Erin Foster, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, shares with us what to expect from a Disney river cruise on European waterways.
Disney has been dipping its toe in the increasingly popular river cruise market, with branded sailings beginning in 2016. Disney river cruises are offered through the Adventures by Disney world travel arm of Disney Destinations, not Disney Cruise Line.
Adventures by Disney is tasked with bringing Disney service and quality to world exploration, not about having Mickey moments around the clock.
Rather than starting this operation from scratch, Adventures by Disney worked in conjunction with existing luxury river cruise provider AmaWaterways to construct new ships, the AmaViola, which debuted in 2016, and the AmaKristina, launching in 2017. These new ships are similar to others in the AmaWaterways fleet (notably the AmaSerena), but Disney requested many family-friendly touches in their construction, such as an increased number of cabins with connecting doors as well as cabins with pull-out sleeper chairs, a rarity in the river cruise market.
When Adventures by Disney is running a river cruise, they charter the entire ship. All guests on board will be traveling with the Disney group itinerary, booked through and organized by Disney. At other times of the year, AmaWaterways may run the ships with their own guests, but at no point will Disney and non-Disney guests be on board at the same time.
Because Disney does not own these ships, there is no Disney presence in the decor or finishings. You won’t find hidden Mickeys in the upholstery or ironwork. Further, there are no Disney characters on board, nor are there dozens of Disney-owned television channels on your stateroom TV or Disney-themed items sold in the gift shop. Rather than live performance variations of Disney films, the onboard evening entertainment is provided by local performers demonstrating their culture—a light opera concert in Vienna or a Hungarian dance lesson in Budapest, for example.
Disney River Cruises: All-Inclusive Packages
Unlike Disney Cruise Line, where your booking price includes just your stateroom and basic meals, the Adventures by Disney river cruises are all-inclusive packages, almost entirely free of add-on costs—the price is the price. The river cruise pricing includes all excursions, all gratuities, airport or hotel transfers, adult dining, WiFi, and free-flowing beer and wine during lunch, dinner, and various receptions.
Amazing Port Excursions
As with Disney Cruise Line, family members are welcome to choose their port excursions together or separately, according to their interests. If Dad wants to go to the Sound of Music tour (singing “Lonely Goatherd” all the way) and Mom wants to see the caves at the salt mine, that’s all OK. You can learn how to make Hungarian goulash in Budapest, macaroons in France, and marzipan in Germany. Tours of the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh Museum are offered in Amsterdam. In Vienna you can tour Schönbrunn Palace, visit the Spanish Riding School, and attend a Mozart and Strauss concert or participate in a strudel-making class. These are just a few of the amazing cultural offerings available to guests on Disney River Cruises.
On the river cruise, the cost of all port excursions is included with your initial booking fee. During every morning or afternoon, there are one to four excursions offered. Nearly every guest participates in the group excursions. There is no prebooking of excursions; an Adventures by Disney guide sits with each family on embarkation day to discuss the selections. There is no danger of a particular excursion being oversold, and you may make changes to your selections during your vacation at no charge. During some excursions, Disney contracts with local guides who have expertise in a particular site; however, there will also be Disney guides, with access to Disney resources, with you at all times.
For more information and details about Disney River Cruises, check out The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line by Len Testa, with Erin Foster, Laurel Stewart, and Ritchey Halphen.