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What's the Disney river cruise with AmaWaterways like?

by Fran Golden | August 06, 2016

River cruises have long been the quiet domain of the adults, with families sticking to oceangoing ships that have entertainment designed for little ones. Disney is aiming to change that by partnering with AmaWaterways for a series of river cruises designed specifically for children on the new AmaViola. So what is a river cruise for kids really like? I set sail with my 11-year-old granddaughter, Kate, on a seven-night Danube River cruise from Vilshofen to Budapest, Hungary, to find out.

Of the 139 passengers on our cruise, there were 47 kids under the age of 18, including 20 under the age of 11. For cruisers who have done typical river cruises, this was startling. River cruises usually attract an audience of ages 55 and up — sometimes way up. It was striking to see kids in the ship's pool, in the halls, in the dining room, and taking over the lounge for games, Disney movies, and a pirate night.

Another change from the usual was the ship itself. AmaViola was designed with the family-friendly addition of suites that can sleep four. It also has cabins that can sleep three, plus connecting cabins — all common features on ocean-going ships but very rare on river cruises. 

While these cruises are unlike any other river cruise, they are also very different from trips on Disney's oceangoing ships, where the main draws are princess meet and greets and kids clubs decorated with favorite characters. There is very little in the way of Disney branding on AmaViola, and there are no appearances by Mickey and Minnie, not to mention other characters. (If you're traveling with kids who are obsessed with, say, Elsa and Anna, you'll want to manage their expectations in advance).

Fran Golden

Fran Golden is a Cleveland-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for USA Today.

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