You’ve heard of European river cruises. You may even have tried one yourself. But have you taken the kids? Vantage Travel‘s Heart of Germany itinerary through Franconia and Bavaria packs all the excursions and ports you could want into eight fun-filled days — parents, children and grandparents can sit back and relax onboard the luxury River Splendor vessel and leave the planning and navigating to the experts.
Imagine only unpacking once on an eight-day European trip; never needing to consult maps, order Ubers or load apps; and never having to stress over where your teenage kids’ next (big) meal will come from. On a Vantage Travel river cruise, you can leave the worry behind and let the competent concierge team onboard handle all the logistics.
While the typical Vantage clientele skews older, families with older kids and teens will find plenty to keep them busy and engaged. Excursions off the ship occur every single day, with a carefully planned itinerary that always includes a local expert or guide. Adults can opt out with their kids at will, but trust me, you’ll want to stick around to learn with the group on most occasions.
Teens tend to congregate in the Captain’s Club, the window-filled space at the stern where meals are served buffet style (and alfresco in nice weather). Vantage crew members put out games and electronics in this area when kids are on board, and the complimentary espresso machine serves up hot chocolate and coffee drinks at any time of day.
Free WIFI is offered on the ship throughout the cruise, and while I brought a hot spot to ensure connectivity for work, I never needed it onboard the River Splendor. Connection is swift and reliable, so teens can stay plugged in via text, email and WhatsApp with family and friends at home plus new friends they meet on the cruise.
The library adjacent to the lounge houses cards, board games and books, making for a nice retreat, and the sundeck at the top level is perfect for active teens who want to make use of the small track in nice weather (though there’s also a small exercise room onboard). Complimentary bike use is available in most ports; the bikes sail along with you on the deck of the River Splendor.
Meals do not have assigned seating, so families with teens and older kids can sit together at will. Buffet options are always offered in the Captain’s Club. While the menu is upscale American with a few local specialties, a few basic dishes are always available, such as grilled chicken or salmon. Breakfast is also a buffet, and an early risers’ breakfast allows even greater flexibility.
Wine, romance and castles
We found the towns of Koblenz, Heidelberg and Würzburg to contain the most castle magic. After discovering a favorite wine and bottle shop in Koblenz, we sailed all afternoon down the Rhine, spotting hilltop castles around every bend of the river. In Heidelberg, we toured Schloss Heidelberg, which houses the largest wine barrel we’ve ever seen, and Würzburg delivered the Würzburg Residenz, a baroque European castle, plus a fortress, farmer’s market and wine-sipping.
While you’ll hear reference to the destruction of many German towns and villages during WWII in most ports, Nürnberg is the place to focus on 20th-century history. Here you can visit the Documentation Center museum and tour former Nazi party rally grounds, then see Courtroom 600, where the Nürnberg trials of top-ranking war criminals took place in 1946.
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Getting lost amid the cobblestones
Historic Bamberg is a “Disney perfect” village, complete with cobblestone streets, arched bridges over rivers and tucked-away brewpubs and bakeries. Step into the Bamberger Dom, the town’s historic cathedral, then try a pint of Rauchbier, Bamberg’s smoked beer (the malt is roasted over a beechwood fire). Find it at Schlenkerla Smoked Beer Brewery in the old town.
Regensburg, on the Danube, is home to the oldest sausage kitchen in the world, Wurstküche, and the Museum of Bavarian History. But we were more drawn to its narrow, winding streets, where shops selling art, clothing, shoes, jewelry and housewares beckoned. Careful: Regensburg is dangerous on the wallet.
If you go
We loved how we could access our trip via our personalized portal before, during and after our journey, making it easy to add upgrades, check itineraries and confirm flights.
Ready to book a Vantage Travel river cruise? The CB! Family Vacation Advisor team can help! Send a request to get started. Tip: Ask to be pointed toward sailings for which other kids and teens are booked.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Amy Whitley.
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