This was my husband's and my second Uniworld Cruise (we cruised the "Castles along the Rhine" itinerary several years ago), but the first with our children (ages 12 and 16). Our first river cruise experience was ... Read More
This was my husband's and my second Uniworld Cruise (we cruised the "Castles along the Rhine" itinerary several years ago), but the first with our children (ages 12 and 16). Our first river cruise experience was amazing--attentive staff, excellent dining, sumptuous decor, comprehensive guided tours--so we enthusiastically rebooked with Uniworld. This itinerary of "Paris and Normandy" on the new Joie de Vivre was a Generations cruise. My review will focus on our experience on this family cruise; since I found very few reviews that focused on Generations when I was researching, I want to provide insights that may be helpful for other families.
As Uniworld caters to mature guests (with fine dining and minimal on-board entertainment), we weren't sure what to expect with the Generations itinerary. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see many families on-board (including middle-aged parents, children, and grandparents). There were approximately 30 children on ship, and throughout the week, our children--especially our 12-year-old--had many opportunities to interact and make friends.
There were two youth counselors assigned to our ship, and they supervised kid-friendly activities and tours. On-board activities included a movie night (with popcorn and snacks) and a crepe-making session with the ship's pastry chef. Often there were kid-friendly tours (parents were welcome), where the tour guide focused on information that would appeal to a younger crowd. Children/families could join these designated tours at will. There were also bonus kid-only activities after the regularly scheduled tours, such as visit to a clock tower and a round of miniature golf. (No additional charges for these activities.)
Sometimes, my husband and I had both children tour with us, such as when we toured the Normandy WWII sites (as there was no kid-designated tour that day); other times, they stayed with the children's group. For instance, at Versailles our youngest son joined the children's tour that visited just a few highlights inside and focused more on the gardens (the adult tour covered the small and large apartments, not the gardens).
These added kid-friendly touches truly appealed to our 12-year-old, but our 16-year-old usually felt he was a bit too old (as seemed the consensus of other teens over 14). My recommendation to Uniworld would be to provide more of a teen component to the Generations itinerary. Although I would agree that older teens can comfortably join their parents on the "adult" tours, I do think additional on-board entertainment that appeals to teens would be welcomed. For instance, one night a guest singer performed dance hits (from "YMCA" to "Uptown Funk"), which brought most of the teens to the dance floor. But this was really the only teen-friendly nightly entertainment. I wonder if karaoke would be a hit? (Sometimes it's hard to predict with teens.)
On our cruise, the children's activities were not listed on the daily itinerary sheet or discussed at the port talk before dinner each night. We had to directly ask the youth counselors what would be happening that day. Usually, it was easy to find the counselors to ask. But a few times we noticed that parents less "in the know" didn't realize there was a children’s activity until it was too late. Fortunately for us, we found that our 12-year-old usually knew what was going on and was ready to join his friends at the designated time and place.
Since staterooms are designed for two guests, many children/teens had separate rooms from their parents. There were only a few adjoining rooms--and we did not have one. Actually, our children's room was directly below ours. However, we did not feel it was a problem to be separated since the ship was very intimate and secure, and our children could call our room and then be at our door in under one minute.
One stateroom on the 3rd floor was reserved as the "kid's room." It was filled with treats/snacks and video games. Several of the children (generally ages 9-13) hung out together during on-board free time. This room became a "meeting spot," which was great because it kept children out of one another's cabins. The room was locked at 10 pm, so there weren't any issues with late-night noise or ruckus. The only slightly awkward part was that the bed (with white duvet cover) hadn't been removed from the room (I'm guessing because of logistics)--a couch or chairs would have been more appropriate in the space. However, kids just sat together on the bed and seemed fine with the arrangement.
Other on-board gathering spots: The Joie de Vivre has a small indoor swimming pool, where our children spent just a little time. The pool was too small to do more than cool off. They also spent time on the top deck sitting on the lounge chairs. Sometimes, we went up top to watch the locks and/or to see the scenery. After dinner, we often gathered in the lounge and played card games (we brought several card games with us). As they got to know other families, our children invited them to play with us. By the end of the week, there were spirited games among the teens. I suppose the disadvantage of limited on-board entertainment allows families to create their own fun.
Uniworld's gourmet dining is top-notch. Children had the flexibility to eat from this adult menu and/or from a dedicated kid's menu, which offered standards like pizza, but also more sophisticated things like chicken Caesar salad. Often, our children would order from both menus (such as a soup from the kid's menu but the entree from the adult menu). They tended to be adventurous (trying frog legs and escargot) because they knew they could always order something more familiar. Since drinks are included in the all-inclusive pricing, our children took advantage of the opportunity to order Shirley Temple's or smoothies with their meals. The wait staff was always extremely accommodating and quickly learned their preferences. We usually ate together as a family for dinner, but during lunch (which is a buffet) our children often sat with other kids/teens.
From what we could tell, all the children/teens behaved; for instance, we never witnessed kids running down the hall at night or using their fingers at the salad bar. I suppose when parents invest in a luxury river cruise, they bring children mature enough to appreciate the experience. (This was our mindset when we decided to book our family.) However, despite children behaving as ladies and gentleman, I do think some older solo couples on our cruise may have been a bit on edge when they saw so many children on-board. However, I think we families proved to them that there was nothing to worry about--and hopefully they enjoyed a more vibrant cruising experience.
Highlights: We will forever remember riding bikes along a paved path to Giverny, which was dotted with ivy-covered stone cottages and inns. It was adventurous and scenic--and the early July weather was perfect. Our children were as impressed as we were with Monet's gardens. I have taken (not drug!) them to art museums all their lives. They can identify Monet's paintings of water lilies--and now they have experienced the lush landscape first-hand. The D-day beaches were especially moving, and our children recognized the significance of these hallowed sites. It did help that I required them to do research and presentations BEFORE our trip (on WWII, Monet, Joan of Arc, etc.), so that they would have a context for our tours. I do wish that the Rouen tour had focused more on Joan of Arc. Maybe an on-board lecture or a children’s scavenger hunt that would bring her story alive? I also felt that our tour of the Latin Quarter/Notre Dame in Paris was a bit dull. The children's "rooftop vistas” tour, which our youngest son attended, sounded much more interesting. I'd love to see Uniworld incorporate some uniquely Parisian options--like a cooking glass or an art lesson at Montmartre. But, really, this cruise exceeded our expectations in so many ways, these suggestions would just bring us one step closer to perfect.
Would we go on another Uniworld Generation's cruise? Absolutely. If money were no object, I'd love to travel more-generationally, i.e., with my parents and siblings and their children. The Uniworld experience is just too great not to share it with loved ones. Read Less