New river voy­ages aim to net youth­ful trav­ellers

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT -

From doof-doof on the Danube to choof-choof in Am­s­ter­dam, river cruis­ing is set for a shake-up with a new line aimed at the young — “in body”, that is, rather than “at heart”. While not quite Con­tiki, U By Uni­world is re­stricted to the ac­tu­ally sprightly 21 to 45 year olds, around half the age of the av­er­age river cruiser.

Squeez­ing into that bracket, a (youth­ful) mother and her (tol­er­ant) daugh­ter could fea­si­bly fit in, but the re­al­is­tic de­mo­graphic is likely to be 30-some­thing cou­ples and groups of friends.

It’s an in­trigu­ing grab for cashed-up back­pack­ers to get them off Eu­rail trains, youth hos­tels and booze-filled bus trips. More than that, it tar­gets the oft-for­got­ten un­der-40s who pre­fer to travel in style with other young pro­fes­sion­als, with­out get­ting drunk ev­ery day.

Far from a bor­ing al­ter­na­tive, U By Uni­world looks fun. A si­lent disco is one of the planned ac­tiv­i­ties. If you don’t know what that is, you’re too old. The res­i­dent DJ will also play at on-board dance par­ties, with not a pian­ist in sight. Pas­sen­gers can take ad­van­tage of dock­ing overnight to go to Europe’s best river­side bars and night­clubs.

Break­fast and shore ex­cur­sions will start later to al­low for sleep­ing in after th­ese big nights out. Tours range from paraglid­ing and white­wa­ter rafting to brew­eries, as well as after-din­ner op­tions such as an evening bike ride or a Mid­night in Paris- themed stroll. “Paint and wine” make an­other in­ter­est­ing combo, con­ducted on the ship’s top deck with a suit­ably scenic lo­ca­tion as back­drop. Mean­while, lager lovers can par­tic­i­pate in beer mixol­ogy classes. It all sounds very en­tic­ing, but it’s still a river cruise, which may be a tough hur­dle to over­come. Some­body prob­a­bly once said that about coach hol­i­days.

So how do you con­vince mil­len­ni­als to get away like grandma? First, slash the prices. The base fare for one week on U By Uni­world is $2495 a per­son twin-share, much cheaper than fares from par­ent com­pany Uni­world Bou­tique River Cruise Col­lec­tion, which spe­cialises in all-in­clu­sive lux­ury.

Th­ese younger cruises can also make it “semi-in­clu­sive”. There’s no free lunch be­cause you’re sup­posed to be in­de­pen­dent enough to find a cool cafe in­stead of be­ing back aboard by noon. There are also no free drinks; how­ever, you can buy a beverage pack­age.

Dis­ap­point­ingly for some, U is no booze cruise, but the food and Wi-Fi are still free, or else they’d get no­body on board. Launch­ing next year, th­ese youth cruises will be of­fered on Uni­world’s ex­ist­ing 116-pas­sen­ger ships River Am­bas­sador and River Baroness, to be re­named The A and The B. How hideously hip­ster.

Mod­ern ren­o­va­tions are promised, adding a rooftop lounge, an open-air movie screen and a smart­board where peo­ple can leave mes­sages about meet­ing up for drinks or go­ing ashore to­gether.

The com­pany is look­ing at other ways to help guests con­nect be­fore their trip, ei­ther on its web­site or so­cial me­dia. Itin­er­ar­ies will in­clude des­ti­na­tions in six coun­tries along the Seine, Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.

Trav­ellers can book a de­par­ture that co­in­cides with big events such as Ok­to­ber­fest in Ger­many or Bu­dapest’s Sziget Fes­ti­val, also known as Euro Wood­stock.

I re­ally hope it works and not just be­cause I slip in un­der the max­i­mum age. We could be wit­ness­ing the start of a new trend in travel. • ubyu­ni­world.com

Louise Golds­bury is editor of cruise­critic.com.au.

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