9 Ways The First Cruise Line For Millennials Is Changing The Holiday Game
River cruises are for old people, right? Not any longer, it seems...
Launching this spring, the cool new U by Uniworld brand is exclusively for 21-45-year-olds – with anyone older actively barred from booking. Not only that, but every detail from digi-menus to quinoa burgers has millennials in mind.
Due to make their inaugural voyages in April 2018, U by Uniworld’s first two ships are The A and The B, each accommodating 120 people. The A will sail up the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers while its counterpart sticks to France’s Seine. A third vessel, whose name you just be able to guess, is to navigate Asia’s Mekong waterway at an unspecified future date.
We hopped aboard The B to find out exactly how river cruising for millennials works – and how it’s distinct to traditional offerings:
There’s really no missing The B. Her jet-black exterior stands boldly out against the silvery Eiffel Tower (selfie alert!) just ahead, and other white ships.
Things are equally eye-grabbing inside. Monochrome chequerboard flooring runs throughout, complemented by PVC chairs and a neon heart in the sexy Lounge. Head upstairs, past an original red butterfly by Damien Hirst, and you reach the glass-walled Ice Bar. Open until 2am every night, often with live bands or silent discos, the counter here changes hue throughout the evening.
And what’s that outside on the deck? Oh, just a Philip Hearsey’s sculpture, Reflection, its fluid shape fitting in neatly with bubble seats and sun loungers. Few cruise ships could pull that off.
Nor can many match the U by Uniworld ships’ double or triple Studio rooms – ideal for groups of friends. Each boasts a pod-like bed, TV, safe, sockets and storage space per person, plus nice marble bathrooms.
The other categories are Balconies, same-sized but with the promised terrace, and a quartet of twice-as-big Suites. The emphasis across them all is on practicality, with foldaway tables, mirrors galore and clever storage space.
On your typical river cruise, guided sightseeing trips might take in a palace or maybe a theatre trip. But passengers enjoying The A’s Germany’s Finest itinerary can kayak or rock-climb amid the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bamberg, while The Danube Flow allows for boozing in Budapest’s ruin bars. Some outings are group trips, with others self-guided ‘U Time’ jaunts.
In Paris alone, guests of The B can sign-up for scheduled bike rides – a fleet of bicycles accompanies each ship – or jogs around the city, take a behind-the-scenes Eiffel Tower tour, surf a series of the capital’s rooftops or, as we did, (legally) daub some street art in Belleville.
One of the strongest millennial travel urges is to interact with locals, and experience destinations authentically. Accordingly, U by Uniworld has partnered with food-experience platform Eatwith to offer dining in REAL PEOPLE’s homes across each cruise.
Should dates match, you’ll be offered the chance to join local marathons. Select itineraries with The A also deliver clubbing in Amsterdam led by a resident party animal, or a chance to attend Hungary’s Sziget music festival.
Those Eatwith experiences must compete with the on-board nosh. A blend of international staples and local fare (ie French for The B) are dished up at brunch buffets and a-la-carte dinners.
The buffets maintain a strong health ethos, as demonstrated by ‘Antioxidant Blast’ smoothies, quinoa burgers and homemade granola. There are gluten-free and vegan offerings, and chefs will happily cook your bespoke pizza.
Yeah yeah, but what about decadence? Wel, Uniworld ships are famed in cruising circles for their exceptional pastries, and those legendary cheesecakes and muffins are present here in dangerous number. Perhaps just consider them a reward for frequenting the ship’s gym, or a morning yoga sesh?
Yoga’s far from the only on-board group activity. Lasting about 45 minutes, mixology sessions let participants design their own cocktail. The best get added to menus: MTV’s proud contribution is the ‘Whatsapple’ (Captain Morgan’s, apple syrup, honey water, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, since you ask).
Similarly sociable, unusual and, well, booze-focused are Paint & Wine tutorials, doing what they say on the tin.
Traditionally, cruise ships have a godmother for their christening – often a famous figure, and often aged over 50. Not so U by Uniworld: here the term is ‘Guardian Angel’ and the hip ambassador in question is none other than Czech supermodel Petra Němcová.
“Travel is so important,” she explains. “Because when you travel, you are transformed by seeing different cultures and countries; you learn so much about people. Travel allowed me to understand the world better – and the place I can have in it, how I can actively shape it.”
Hence Petra’s Happy Hearts Fund, which she started after nearly perishing in 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami. The charity helps to rebuild schools affected by natural disasters. Through its TreadRight Foundation, Uniworld’s parent company The Travel Corporation is a partner.
As well as Happy Hearts Fund, you’ll be able to support the Amy Foundation, which empowers struggling youths in South Africa’s Western Cape. Amy Foundation bracelets can be bought in each ship’s boutique.
There’s also a stress on sustainability. Food is locally sourced where possible, and all ships strive to operate a paperless environment – including digital menus and a free PressReader app, allowing guests to receive news electronically.
Many millennials, especially those in the 21-30 age range, aren’t flush with holiday cash. This explains U by Uniworld’s appealingly low prices. Where week-long cruises with sister brand Uniworld cost from £2,500 per person, seven-night Rhine sojourns on The A begin at £999 by comparison.
Included are seven nights of accommodation, two meals per day, daily excursions, onboard wine tasting, two parties and wi-fi.
By Richard Mellor
MTV Travelled With... U by Uniworld’s (0845 678 5656) seven night Rolling on the Rhine itinerary cruises from Amsterdam to Frankfurt on The A and costs from £999 per person (or £125 per day), based on a double share, departing 14 April 2018. The price includes 14 meals on board, 13 included excursions, 2 dedicated U Hosts, on board wine tasting, welcome party and local celebrity DJ party, plus port charges and gratuities. From this spring you will be able to travel to Amsterdam by rail with Eurostar from £51.50 one way. For The B, travel from London to Paris by Eurostar costs from £58 per person.