Open Jaw

Making Magic For Millennials

U by Uniworld is not your mother’s – or your grandmother’s – river cruise

On the preview cruise for U by Uniworld’s The B, inaugural events included a drum circle designed to create a spiritual energy onboard, a champagne sabering ceremony on the top deck and a renaming ritual where guests released biodegradable lanterns to symbolize letting go of Uniworld’s River Baroness ship and starting anew with The B.

The intent was clear: to demonstrate to the travel influencers, agents and media onboard that the experience offered by U by Uniworld will be unlike any previous river cruise concept.

The ships are designed to be waterfront boutique hotels, but the company says they are much more than that, describing them as “your taxi, bar, favourite restaurant, coffee shop, nightclub and yoga studio.”

The goal is to make European travel for 21-45-year-olds a relaxed, hassle-free and very social experience. Onboard, guests can expect everything they’d find in a modern boutique hotel, but with the added benefit of making it easy to visit several European destinations in a single trip while only having to unpack once.

While U by Uniworld will offer a very different experience than that of its sister brand, the luxurious, award-winning Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, there are some features that are shared and sacrosanct. Uniworld is renowned for having the most professionally trained staff on Europe’s rivers. The same standards apply to the staff and crew on U. But in addition, each U cruise will carry two dedicated hosts from Contiki, the high-energy youth travel company that is also part of The Travel Corporation family.

Onboard yoga. Camping on the top deck. Silent disco parties. Mixology, impressionist painting and wine classes. All offered aboard The A and The B. And again, not your average river cruise activities.

Another difference: alcohol is not included on U by Uniworld. It will be a cash bar and drink packages will not be sold. U by Uniworld wants to nurture a convivial, social atmosphere, but not a drunken bacchanal.

That said, U by Uniworld’s VP Sales North America Michelle Palma says alcoholic drinks will be priced affordably. They’re not aiming for a staid ambience by any means. Rooftop DJ parties and the mixology and wine classes are proof of that. They’re also an indication of the interactive desires of the target audience.

“The U audience doesn’t want to watch someone make them a drink. They want to participate in the process,” Palma says.

U by Uniworld’s onboard dining will feature fresh culinary options, made from locally sourced ingredients. The ships will feature two venues for dining, a full-service restaurant and casual rooftop eatery. For those in the mood for breakfast (or dinner) in bed, room service will also be available.

“Chefs will be sourcing in ports every day and we’ve partnered with individual farmers for meats and vegetables,” says Palma. “It will be a true farm-to-table experience, with many shared dishes and communal dining opportunities. It’s a fresh, contemporary approach, taking the best of the regions we travel through.”

Palma says introductory pricing is in place for 2018, starting in the gentle range of $200 per day. “We’re offering very attractive pricing to build momentum. We anticipate increases for 2019.”

Introductory pricing is just one of the ways U by Uniworld is looking to help agents present the product. Social media tool kits are available featuring posting-ready content for all channels, aimed to hit the target market where they live.

And Palma says agents would do well to court past Uniworld guests, who may be inclined to help introduce younger members of their families to the joys of European river cruising. Taking a page from Contiki’s successful playbook, U by Uniworld is offering agents tool kits designed to encourage parents and grandparents to give the gift of Millennial river travel.

“We’ll do anything and everything we can to help agents,” Palma says. “We’re here to help them grow their business.”


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