River cruising is currently one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the cruise industry, offering slower-paced itineraries that take passengers further into the European continent. You can journey horizontally along the Rhine and Danube rivers, stopping in cities throughout Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia; or opt to admire the scenery of Portugal and Spain with a sailing along the Douro and Guadalquivir rivers. The itinerary, however, is only half of the story when it comes to river cruising – with many passengers enjoying the beautifully-designed elegant ships, the leisurely pace, and the opportunity to travel with like-minded people. In many cases, this tends to be the over 60’s.
Despite this, one of the most renowned lines in the river cruise industry has created a brand new concept, which is hoped will appeal specifically to a younger market. U by Uniworld, launched just last weekend with an inaugural voyage along the River Seine, offering a ship and an overall experience that is aiming to cater for 21 to 45-year-olds.
Uniworld’s 120-passenger ‘River Baroness’ has recently been renamed as ‘The B’ and received a number of renovations including a sleek interior design, bright neon lights, open communal spaces and vast rooftop lounges – not to mention a striking black exterior. The ship offers a total of four suites, 26 balcony staterooms, 29 studio staterooms and two studio bedrooms – all offering waterfront views and equipped with Bluetooth speakers. Each room also offers noise-proof padded walls, to ensure you aren’t woken up by the late-night neighbours or early risers. Guests can also keep up with personal fitness goals in the onboard gym.
Whereas guests on traditional river cruise sailings can enjoy in-depth port lectures and guided walking tours, U by Uniworld offers a completely different experience. Millennial guests can enjoy socialising with like-minded passengers in the rooftop bar, while silent discos and onboard DJs will ensure the party goes on well into the night. During the day, guests can enjoy fantastic food while taking part in a range of activities that include cocktail mixing, wine tasting, cookery and yoga.
In terms of excursions, these offer a modern and contemporary way to explore every destination. Think away from the traditional walking tour parades and imagine Parisian rooftop tours, treasure hunts in the Louvre and opportunities to visit festivals including Oktoberfest and Amsterdam’s Koningsdag.
The line has also taken smaller features into account, with a WhatsApp group helping to keep passengers up-to-date with onboard activities while also helping passengers to stay in touch afterwards. A strong emphasis has been placed on environmentally friendly practices, with onboard cuisine following a farm-to-table principle, while in-room toiletries are all recyclable or biodegradable.
Following the inaugural voyage along the Seine, U by Uniworld will officially launch in April 2018 with a series of sailings along the Seine, Rhine and Danube rivers. Itineraries will run from April until October, with a number of additional Christmas-themed sailings along the Danube available throughout December 2018. It is also worth noting that not a single itinerary is longer than seven nights, which is more in fitting with modern working patterns and holiday allowances.
In addition to ‘The B’, another of Uniworld’s vessels, River Ambassador, has also been refitted for U by Uniworld and renamed ‘The A’. Uniworld’s CEO, Ellen Bettridge, used the launch of U by Uniworld to announce plans to unveil a brand new ship in Asia, which will sail along the Mekong River.
There should never be any presumptions within the cruise industry. While facts and statistics may tell one story, it also presents a new and exciting opportunity – one which Uniworld has looked to approach. Ocean-bound lines such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have also sought to bring down the average of a cruise passenger by offering a range of modern amenities and features on board their ships. How younger audiences will react and whether they will take to the product is a story that only time will tell.
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