European river cruising has catapulted to the forefront in the last few years, with river cruise operators adding more vessels to accommodate many guests with various tastes.
Along with the new vessels, there are more land-tour operators adding river cruises to their repertoire of European vacations. This brings yet another group into the mix.
Traditionally, European river cruising has been geared toward the senior market, however as baby boomers are getting nearer to retirement age they are looking for different experiences and adventures. River cruising is no longer meant for just the 65 and older crowd. With many rivers running through the heart of Europe there are many exciting itineraries to choose from.
Tauck Bridges was launched in 2003 by parent company Tauck in response to the need for quality family travel. This family program reflects Tauck's philosophy of "shared enrichment," which allows family members to experience traveling together, while learning about the culture of the countries visited.
The guests generally fall into three different groups: parents traveling with young children, grandparents traveling with young grandchildren and multi-generational groups, including family reunions.
Although there are numerous options for Tauck Bridges family experiences, one of the newer, and a huge favorite, is the riverboat adventure on the Blue Danube.
The Danube runs from the Black Forest in Germany through (or constitutes a boarder of) Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and the Ukraine, where it empties into the Black Sea. Most of the river vessels cruise from Nuremberg to Budapest (and reverse). Some start in Passau, Germany to Budapest.
For those who want to visit Prague in the Czech Republic there are pre cruise packages that include this incredibly beautiful city.
What an exciting adventure for any adult, let alone kids. These special river cruise adventures are designed with family in mind. Below is a snippet of the itinerary from Budapest to Regensburg, Germany from the Tauck Bridges brochure:
Day 1. Welcome aboard the MS Swiss Jewel in Budapest. Start with a sightseeing tour of the city. Budapest is divided by the Danube River into two sections, Buda and Pest. You'll learn about the turbulent history and see iconic sites such as Heroes' Square and Fisherman's Bastion. Captain's welcome reception after dinner this evening. Meet other families aboard.
Day 2. Scavenger hunt and whitewater rafting in Bratislava. After cruising the Danube along Hungary's border with Slovakia this morning, arrive in Bratislava, a city with 1,700 years' worth of stories to tell. It's your chance to play detective on the scavenger hunt.
Day 3. Imperial Vienna and Schönbrunn Palace. Vienna, Austria, is the setting for two days of explorations in one of the grandest cities of "Old Europe. Vienna has a rich history as the legendary capital of the old Habsburg Empire; do a little city sightseeing to view magnificent boulevards such as the celebrated Ringstrasse, beautiful gardens and parks.
A visit to Schönbrunn Palace, which Austro-Hungarian Empress Marie Theresa built to "out-Versailles" France's Palace of Versailles, is a start. Walk through the garden maze and look for secrets that once were searched for by the Imperial family, then a visit to the world's oldest zoo. Tonight you will experience a royal evening at a palace with a special dinner and some extraordinary Viennese entertainment.
Day 4. The Vienna Prater and strüdel-making. Additional Vienna sightseeing this morning includes family fun at the Vienna Prater, one of the world's most famous amusement parks.The Prater boasts more than 250 attractions including the 100 plus year-old giant ferris wheel (seen in the movie "The Third Man"), ghost trains and hi-tech, modern roller coasters. There are more than 100 museums among Vienna's cultural and historical attractions. Back on board the riverboat, activities include a hands-on strüdel-making demonstration.
Day 5. Dürnstein. Bike along the Danube to Krems
Wake up in Dürnstein, a pretty little medieval town known for its 13th-century abbey and 16th-century houses along twisting, narrow, cobblestone streets. Your activities include a bicycle tour along the Danube and through the country side to Krems or take a look around town, check out a landmark that looks like it seems to belong in Texas rather than Austria. Hike up the hillside to the ruins of Kuenringerburg Castle where King Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner after the third Crusade and view the vistas of the town, river and surrounding vineyard.
Day 6. A very tricky place and Mozart's Salzburg.
Once upon a time, there was a prince archbishop of Salzburg who really liked playing practical jokes and was possibly a little bit crazy. His Hellbrun Castle with its beautiful gardens (known as his pleasure garden) is filled with fountains and gadgets that assisted him in his trickery. Saltzburg is also the birthplace of Mozart and the location where scenes from "Sound of Music" were filmed.
Day 7. Making music and faces in Passau. Today you visit to the historic St. Stephen's Cathedral, which houses one of the biggest pipe organs in the world with five keyboards and thousands of pipes. Later, learn how marzipan (a candy made from sugar and ground almonds) is made and make your own tasty tidbit in the shape of a face very popular in Passau. Tonight enjoy the festive farewell dinner along with all of the friends you have made.
Day 8. Homeward bound.
Today, you disembark for your homeward journey. A special departure on July 9 with Elisabeth von Trapp ("Sound of Music") performing on board and ashore with an exclusive Tauck excursion in Salzburg.
Patty Toppa is a travel consultant with Gadabout Travel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.cruisetraveltours.com.