With DJs and bunk beds, U by Uniworld River Cruises is targeting millennials

When you think of river cruises, millennials don’t come to mind, more like an elderly couple marching to their billionth church on a two-week European itinerary.

Now, by launching U by Uniworld, luxury river cruise line Uniworld wants to change that. Sales have just opened for the company’s first voyages in April 2018, when two boats will be launched.

Designed as high-design floating boutique hotels and trendy social hubs, these ships will take passengers – aged 21 to 45 – to many of Uniworld’s ports of call, including Paris, Amsterdam and Budapest. But the similarities end there. U caters to millennials with more in-depth, hands-on, locally-focused experiences.

Uniworld President and CEO Ellen Bettridge reveals all the differences between the new product and its traditional river cruise offerings.


You will be different even just because of who is on board. The average age on the motherships is 50 years old. U only takes passengers between the ages of 21 and 45, limits that will be enforced. “We assume we’ll end up between 27 and 35,” Bettridge says. “It takes enough money to go on vacation, and to want nice things.”


U is launching with four eight-day options: a round trip to Paris on the Seine; Central European trips from Amsterdam to Frankfurt; Frankfurt to Regensburg, Germany; and Regensburg to Budapest on the Danube, Main and Rhine. During the winter break, U will add two holiday-themed five-day trips, and Central European excursions can be combined into longer trips. The routes as a whole are relatively short, in a nod to the limited downtime of active youngsters.


As with Uniworld travel, most docking sites are in city centers. U takes advantage of this with later departures and more frequent overnight stays. Ships depart from Paris and Frankfurt at 2 a.m., and Central European voyages include up to five nights in port, compared to just one on a comparable Uniworld voyage.


The two renovated Uniworld ships, the two boats of U—the A and the B— share a general physical plane with the supply fleet. You can accommodate up to 120 guests, ten less than the Uniworld average, A and BThe “Studio” rooms of can accommodate three people, instead of the standard two, in a bunk bed and another single – this is something that no Uniworld ship has. In another departure, solo U travelers can request a roommate, rather than paying a single supplement.


A and BStaterooms, like those at Uniworld, will have Savoir beds, marble baths, flat-screen TVs and other five-star amenities. But where Uniworld’s exteriors are largely white, with interiors that reflect the traditional decor of places a ship sails, U leans towards the contemporary – think sleek black exteriors and black-and-white interiors. In the open-plan public spaces, sofas, hammocks, beanbags and large deckchairs await you. Bettridge envisions “a cool lounge experience, DJs playing, lots of TVs, opportunities for social media, places to connect and talk.”

Shore Excursions##

The highly tactile, millennial-oriented land offerings include plenty of options, with passengers able to choose from one included adventure or several others, called “U Time,” for an additional fee. They can also choose to explore on their own. At stops in Rüdesheim and Frankfurt on the Rhine, for example, the included excursion invites passengers to roam the countryside, while U Time offers them the opportunity to taste Rieslings in a 12th-century monastery where The iron Throne filmed.

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Activities on board##

U will have bigger gyms and hands-on cooking and cocktail-making lessons, rather than demonstrations. There will be silent dance parties on the upper deck with local DJs and noise canceling headphones. Also look for opportunities to go biking or kayaking.

Food and meals##

U will take Uniworld’s on-trend and on-site focus further, planning to emphasize street food and change menus frequently “to reflect what’s happening in each port,” said Bettridge. During a major break, U’s fares will only include two meals per day, breakfast and usually dinner. This keeps the rates more customer-friendly, but also “if lunch is included, you feel compelled to come back,” notes Bettridge. “We set up every aspect of it to have guests doing things.”


Unlike Uniworld, U does not include alcohol in its fares, but there will be several prepaid drink packages. U will expand Uniworld’s local bent from wine to beer and cocktails. “If there’s a cocktail that’s the Amsterdam cocktail, right now, we want to make sure we’re serving it,” says Bettridge.


U fares start around $1,000 less than Uniworld, with eight-day Central European itineraries on the A from $1,699 per person, and those on the Seine on the B starting at $1,999.

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