If you’re adventurous, like a party and don’t have hundred dollar bills spilling out of your pockets, you’ve probably never considered a river cruise as a viable travel option through Europe.
So why now?
Thanks to Uniworld – one of the world’s best known and revered river cruising companies – you can see multiple cities (or countries!) only needing to unpack once. With Uniworld’s new brand “U River Cruises”, you bring your own restaurant, bar and nightclub with you across Europe, with familiar friends, hosts and tour guides.
Uniworld has had U River Cruises floating around for a few years now (Pun intended!). This off-shoot catering to the younger-at-heart demographic offers similar itineraries to its big sister at a more affordable price, and in August 2019 I was lucky enough to experience it for myself!
Why is U River Cruises cheaper than the better known river cruising brands?
As suggested, U caters to a different demographic than your usual river cruise crowd and thus has less inclusions. Less inclusions sounds like a bad thing, but it makes complete sense if you take the following into consideration.
U cruises are broken up into shorter sailings (which can be linked up if you’re after a longer cruise) so travellers can have it as part of a larger overall trip as opposed to the cruise being the sole feature of their travels. This in mind, there are no transfers to or from the port included in the fare.
U’s demographic are usually touring or independently travelling before and after their planned U cruise. So while the accommodations are a vast improvement, they certainly aren’t expecting a butler or the near 1:1 crew to passenger ratio you receive on your upmarket cruise-lines.
With days spent actively adventuring and late night stays in various ports, most passengers choose to do their drinking off the ship. So while early-bird bookings and special themed itineraries have recently been including drink packages, as a general rule alcohol is at extra cost.
This brings us to shore excursions. There is a general city tour included at most ports, again with the idea that passengers then go explore independently and freely as opposed to hand-held history lessons in a larger group. That being said, there are extra experiences available from something as leisurely as brewery tours or fairytale castle visits to kayaking or rock climbing! By making these a payable extra, travellers with the extra dollars can take these excursions without affecting the fare of those keen to soak up the local vibe at their own pace.
So who exactly is this U demographic?
You may be getting the impression that I’m talking about young, party animals procrastinating toward adulthood with boozy trips and Euro gap-years. Sure, this crew fits in perfectly and before 31 yr old me actually did the cruise myself, thought this was who I’d be spending my time with.
Now wouldn’t you know it, not all seniors enjoy knitting or playing solitaire. Not all people over 30 want to go to bed at 9:00 pm and not all parents or grandparents are too unfit or worn down by life to get excited about a 30 minute hike through a German forest to hang out in an ancient castle. Sure, there were a few more experienced passengers on-board that simply took advantage of an affordable cruise, and maybe didn’t find the neon lighting, late night DJ sets and special tattoo themed itinerary to their taste. But amongst the 20 years old Instagram influencers and glamorous tattoo models, I befriended a recently retired policewoman from San Fran, a nan and pop from Ireland and a 50 years old Russian-Canadian realtor. None of whom, on any planet in this solar system, would’ve enjoyed tea and bikkies in a Victorian styled lounge area with easy listening tunes softly filtering through.