Deciding Between a Land Adventure and River Cruise with Adventures by Disney

Here's what to know and how to decide.
Adventures by Disney adventure guide showing a family the sights of Machu Picchu
(Photo: Steven Diaz/Disney)

Imagine walking through local markets in Greece, climbing to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru, or sipping wine as you glide down the Seine River in France. These are just some of the highlights that come with taking a vacation with Adventures by Disney, the guided group vacation company owned by Disney. 

Why might a group vacation be a dream trip? Disney takes the hassle out of planning thanks to the help of expert guides and trip planners. While there are many types of trips offered through Adventures by Disney—including expedition cruises to the polar regions and private adventures where it can be just your family or group—two of the most popular options are land adventures and river cruises

BE INFORMED: What to Know About Adventures by Disney Before You Book (TourScoop)

If you’re thinking about a land adventure or a river cruise for your next Disney vacation, but don’t know how to pick the right one for your family, we’ve got you covered. We’ve gathered the basics of each and broken them down to help you make a more informed decision.

What is a land adventure?

Adventure guide and guests on an Adventures by Disney Montana and Wyoming trip
(Photo: Matt Stroshane)

Land adventures with Adventures by Disney are exactly what they sound like: a vacation to a destination that’s land (as opposed to ocean or river) based. These trips generally last anywhere from six to 12 days and often travel between major cities within a country via plane or charter bus. Travelers stay at luxury accommodations, often get exclusive entry into major landmarks, and can indulge in some of the best food that regions have to offer. 

How many land adventures are there to choose from?

There are currently 32 different land adventures to choose from. These itineraries showcase destinations around the world, including Peru, China, New Zealand, Greece, and Norway. Families who want to test the waters of a land adventure without traveling to a new country have options: Adventures by Disney also offers adventures in the United States to places like Wyoming, Alaska, and New England. 

What is a river cruise?

Adventures by Disney Danube River Cruise ship with castle and river
Adventures by Disney Danube River Cruise (Photo: Chloe Rice)

River cruises sail along the waterways of major European countries, and typically last eight days. Some river cruises stay in the same country for the duration of the trip, while other vacations make stops in multiple countries. Guests stay on a river cruise ship that’s operated by AmaWaterways. When travelers are not on the ship, they can expect to see everything from major tourist attractions to lesser-known cultural sites.

How many river cruises are there to choose from? 

River cruising options with Adventures by Disney are more limited with just seven itineraries right now. Don’t let the small number of options fool you, though, because these itineraries take you to small villages along the rivers, to iconic destinations like Normandy Beach, and, of course have the same Disney level of service as the land adventures offer. 

How many guests are on each trip?

The guest count is usually determined by the type of trip and the destination. In general, land adventures have between 35 and 44 guests, while river cruises have about 150 guests. 

How many adventure guides will I have on my trip? 

The adventure guides are truly the heart and soul of any Adventures by Disney vacation. They are there to help you with any questions that may arise, assist with making dining reservations for meals that are not included in your itinerary, and make sure everyone is having a good time. 

On land adventures, there are usually two guides, one from the U.S. and another local guide from the destination. In some instances, both guides are from the country where your adventure takes place. During your trip, you will be able to get to know both of your guides well as they do a great job chatting and mingling with each family or group. 

BRING THE FAM: 7 Family Friendly Resorts Perfect for Multigenerational Trips

River cruises have four to six adventure guides, some from the U.S. and others from the European countries where you will be visiting. The need for more guides comes with the larger number of guests. While on your trip you should be able to have quality time with each of the guides.

Are adventure guide tips included? 

On land adventures, tips for your adventure guides are not included. In general, Disney suggests tips be $9 to $11 a day, per person, per adventure guide. On a 10-day trip, that would mean an extra $90 to $110 per person, per guide, added to your overall trip cost. All guides will take cash, and tipping is often done at the end of a trip. Some guides will also take tips via Venmo or PayPal, but it’s best to check with your travel agent or Adventures by Disney before your trip to see if that’s an option. 

Tips are included in the upfront cost of the trip for adventure guides on river cruises, which makes these trips slightly easier in terms of budgeting and peace of mind since you don’t have to carry cash around with you for each guide until the end of the trip. 

Gratuities for all other personnel on both types of trips, including local experts, hotel staff, restaurant staff, and tour operators, are included in the overall cost of your vacation. 

What age is best for Adventures by Disney?

kids watching a presentation at a textile center on the Adventures by Disney Peru trip
(Photo: Christine Sarkis)

Disney requires that all guests are at least five years old at the start of any adventure. Some trips require children to be older. Before booking any adventure, be sure to check out the FAQ section of your desired trip to see what Disney suggests as an appropriate minimum age. For instance, on the Seine River cruise, Disney suggests kids be at least eight, while on the Greece land adventure Disney suggests that children be at least six. 

Deciding if an Adventures by Disney vacation is good for your younger children is something that you will need to decide for yourself; after all, you know your kids best. The easiest way to do this is to look at the itinerary and see what the activities are. Some vacations are very strenuous with multiple days of hiking in a row (looking at you, Peru). In general, land-based adventures seem to be more physically demanding than river cruises with Adventures by Disney. 

LOVE YOUR SUITCASE: 10 Stylish Luggage Brands Built to Last

If you do want to travel without kids, Adventures by Disney has you covered too because there are river cruises and land adventures that are adults-only, departures where every guest must be 18 or older.

How do you choose between a land adventure and a river cruise? 

If you’re thinking about traveling with Adventures by Disney but don’t know how to choose between a land adventure and a river cruise, give the following questions time to sink in and discuss them with your family to see what may be best for you:

  • Do you want to be outside almost all day every day, or do you want some time to relax and (literally) let the scenery pass you by? If you think the first option sounds better, a land adventure may be for you. A river cruise is your best bet if you think the latter sounds ideal.
  • Do you want to live out of a suitcase or do you want to unpack once? If you don’t mind moving to a new hotel every few days, a land adventure is the way to go. But if you want to unpack and not see your suitcase for the duration of your trip, a river cruise might be the way to go.
  • Do you prefer to travel in smaller groups or is a big group okay? If you really want to get to know everyone on your adventure, consider a land adventure where the group size is smaller. If you want to get to know a few people well, consider a river cruise, where the overall group is larger, but is broken into smaller groups for activities (and people tend to pick the same activities as their new friends). 

Which is better: land or cruise?

After both setting sail on a Seine River cruise and touring Peru on a land adventure with Adventures by Disney, I’m convinced both are fantastic ways to see the world in a way that only Disney can provide. The Adventure Guides are one of a kind and I’ve walked away from both adventures being friends with many of the guests beyond our trip, as we follow each other on social media to keep up with our latest journeys and adventures. 

With Adventures by Disney, I’ve tasted wine in the cellars of the Lourve; I’ve eaten salted butter and caramel ice cream in the small village of Honfleur, France; and I’ve taken in the historic sites on Normandy Beach all on a Seine River cruise trip. I’ve also had the privilege of hiking Machu Picchu with my mom, exploring Cusco on foot, and shaking up a few Pisco sours on a land adventure to Peru. There’s no way to say which type of trip is better because they are both unique and offer experiences that I would have never been able to do on my own.

WDW STAYS: 13 Best Disney World Hotels for Every Age and Interest

Both land adventures and river cruises have their place. If I were going to book another Adventures by Disney trip—and yes, I’m already looking at a few for 2023—I would choose a land adventure where the activity level was moderate and there was ample time to explore on my own, so adventures like Greece or Southern California have skyrocketed to the top of my list.

More from FamilyVacationist:


Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a freelance writer who covers theme parks, cruising, food and drink, and family travel. Her work has appeared on Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Insider, Orbitz, FamilyVacationist, The Daily Meal, Family Vacation Critic, TravelPulse, and more. Megan has been quoted as an expert and thought leader on theme parks for Forbes and other outlets.