Uniworld's River Cruises Aim to Draw Families

February 7, 2007
In a move that's unquestionably unique in the sedate niche of European river cruising, Uniworld has just announced its plan to expand its market to families. River cruises, particularly throughout the waterways of Europe, have long appealed almost entirely to more mature passengers looking for a more sedate cruise experience. Uniworld's move represents a distinct change in the passengers themselves and the onboard lifestyle by adding an entirely new segment in the market.

Specifically, the program will apply to two different itineraries. A nine-night "Castles Along the Rhine" sailing travels between Amsterdam and Basel. Another nine-night option is a Paris-based trip along the Seine to Normandy -- and back.

Though river vessels, unlike cruise ships that cover coastal territory in Europe, aren't designed or built to accommodate the vast needs of young 'uns, Uniworld is creating some special options and features to appeal to kids. Onboard activities will be broadened to include painting workshops, language lessons, and cuckoo clock and dessert demos. One room will be dedicated to games (PS2 stations will be added). Mealtimes will feature kid-tested faves like pizza, pasta and macaroni and cheese.

As well, shore excursion offerings are broadened from the usual Uniworld menu. On the Rhine trip, a call at the medieval town of Speyer typically features a walking tour; on these cruises, passengers can also visit the Speyer Museum, which is filled with trains, boats and planes (a full-size 747 and submarine among them). In Rudesheim, passengers typically attend a Riesling tasting. Instead, families will visit the fabulous Siegfried's Mechanical Museum, home to one of the largest collections of self-playing musical instruments in the world.

These river voyages are aimed at families with kids in the 8 - 18 age range and are not suitable for younger tykes.

Both of the trips are fairly inclusive, with accommodations, meals, onboard events and activities, and the majority of shore excursions part of the package. The cruises are available in June, July and August for the "Castles Along the Rhine" itinerary, and for the full season with the Paris and Normandy cruises.

--by Glenn Tucker, Cruise Critic Contributor.

Image appears courtesy of Klaus Landry, Willi Fix and Peter Wilking