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10 River Cruises That You Can Bring Your Kids On

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U.S. News & World Report

10 River Cruises That You Can Bring Your Kids On

Low angle view of parents with their daughter standing on the deck of a cruise ship
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Getty Images/Purestock

Take the kids on a fun and educational trip through scenic, hard-to-reach locales.

Cruise enthusiasts know that sailing provides an effortless family vacation, and a way to see the world without hauling suitcases, chasing kids or changing hotels. While megaships have facilities that can accommodate travelers of all ages and a wide range of onboard activities, it's the relaxing pace and cultural immersion of river cruises that have become popular with families, say 60 percent of travel agents polled by the Cruise Lines International Association, an industry trade association. Read on for 10 cruises that happily sail the world's great rivers with kids aboard – often at discounted rates.
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(Courtesy of The Strand Cruise)

Discover Myanmar on the Strand Cruise.

Named for its sister property, the celebrated Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, the brand new Strand Cruise began sailing the Irrawaddy River in December 2015. The 200-foot-long ship has just 27 double suites decorated in a luxurious Burmese-style, with teak and gold leaf accents. In addition to a sun deck and lap pool, the ship features a restaurant, a rooftop bar and a spa. Cruisers can enjoy a full schedule of activities on the three- and four-night itineraries between Bagan and Mandalay in Myanmar. And though the ship features an upscale and intimate onboard setting, it's an ideal choice for families who want to introduce their children to Myanmar's fascinating Buddhist culture.
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Take the kids on a fun and educational trip through scenic, hard-to-reach locales.

Cruise enthusiasts know that sailing provides an effortless family vacation, and a way to see the world without hauling suitcases, chasing kids or changing hotels. While megaships have facilities that can accommodate travelers of all ages and a wide range of onboard activities, it's the relaxing pace and cultural immersion of river cruises that have become popular with families, say 60 percent of travel agents polled by the Cruise Lines International Association, an industry trade association. Read on for 10 cruises that happily sail the world's great rivers with kids aboard – often at discounted rates.

Discover Myanmar on the Strand Cruise.

Named for its sister property, the celebrated Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, the brand new Strand Cruise began sailing the Irrawaddy River in December 2015. The 200-foot-long ship has just 27 double suites decorated in a luxurious Burmese-style, with teak and gold leaf accents. In addition to a sun deck and lap pool, the ship features a restaurant, a rooftop bar and a spa. Cruisers can enjoy a full schedule of activities on the three- and four-night itineraries between Bagan and Mandalay in Myanmar. And though the ship features an upscale and intimate onboard setting, it's an ideal choice for families who want to introduce their children to Myanmar's fascinating Buddhist culture.

Take a Crystal Cruises river yacht for the holidays.

Crystal Cruises has earned top accolades among critics and cruisers for more than 20 years, with top-notch programming for ages 3 to 17 over school holidays. In July, the new Crystal Mozart luxury river yacht will offer family-friendly sailings, including a Christmas markets-themed itinerary on the Danube River. Plus, 10-day cruises will include excursions to Linz, Austria, home of the Linzer torte; the floating Christmas Market at Vilshofen, Germany; and the concert halls of Vienna, among many forays ashore. Onboard the Crystal River Cruises yacht, you'll find a gym, an indoor swimming pool and three dining venues. There's no dedicated children's areas or programming, but butler-attended triple staterooms and connecting suites offer discounted rates for a third berth.

Sail through France with Tauck River Cruises.

Luxury tour operator Tauck recently launched Tauck Bridges to pioneer family river cruises for loyal clients who wanted to share their travels with grandchildren. And for 2017, Tauck Bridges will double its family cruise capacity to 20 departures along Europe's rivers. Tauck's new eight-day "Family Fun Along the Seine: Paris to Normandy," itinerary will include two nights in Paris followed by a five-night cruise with a guided excursion to Monet's house and gardens in Giverny, France.

Embark on an adventure in the Amazon with Aqua Expeditions.

Explore the wild waters of the Amazon in style with Aqua Expeditions. Since 2007, the company has been offering river cruises designed to rival luxury boutique hotels with gyms, Jacuzzis and sun decks. Spacious suites sleep three passengers and offer plenty of natural light through floor-to-ceiling windows. Onboard meals are served in an elegant dining room featuring the haute Peruvian cuisine of chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. (Kid-friendly menus are also available.) At different ports, kayak and speedboat excursions led by trained naturalists take guests to the flora and fauna of the remote Amazon River as well as isolated villages. And back onboard, families can relax with board games or watch films on loaner iPads.

Sail along the Danube with Adventures by Disney.

Adventures by Disney, in partnership with AmaWaterways, recently entered the river cruise market with a popular Danube itinerary that includes stops at Christmas markets at a variety of ports. The new AmaViola has a variety of family cabins, all with French balconies or full terraces, ranging from connecting doubles to suites that can accommodate up to four guests. There's also a small heated pool on the sun deck and an outside café. Best of all, eight Adventures by Disney guides are onboard to assist guests and provide a magic touch to activities and shore excursions.

Enjoy French-inspired world cruising with CroisiEurope.

The Strasbourg, France-based company CroisiEurope provides affordable, all-inclusive river cruises for families. And the CroisiEurope experience is distinctly French: Croissants are baked onboard daily, and the emphasis is on cultural shore excursions. While there are no specific children's programs, the line's moderate pricing, custom-built ships that can dock in the heart of cities, multilingual crew and French ambiance attract European families. Plus, spacious cabins can sleep two or three guests, and kids under 12 can sail for 70 percent of the standard rate (guests under 2 can sail free).

Explore China by river with Century Cruises.

China's Three Gorges Dam – the world's largest hydroelectric project when it was completed in 2012 – sparked global interest in traveling to the mighty Yangtze River. Today, Century Cruises offers three- and four-night cruises that pass by the massive high-rise developments that have replaced now flooded cities. A few of the archeological and cultural sights that remain on higher ground can be seen on shore excursions. Plus, Century keeps cruises fun for families with language lessons in basic Chinese, English or German and instructive Western and Chinese dining etiquette classes. Activities include touring the Pilot House, pizza and dumpling making and kite flying from the sun deck.

Cruise across Europe on a Uniworld river cruise.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has one of the river cruising industry's most robust family programs. Guy Young, president and CEO of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, says the company more than doubled multigenerational family departures after learning that 30 percent of passengers in 2015 were under age 18. "Family programing includes more participatory activities, such as kayaking, hiking, biking, cooking demonstrations, language lessons and family talent night," Young says. Special 2016 multigenerational routes include Delightful Danube & Prague and Gems of Northern Italy. Family cruises run eight to 15 days during spring, summer and winter school breaks, with 50 percent off the cruise-only fare for ages 4 to 18 traveling with an adult.

Discover Southeast Asia aboard the Aqua Mekong.

Families interested in exploring Southeast Asia in high style should consider cruising with Aqua Expeditions' Aqua Mekong, a 20-cabin luxury river cruise ship. Guided excursions include bike tours through villages, where passengers can meet residents, tour a temple, visit a produce market with the chef and try local dishes. Back on board, there's cooking classes, a Jacuzzi, a gym and an outdoor movie theater on the observation deck. And family-style meals with seafood, noodles and traditional dishes offer kid-friendly variations. On four-night family cruises to Vietnam and Cambodia this summer, guests ages 7 to 12 can cruise free when sharing a triple cabin with both parents, a single parent or a grandparent.

Take a Rhine River Cruise with Adventures by Disney and AmaWaterways.

In 2017, Adventures by Disney's partner, AmaWaterways, will offer family-focused sailings aboard the 170-passenger AmaKristina. The AmaKristina will feature connecting staterooms, family suites and common spaces for kids and adults. Best of all, eight Disney guides are onboard to lead culturally immersive activities and shore excursions. For example, on seven-night Rhine River sailings, families will be able to zip line through the Black Forest of Strasbourg, France, learn about chocolate making in Cologne – where Germany's Chocolate Museum is located – and enjoy an art and history tour in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.
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