New river voyages aim to net youthful travellers
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.