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Disney Launches European River Cruises

By Fox News Travel
April 21, 2015
Hohenwerfen Castle
Courtesy cklohm/myBudgetTravel

This article originally appeared on Fox News Travel.

Luxury river cruise line AmaWaterways Monday announced a partnership with Adventures by Disney, the tour arm of the mouse's family travel empire, for a series of five family-focused European river cruises. 

Starting in July and December 2016, these seven-night sailings from Vilshofen, Germany, to Budapest will call in Passau in Germany; Linz, Melk, Krems, and Vienna in Austria; and Bratislava, Slovakia.

But if you're picturing photo ops with Anna and Elsa in front of Austria's Dürnstein Castle, you have it all wrong.

Instead, the partnership will result in destination immersive activities for the whole family. One day, the line will stage an all-ages Oktoberfest celebration at a Cistercian monastery, complete with folk dancing and traditional German foods. The next day, guests can gather at Hohenwerfen Castle for a falconry show. In Salzburg, families can re-create scenes from the movie The Sound of Music which—instead of the character breakfasts you might imagine—serves as the most recognizable photo op on the sailing.

Children under four years of age are not invited, and the line suggests that—with the active and educational focus of the tours, in addition to their length—the cruise is best for children eight years and up. There is no onboard babysitting on offer, and the excursions are designed for families to explore the sites together and share the experience.

The amount of time in port will be maximized, with the vessel sailing in each morning just after breakfast and leaving, in most cases, when everyone is fast asleep. As a result, there will be several choices of excursions in every destination, in addition to the option of exploring on bicycle or just taking a ball or a Frisbee to a local park.

The food onboard will focus on local specialties, such as paprika tasting and goulash and strudel-making classes, which will help to introduce the youngest travelers to the flavors of the region. On the December sailing—in addition to German Christmas decorations and caroling—there is also the opportunity to make and decorate gingerbread houses.

And while there are a few tweaks to the 170-passenger AmaViola, still under construction, in order to accommodate the families—doors are being added to form adjoining cabins and sofas are being turned into sleepers in some suites—the existing spaces are being repurposed on these sailings. At night, the line will host teen-only dinners in a room that's usually used for wine tastings; the lounge may one night morph into a karaoke bar and become a movie theater the next and a folkloric dancing classroom before that.

The line predicts that getting to see four European countries in one week will feel like a value to multi-generational American families. But for those who want to see more on their trip, Adventures by Disney is offering a two-night extension to Prague, making the Czech Republic the fifth country in this modern take on the family-friendly European tour.

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As seen from the water (whether you're on a multicity river cruise or one of the many local river tours available) the City of Light is perhaps more beautiful than ever, with its many bridges, the peerless façade of Notre Dame beckoning from shore, and of course must-see museums such as the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Musée de Cluny, and Musée Picasso, and that well-known tower (once derided as an eyesore!). But wait till you sail out of Paris on your way to Monet's garden at Giverny, where, surrounded by the flowers and botanicals depicted in Monet's paintings (water lilies, anyone?), you'll feel as if you've literally stepped into an Impressionist painting. Spend some time in charming towns such as Rouen (don't miss its half-timbered houses and distinctive astronomical clock!), Conflans, and Les Andelys, and then sail on to the beaches of Normandy on the English Channel, where the largest fleet in history made its historic landing on June 6, 1944, turning the tide of WWII. A stop at the American Cemetery is a moving reminder of the sacrifices made here just over 70 years ago. Make it happen: A Seine cruise, offered by all the major river cruise lines, will often make a round trip, taking you from Paris to Normandy and back (making different stops on the return leg), and a weeklong cruise with guided tours will start at under $2,000. Insider tip: When you're on your own in Paris, you can get closer to some riverside sights by hopping on a local boat tour. Ask your cruise director for recommendations. RHÔNE Visit the South of France's wine country, historic palaces and towns, and the countryside Vincent Van Gogh helped make famous. Why it's a dream trip: A stunning natural setting, inspiring art, and some of the world's finest wines! The walled city of Avignon has been protecting staggeringly beautiful works of art and architecture since the 14th century, when it was home to series of popes. Don't miss the Palais des Papes and the incredible interior of Chapelle St.-Jean. Your boat will then wind its way to Arles, perhaps best known as the site of some of Van Gogh's most famous landscape paintings, but also home to the ultra-contemporary architecture of the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh building and the ultra-ancient (and well-preserved) Roman theater and amphitheater. You'll stop in Lyons, where the meticulously restored old city ("Vieux Lyons") beckons with winding streets, antique shops, tempting charcuterie (cured meats) and selfie-worthy covered passageways known as traboules. Ready to wet your whistle? You'll cruise through wine country, which can include a Burgundy wine tour and tasting before heading back to Avignon. Make it happen: Round-trip cruises on the Rhône out of Avignon are a little pricier than other weeklong river cruises, but you can still pack in several days of guided tours starting from just under $2,000. Insider tip: Instead of loading up on French wine to bring home, have it delivered instead. You'll save yourself a hassle and save the wine from unpredictable temperature changes that can destroy its flavor. ELBE From Berlin's museums and awesome monuments to Prague's architectural wonders, this lesser-known cruise option is a true odyssey across centuries of European history. Why it's a dream trip: Stand in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and pinch yourself: Once the epicenter of Cold War tensions, the majestic monument now stands as a proud symbol of the new Berlin. The city is welcoming visitors, including families, like never before, with bicycle-friendly streets, cutting-edge cuisine, and many museums, including the Gemaldgalerie am Kulturforum, reward visitors with boastworthy works of art your friends haven't seen yet. 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