Can river cruising be hip and cool enough to appeal to millennials, the children of Baby Boomers known for being hooked on their smart phones?
Luxury line Uniworld is the first to target travellers aged 18 to 40 when its new sub-brand U by Uniworld goes on sale at the end of next month.
“No one else is doing this – we are innovating by moving into the millennial space,’’ proclaims visiting president and CEO of Uniworld Ellen Bettridge.
The line will refurbish two of its existing vessels, the 116-passenger sister ships, River Ambassador and River Baroness to make them more contemporary.
Out will go the old restaurant ware – communal tables will be the order of the day.
And forget the old piano man in the bar: an international DJ will be on hand while mixologists produce the cocktails.
U will be less expensive and have more active excursions and spend more time in ports.
To give younger guests choice and to keep prices within range of tighter budgets, alcohol is not included in the price of the cruise.
“They can always buy an alcohol package,’’ Ms Bettridge says.
“From our surveys and experience of our youth travel brand Contiki, millennials want to experience a new way of travel like river cruising – provided they can meet and mix with other international travellers of their own age.
“They also want to have fun and spend more time onshore.
“So there will be more active excursions like biking, midnight walks and visits to iconic bars. We are also giving millennials a subway pass and bus tickets so that they can spend more time exploring the city on their own.’’
Prices will average about US$300 per person per day , which will include two meals on board, gratuities and eight shore excursions for a seven-day cruise. The first U cruise on River Ambassador and River Baroness will set sail on the Seine and Rhine on 14 April 2018.
Shore excursions will include Europe’s vibrant nightlife, bars and restaurants especially in Amsterdam, Paris and Budapest.
Ms Bettridge said that Australia is the second biggest market for the luxury river cruise line after North America.
A total of 278 Australians have already booked on Uniworld’s newest ship S.S.Joie de Vivre this year. The ship to be launched next month, will sail the Seine River on the popular Paris and Normandy itinerary with Joan Collins as the ship’s Godmother.
The line owns 18 river ships and charters five for its itineraries in Egypt and Asia.