River Empress for Kids

Editor Rating:  5.0
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Why Choose River Empress?
  • Pro: Impeccable service, sumptuous cabins and delicious cuisine are hallmarks of the ship
  • Con: Limited facilities compared to more modern river ships
  • Bottom Line: An outstanding ship, with some of the best service on the water

River Empress for Families

Editor Rating

Up until 2015, this ship (and indeed the line) made little or no provision for families; there were no facilities and kids were not really encouraged onboard. All this has changed quite recently, with the line launching its first dedicated Family River Cruise Collection brochure in early 2016, which offers 16 dedicated family friendly itineraries across the fleet. In addition, children between the ages of four and 18 pay half-price.

In theory you can bring kids younger than four onboard, but the ship (and its itineraries) would be best suited for children aged seven years and up.

(Note also, these family friendly itineraries are only on offer in July and August -- peak school holiday times in Europe, and also a Christmas Markets cruise in December.)

The timing of the program is dependent on the ship's itinerary, and will start after breakfast. Depending on the number of children onboard and their ages, they may be split into groups, with age-appropriate activities for each group. Family Hosts brought on for these cruises supervise and coordinate onboard activities for Junior Cruisers (ages 4 to 11) and Young Cruisers (ages 12 to 18).

Onboard activities on offer might include dessert making with the ship's pastry chef, to create ice cream cookies or 'crazy waffling'; a behind-the-scenes tour with the captain, including a tour of the wheelhouse (and help steer the ship); tasting local soft drinks with the resident Soda Sommelier, go on a ship-wide treasure hunt or take part in craft workshops and fun local language classes.

On full family sailings, the Captain's Lounge will be turned over to a dedicated kids room -- The Young Travelers Lounge -- complete with a PlayStation, a wide selection of games, movies, puzzles, kids' books and candy jars. Every family-friendly cruise itinerary also features onboard visits from local children or teens, who introduce guests to the daily life of their culture. If the ship is sailing less than full (or there aren't that many children onboard), one of the cabins will be turned over to a dedicated kids room instead.

The ship also offers a children's menu and early meal times for very young kids. The ship also has 12 interconnecting cabins (eight on the 400 Deck, and four on the 300 Deck), so it's worth requesting those when you book. Cabins do not accommodate more than two people.

Off the ship, the line offers a number of fun family excursions, which might include a visit to a theme park in Franconia, a public swimming pool in Breisach or climbing the Cathedral tower in Strasbourg.

Weary parents can also take advantage of leaving their kids onboard with babysitting while they explore the destination undisturbed. Each night the child receives a special pillow gift from the destinations visited.

It's also worth noting that the the crew are flexible and accommodating, so if you need a babysitter one night, or you need some extra time ashore outside of the regular programming -- just ask.

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406 Professional River Empress Photos

We spent almost a full week on board the River Empress with multiple photographers and took 406 pictures of the ship.  When you visit our new photo galleries you can be assured that what you see is what you get!

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