Author: Kyle McCarthy
Tags : Couples, Cruise, Europe, Food & Wine, Multigen, Museums & Culture, Teens
On a CroisiEurope river cruise through Germany our family experienced the joie de vivre of France’s prized lifestyle, while learning about German history. CroisiEurope, celebrating 40 years and three generations of management in France, now operates 43 ships a la Francaise on rivers ranging from France’s Seine, Rhone, Dordogne and Garonne Rivers; to the Danube in Croatia, the Tisza in Hungary, the Guadalquivir in Spain, the Douro in Portugal, the Mekong in Vietnam and the Irawaddy in Myanmar.
One signature item consistent across all ships -- croissants are baked fresh daily.
Serving Up Cuisine and Cultural Immersion
As sophisticated families are discovering, river cruising is a delight because there’s no packing and unpacking, no hassle finding the hotel, no wait in long museum lines as you schlep around Europe. The CroisiEurope cruise experience has the added bonus of being very French – service and food are excellent, there’s a friendly, multilingual staff; and shore excursions emphasize expert guided tours of local arts and local history.
The company is justifiably proud of its onboard catering, designed by star chefs like Paul Bocuse, Marc Haeberlin and currently, Alain Bohn, who supervises 150 chefs fleet-wide. Bountiful meals feature local cuisines (paella in Spain, duck and white asparagus in France, wurst and sauerkraut in Germany); while always providing seasonal specialties, fresh fish and salads, elaborate desserts, and wine pairings.
We heard a few laments about lack of pizza, and overheard from others that expensive river cruises typically have several restaurants with more varied cuisine, but it was not an issue for us. All parents will appreciate the children’s menus; we also saw food allergies and special diets accommodated with ease.
Selecting the Best Itinerary for your Family
We sailed on CroisiEurope’s “Romantic Rhine” itinerary from Strasbourg to Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most popular river cruising routes. The active river winds through Germany’s picturesque heartland, where history and family vineyards meet; “To your left is a 13th-century castle, while on the hillside to the right is a Medieval church,” is typical of the bilingual narration we heard.
Coal-laden barges passed by, busy tug boats plodded along, locks opened and closed, yet watching life go by from the sundeck’s chaises was remarkably relaxing… not always a good thing when traveling with children.
According to the cruise line, historical routes along the Seine to Normandy’s WW2 sites, and themed cruises like “Castles of the Rhine,” are a hit with school-age kids. “The most popular cruises for families are our themed Christmas Market cruises, where families can enjoy Holiday festivities,” Nicola Iannone, US Director of Sales, told us. “The excursions include stops in various European cities, where travelers can visit Christmas Markets with activities geared to children.”
Families like CroisiEurope’s Cost and Culture
While there are no scheduled kids programs, about 4,000 children under 18 sail annually on these river cruises. Parents like that all shore excursions are included in rates so they can join or just explore on their own, easy to do since these smaller ships are able to dock at old ports in the heart of Europe’s historic areas.
“We’ve learned that kids and teenagers do not always enjoy the same programs [as other passengers],” adds CroisiEurope International Sales Director, Michel Grimm. “Therefore, for 2017 we have developed two kinds of excursions: a classic package, and a discovery package, which is a bit more fun with hiking and biking.” Roofdeck exercise classes were held on several days of our cruise and other itineraries include more time ashore for recreation: CroisiRando for hikers, CroisiGolf for golf lovers and CroisiMusique for music lovers. Take a look:
Designed for Maximum Flexibility and Comfort
Onboard we spoke to Lucas Schmitter, E-Commerce Director, who explained that CroisiEurope designs each energy efficient ship according to the river it will sail. “You need to build a ship to the river’s characteristics.”
“On the Loire you have to build for the sand bars because there are currents,” he added. Their river ships’ special features (for example, one Loire ship sleeping 96 guests plus 30 crew has a draft of only 27”) allow CroisiEurope to sail during droughts and often, high water periods, so that port cancellations are rare.
Affordable Pricing in a Very High End Market
CroisiEurope’s founder, Gerard Schmitter, dreamed of making river cruising affordable and accessible to all kinds of travelers, so he built most of his own ships – and leased others to competitors. The well-priced trips (starting about US$250 per adult per day) range from three to 14 days, covering all meals onboard, unlimited beverages including daily cocktails of the region, Wifi, a Samsung Galaxy tablet for guest use, bicycles, and travel assistance and repatriation insurance.
Accommodations are surprisingly comfortable, with ships sized from 10 cabins sailing the Mekong to 90 cabins on the Danube. Some have triple or quad family staterooms (third and fourth bunks are priced 30% less), and some cabins connect. Year round, kids under age 10 pay 20% less than adults, and babies under age 2 sail free.
We were intrigued to learn that CroisiEurope also sails 12-cabin canal barges in France. This summer’s current special includes barge trips where companions pay up to 60% off the regular fare, making it a top value immersion in European culture and a great way for kids to practice their French.
Hmm, sounds ideal for a family reunion.