We have partnered with AmaWaterways to showcase river cruising for families and what to expect. As part of their packages they routinely have pre and post cruise options. We decided to do the pre-cruise on our own and explore Budapest for a few days before the trip. I highly recommend arriving a few days early so you and the kids can get used to the new timezone and, depending on how your flight was, catch up on rest before the cruise begins. For the most part you can make the cruise as relaxing or as active as you want. We opted to do as many of the tours as we could since we like exploring and learning about the places we visit. Some people did the morning tours and then spent the rest of the day on the ship. We opted to be off the ship when it wasn’t sailing.
Days 1 & 2: Budapest
While we were in Budapest we visited the thermal baths on Margaret Island for $30 for the four of us! A must do and more the than worth the entrance fee. The baths are a big attraction but there is so much more to do there! They have a mini zoo where you can see real storks. I loved the fountain show set to music. There are lots of seats and areas to sit and enjoy the show. The Japanese gardens are simply gorgeous and a great way to decompress for both adults and kids after a busy morning. The gardens are also a great place for a mini family photo session.
There are many pedestrian walkways and things to see along the River. I recommend taking a guided tour to learn about the history of how Buda & Pest came together and how the two areas differ. On the tour we were taken to some popular tourist sites like the markets.
Hello Slovakia! Slovakia was named as the best European destination to visit in 2019; topping the Lonely Planet’s list of places to visit! From open air plays and concerts to castle visits. This new old country is full of history and delicious food.
We visited Bratislava which has lots of the usual things to do with kids from water parks to zoos but I recommend doing the things you can’t do at home like a city walk and visit to Bratislava Castle. We opted for the walking tour and, even though it included climbing 150+ stairs in the heat, the kids were able to manage it and keep up with the rest of the group. It was rated as a difficult hike but if you are an active family it would fall more on the moderate scale. The ship offers water to take on the excursions and I recommend taking one per person if visiting during the hot summer months.
Another benefit of a river cruise is that both parents can rest in between destinations. Normally we’d be packing up and driving to the new destination. Instead we can relax, dine, rest and wake up refreshed and ready to explore a new destination. The ease of not having to pack and unpack every time we get to a new location is my favourite part of travelling on a moving hotel.
Glorious, beautiful, lively, historic Vienna!!!
What to do with kids in Vienna? Take your pick. There are so many things to do we could not do them all even if we tried. Today we decided on a guided city walk through the city centre and palace district. The highlight for me was the Imperial Palace; the Habsburg’s winter palace which I’ve seen in pictures and movies.
One question that I get is “Do the kids like all the museums and castles?” How could they not? Really. It’s a surreal experience for them and they are awed by the magnificent and elaborate designs of the various architectural eras.
It is always a good idea to have scheduled rest when travelling with kids. My recommendation for a hot summer day is a morning activity, lunch, afternoon nap for the whole family, and an evening activity.
Another benefit of a river cruise is that they provide very high quality activities that we wouldn’t have thought about on our own like an evening concert in a Palace.
For our evening activity there was the option of a Mozart and Strauss concert at an additional fee and, after experiencing it, I highly recommend taking in one of the concerts when in Vienna with kids. Vienna was the home of some of the most influential classical music geniuses in history.
In the morning we visited the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Austria, near the Danube River, west of Vienna. We wouldn’t have picked this area on our own but the team at AmaWaterways have chosen some incredible stops.
The Wachau Valley is known for its rolling hills, vineyards and fortresses. We visited Melk & Dürnstein. There were easier activities like a walk through the town but we opted to Climb the hill to the Dürnstein castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned in 1192. The view from the top is stunning and it took less than 25 minutes with the kids to get to the top.
We also learned about the wines in the Region, which is what the area is most known for, including apricot liqueurs and brandy. The kids tried various types of apricot products. Their favourite of course was the chocolate covered apricots.
In the evening we travelled to Grein where we visited the Greinburg castle, a private castle that’s open to the public. Like all the castles we’ve visited it’s beautiful but this one we were able to walk through and get a history of the owners and some of the artwork and items in it. This castle had a man-made grotto which is simply breathtaking.
The highlight for the kids was a folk concert performed by a local youth group in the Greinburg castle as well as learning about the life and times of the owners and their lineage and connection to the Queen.
Another benefit of a river cruise is safety. All our activities are with guides who provide knowledge of the destination but also ensure our safety. I also like the ease of transportation of getting to and from our guided activities without worrying about driving in a foreign country, especially at night.
Vienna is just one of the many beautiful areas in Austria. Today we explored Mondsee, where parts of The Sound Of Music movie was shot and the famous wedding church. If you are a fan of the movie this is a great spot to explore and it has a lovely beach for swimming.
In the afternoon we made our way to Salzburg; a picturesque town along the Danube and where we had the best food experience, outside of the ship, plus an amazing view. If you like beer StieglKeller beer market on the hill is a must. The kids really enjoyed the gardens and seeing the birthplace of Mozart.
In the evening we stopped in Linz which was given the designation as the cultural capital of Europe in 2009.
This was yet another itinerary planned by the AmaWaterways team. We used the 2 hour bus ride as our nap/downtime and had a lovely French inspired family dinner.
Tip: pack less than you think you’ll need but bring a small jacket for rainy days. Our ship had guest laundry which is free to use and supplies are provided. We packed as much as we could in one carry-on suitcase each and it was more than enough. Stick to light / neutral colours that can be easily combined. The most important part of your wardrobe is your shoes. Your whole family will need comfortable closed toe shoes for the excursions
Our last day on #AmaMagna was spent in Passau and Vilshofen, Germany. We hiked to the top of Passau Castle and were rewarded with a magnificent view of the city and rivers. In the evening we experienced an Oktoberfest celebration with traditional pretzels, beer and music.
Had we done this trip on our own we would not have picked most of the destinations. Places like Mondsee, Austria and Passau, Germany were not on our radar and I didn’t even know they existed. The great thing about Amawaterways is they show you the gems of Europe that are off the beaten path.
We visited 4 countries and 7 cities over the last week with the kids. The ease of this mode of travel turned this trip into something we did not expect – a relaxing family vacation.