Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

That new(ish) river line, U, is nothing if not nimble.

Like the young adults it was originally developed to attract, the line that was launched as U by Uniworld in 2018 decided to assert its independence about a year in and become simply U River Cruises.

Turns out affiliations and long-standing reputations can be a plus, so it has quietly gone back to being U by Uniworld.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection CEO Ellen Bettridge said the name revert was simply a matter of "practicality."

"Our team did an exemplary job of introducing the U by Uniworld name, and while we had begun a soft rollout of a slightly evolved moniker, we spent more time correcting partners and the press," she said. "Lesson learned: When something works, it's best to leave it alone. We're U by Uniworld."

But the name change is just the latest news for the line, which with its two sleek black ships that are renovations of old Uniworld ships, continues to evolve its products and experiment with programs for new audiences.

Developed for millennials, the line abandoned that before it even sailed, becoming simply an adults-only line that targets "the young at heart."

For 2021, however, it is moving that target again, offering six sailings for families with teenagers.

Bettridge said that change is in response to customer demand. While children as young as 13 are allowed, she said the idea really is to attract families with older teenagers who want to be able to go off and do their own thing during vacation.

During the select sailings, there will be a designated teen lounge as well as activities unique to U like karaoke contests, foosball tournaments, camping on the rooftop, trivia nights and projector movie nights on the rooftop.

Parent-focused activities will include a culture and food tour by bike in Antwerp, Belgium; kayaking through the canals of Ghent, Belgium; yoga in vineyards in Austria's Wachau Valley; and a Viennese cooking class.

U is also making some other tweaks for 2021, most notably on inclusions. As a line with a lower price point, alcoholic beverage packages previously had to be purchased separately. Next year, wine and beer will be available with lunch and dinner.

Likewise, airport transfers will be included, and the line continues to build up its roster of excursion options, including biking to Domburg along the Netherlands coastline; jogging through the thousands of running paths in Rotterdam, Netherlands; and a pub crawl in Krems, Austria.

It will also offer its first foodie cruise in July with food influencer Salvatore DiBenedetto, known as The Grubfather.

Given the bold experiment U represented when it was launched -- targeting young adults in a sector known for its 50- and 60-plus age demographic -- it's not surprising to see the continued tweaks.

And Bettridge promises we will likely see more from the line, whose main goal, she said, is to just be fun.

"Our internal team is just so enamored with it," she said. "They're always watching, seeing what else is happening and figuring out how else we can make it even more successful."


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