I’ve enjoyed two exceptional river cruises with Viking: River of Gold in Portugal and the Danube Waltz following the famed river from Budapest to, Bratislava, Vienna, the Wachau Valley and ending in Germany. Both cruises offered stellar service and educational opportunities in addition to their wonderful itineraries.
During my journeys, no children were aboard, however, I cruised at a time when schools were in session. A new Viking River Cruise policy went into effect after my trips. As of August 1, 2018, no passengers under 18 will be accepted on Viking River Cruises. Viking previous allowed children 12 and up. Viking quietly updated its policy on the terms-and-conditions page on its website, stating that for all river cruises booked after Aug. 1, 2018, embarking passengers must be 18 years old. Passengers under the age of 18 may still board a Viking river cruise through the end of 2019 if booked before Aug. 1, 2018.
As a grandmother of eight and someone who loves children, I still wholeheartedly applaud this policy. The passengers drawn to river cruising are predominately boomers, the 50 and up market with some leisure time and money available. River cruising boats are much smaller than huge cruise ships or ocean liners. They have one dinnertime seating while the breakfast and lunch buffet allow a bit more flexibility. However, on a cruise, the sounds of babies crying, toddlers having tantrums and school age children fussing would in no way enhance the experience. I see the no children policy as an advantage.
River cruising ships are not designed for much in the way of onboard sports, except for walking or mini golf. Instead these boats focus on relaxation, sitting and watching scenery go by (so fantastic in places like the panoramic Wachau Valley), and quietly sipping a glass of wine.
The available guided outings provide a more educational, in-depth look at sites, likely not of general interest to children or teens. The use of special ear devices allow travelers to listen to a guide while walking, something boomers actually want to do.
According to Viking senior vice president of marketing Richard Marnell, “Viking has always offered experiences that are designed for travelers who are 50 and older, with interests in history, art, culture and exploration. It’s what we’re known for. Previously, we had allowed a degree of flexibility in the minimum age for travel, but increasingly our guests have told us how much they appreciate an environment where they can travel without children.”
Comparing other river cruise lines, U by Uniworld also has an adults-only policy. Scenic, Emerald Waterways and Riviera cruise lines have a minimum age of 12. Avalon Waterways is 8; AmaWaterways and Uniworld, 4; Tauck, 3; Crystal, 6 months; and CroisiEurope has no minimum. Of course, many lines like Disney, Holland America, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess are specifically designed for family trips.
Viking’s ocean cruises have had an adults-only policy since their launch in 2015.
Marnell said that Viking’s policy change was meant to establish consistency across all of its itineraries that the minimum age for travel is 18. “In addition to marketing what Viking is, we believe our guests also appreciate knowing what Viking is not,” he added.