Sarah Macefield heads to Amsterdam to see how U by Uniworld is rocking the river cruise scene
U by Uniworld is the latest – and coolest – new kid setting sail on the river cruise scene with its on-trend twin ships, The A and The B. This hip alter ego of more traditional sister brand Uniworld is targeting millennials with activity-packed immersive river cruises along the Seine, Danube and Rhine, offering a new take on entertainment, cuisine and adventures ashore.
From the moment I clap eyes on The A in Amsterdam, it stands out in mean and moody matt black with futuristic purple neon strip lights.
Inside, the cool, clean lines of slate and ivory give it the feel of a stylish boutique hotel, with Andy Warhol trademark Marilyn Monroe prints adding splashes of colour along with colour-changing mood lights and retro furnishings.
In line with the brand’s eco-friendly hi-tech credentials, check-in is a near paperless operation. Crew members in black hoodies take my email and mobile details for the WhatsApp group that connects me with The A’s crew and the other passengers.
Tour confirmations and the daily programme are sent electronically, while display screens around The A carry details of activities and menus. The onboard wi-fi is free and fast and social media fans wanting to stay plugged in while ashore can hire a personal router for eight euros a day. There is also a surfeit of USB ports and charging points in cabins and lounges.
Dining is another area of difference with two, instead of three, meals a day starting with brunch from 10am until 1pm, though pastries are available at the bar for earlier risers.
During my short stint aboard, complimentary bar snacks, such as beef sliders and sausage and chips, were offered in the afternoon, before dinner was served from 7pm to 9pm in the main restaurant, aptly named Dine, which has the feel of an upscale bistro with tables set underneath strings of hanging light bulbs.
It makes for a sociable ambience, aided by tasty sharing platters of grilled veggies, smoked salmon, cured ham and artisan cheese.
Venturing ashore is another area where U by Uniworld promises to break the mould, with graffiti tours, vineyard hikes and cycling trips on the The A’s fleet of mountain bikes.
My chance comes on the sands of IJmuiderslag, where I try blokarting, which proves to be fantastic fun.
But there’s much to enjoy on board The A, with a gym, plus yoga and body-balancing classes. The outside deck is the ultimate chill-out zone with pod loungers and chic cabanas. On warm evenings films are shown on a blow-up movie screen, while guests can pay for moonlight massages and sleep outside under the stars in a tent made for two.
The cabins are a study in pared-down chic, while the sumptuous marble bathrooms are a reminder of when this 124-passenger vessel was part of the main Uniworld fleet.
Most are compact standard and balcony categories, although there are four spacious suites. I like the two triple studio cabins where each bunk-bed even has its own flat screen TV and USB port.
At night the top deck Ice Bar comes alive with laser star lights and a silent disco, where I wear headphones to join groovers soundlessly throwing shapes to a mix of reggae and house music.
It’s a world away from traditional river cruising, but perfectly illustrates how U by Uniworld is jazzing up this sedate sector with its own distinctive tempo.
Read the Cruise Guide 2018 in full here