Thanks to an increased prominence in TV advertising and episodes of Cruising with Jayne McDonald, you could be forgiven for thinking that river cruising was enjoyed exclusively by Baby Boomers. Mixology classes and silent discos aren’t usually what you’d expect on a river cruise, but trust me when I say that U by Uniworld is a river cruise line like no other. They’re innovators and pioneers, who are turning river cruising on its head by focusing on the young (and young at heart).
First, you’ll notice the ships themselves. There are currently two (the A, which cruises the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary, while the B cruises the Seine from Paris), and there is no mistaking either as these ships have been given a sexy, sleek ‘U’ makeover, cutting a striking look with their black exterior with neon-lit accents, which change colour nightly. Step onboard the B – as I did for a recent seven-night Seine river cruise – and you’ll discover interior décor with flair, with the ship resplendent in monochrome stripes and geometric patterns throughout (thankfully, I managed to avoid any hangovers during my cruise). You’ll be greeted by a youthful and friendly crew, kitted out in stylish black jeans and T-shirts emblazoned with the U emblem, giving off a more informal vibe than more traditional-style crew uniforms.
U by Uniworld have truly overturned the traditions of river cruising to create a river cruise experience that’s perfectly tailored to millennials. With millennials keen to go green, U by Uniworld is paperless, so daily cruise itineraries are sent straight to your phone via email and the ship’s WhatsApp group that everyone is added to. There’s no need to worry about your phone battery draining, as USB plug ins are helpfully available everywhere throughout the ship, including the restaurant, lounge, and even the Sun Deck, so you can stay connected with the ship’s complimentary WiFi to your heart’s content. Daily schedules are flexible, and after a late night of dancing, banter, and drinking, you’d be grateful for the later starts, with most excursions generally starting between 10 and 11am, as opposed to the more customary 8.30-9am start.
Unlike other river cruises, two meals a day are included – brunch and dinner – served buffet style, giving you plenty of opportunity to discover local cuisine ashore independently, and also the flexibility to enjoy brunch and dinner whenever you want, without any stuffy formality to worry about.
There’s always at least one included excursion or shoreside activity in each port of call – including bike rides and hikes, and even bar crawls when the ship’s staying overnight; on our cruise, we headed out into Rouen for some local tipples and to see the fabulous Light & Sound Show bringing the gorgeously Gothic cathedral to life in a riot of colour, and had a total of three nights to explore Paris, whilst other cruise itineraries offer the opportunity to explore the nightlife of vibrant cities such as Amsterdam, Vienna, Frankfurt, Passau, Budapest, and Regensburg, amongst others. Other nights, the ship itself becomes a floating night club with local DJs brought onboard, and (the most popular evening highlight) a Silent Disco. You can tailor your cruise to suit your interests with the optional ‘U Time’ excursions, but don’t expect sedate panoramic coach tours. Instead, get ready to strap your legs around a hipster biker in tweed and zip around Paris on the back of a motorbike (or in a retro sidecar), or spend a night at the famous Moulin Rouge show, complete with champagne.
Taking river cruising to the Instagram generation, not only do you have the coolest looking ships on the rivers, you have the flexibility, independence and personalisation that many of Generation Y have come to expect from their travels – but with the added bonus of only needing to unpack once for your floating, riverside hotel as you city hop between some of Europe’s most dazzling and enchanting cities, and delve into hidden gem villages and small towns.
For more details on U by Uniworld cruises contact Select Travel www.selecttravelholidays.co.uk