Aboard the 164-passenger AmaSerena, which plies the Danube from the Hungarian capital of Budapest to Vilshofen in Germany, travellers experience lots of city stops, says Sara Macefield in The Daily Telegraph. But in the company of two 13-year-olds, the top-deck pool was the trump card “that saved the cruise from being boring” for younger travellers. The cruise was intimate and cultural, and the relaxed ambience “made it easy to fall into an unhurried routine of exploring ashore each morning and spending afternoons lazing on deck”. The walking tours were “ideally pitched” – Macefield’s favourites included a walking tour of Slovakia’s pocket-size capital Bratislava as well as an “apricots and sweets” tour of the picturesque Austrian village of Dürnstein, in the Wachau Valley. The trip also included visits to Vienna and Salzburg. The food is great, too.
From £2,295 for seven nights including flights – see AmaWaterways.co.uk
Partying around the Canary Islands
You’ll need to pack “an awful lot of shoes” when sailing on Saga’s Azores and Canaries cruise from Fuerteventura to Madeira, says Ann Gripper in the Daily Mirror. There is such a wide range of activities, ranging from hiking up to Gran Canaria’s Bandama volcano to strolling the promenade near the beach at the Playa de las Canteras in Las Palmas. Bad weather disrupted plans for another outing at Garajonay National Park on the island of La Gomera. Instead, passengers brought their binoculars to spot whales and dolphins from deck, while others practised their line-dancing and cha-cha. “Every meal time was a culinary adventure.” After dinner on the Saga Pearl II, passengers are entertained in the Discovery Lounge and if there is a late night departure, there is also the chance of partying on deck “with a boogie under the stars a huge amount of fun”. With just 449 guests, Pearl is small compared to most cruise ships but its “friendly and manageable size has made her a firm favourite with many cruise goers”.
From £2,833 for 19 nights, leaving from Southampton – see Travel.Saga.co.uk
An intimate Viking river trip
River cruising offers “a more land-based intimate experience” than the ocean-going kind, says Katie Kelly Bell on Forbes.com, who took her 13-year-old daughter on Viking’s Rhine Getaway cruise from Amsterdam to Basel in Switzerland aboard the “newly minted” Viking Longship Alruna – “decked out in clean lines and spare Scandinavian fashion”. On the cruise, you’ll soon start to understand the “delicious appeal” of not being in charge of all the planning. All you do is show up, and your guides make everything else happen. “The only decision I had to make was whether or not I wanted Drappier or Veuve Cliquot Champagne with my meal.”
Tours include trips to see the windmills of Kinderdijk, a village in the Netherlands, a coach trip into the Black Forest and a walking tour of Cologne. The food on board the ship is “consistently well-executed and delicious” and there are opportunities to eat ashore too, including Viking-led culinary tours. “Soft adventure, relaxed adventure… call it what you want, either way, river cruising is a great way to see Europe with a glass of Champagne in your hand.”
From £2,845 for eight days – VikingRiverCruises.co.uk
From 2019, the luxury-hotel chain Ritz-Carlton will be launching the first of three “anti-cruise ships” – “small, ultra-luxury ships with laid-back itineraries and spacious, open-concept design schemes that flip the traditional cruise experience on its head”, says Nikki Ekstein on Bloomberg Pursuits. As Fredrik Johansson, owner and executive project director of Tillberg Design of Sweden, the ships’ designer, put it: “We tried to design the ships to be everything that a traditional, large cruise ship is not… a place… with no queues, no crowds, no disturbances – just a beautiful backdrop for beautiful people.” As the ships are smaller than traditional cruise vessels, they can berth in St Barts and St Tropez, avoiding the big commercial ports, such as Marseille. Bookings begin next May – but check your wallet before reserving a place. Prices and itineraries will be “targeted at the top 1% of global travellers”.