Allied forces arrived at Omaha Beach on D-Day, the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer and the battlefield of Pointe du Hoc. They can go further back in time when they tour the square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and explore a museum, complete with historical relics, dedicated to her story.
Museum and cathedral tours feature prominently in the shore excursions, but kids will most likely be more interested in the optional trip to Europa-Park, one of Europe’s largest theme parks in Strasbourg, Germany. For parents, wine tours are available at various ports.
In France, families can visit Normandy and see where Allied forces arrived at Omaha Beach on D-Day
The ships are small, says Young, and on average sail with no more than 130 passengers, allowing for an intimate experience that families might not get on a larger vessel.
PlayStation 2 gaming sets are available, and activities offered on board include local language classes, cooking demonstrations, a special menu for children (orange juice and cookies are served at turn-down) and a Monet painting workshop on the France itinerary. Sodas are free at lunch and dinner, and kids are welcome to meet the ship’s captain and tour the vessel, just like grown-ups.
To encourage families to try a river cruise together, Uniworld is offering a 50 percent discount for children accompanied by an adult on the dedicated family itineraries.
In 2010, Uniworld will repeat the summer sailings and is planning to possibly expand the number of departures.