In an industry first, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has launched U by Uniworld, a new brand aimed at river cruisers ages 18 to 40, which will feature vessels with a more contemporary look and feel, fewer inclusions and longer stays in each destination.
Uniworld will renovate two of its existing vessels, the River Baroness and River Ambassador, which launched in 1997 and 1999, respectively, after which they will be entirely dedicated to the U by Uniworld brand. Sales of U by Uniworld will start in March 2017 and the first sailings will begin in early 2018.
The 116-passenger sister ships, River Baroness and River Ambassador, are being transformed to have a more contemporary look and feel, featuring communal tables for dining, a new culinary program, cocktail mixologists and international DJs onboard.
For U by Uniworld, the company said it also plans to develop more immersive and experiential itineraries with longer stays in each destination, to "connect explorers to local experiences and vibrant nightlife." The product will offer a mix of more free time as well as guided excursions with a more adventurous bent. There will be opportunities to meet locals, as well as to dine and drink at bars and restaurants on-shore.
While Uniworld has not yet provided pricing information for the U by Uniworld line, typically when there is more free time and fewer inclusions, pricing is lower than a fully-inclusive product such as the main Uniworld brand.
For years, river cruising has battled with the perception that it is a travel style that appeals predominantly to baby boomers and retirees. More recently, several companies, including Uniworld, have been working to attract younger travelers onboard by offering multi-generational family departures. But prior to this, none of the major river cruise lines had created a product specifically dedicated to millennials and Gen Xers, younger travelers in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
"U by Uniworld is poised to define the river exploring experience for an entirely new demographic," stated Brett Tollman, chief executive of Uniworld's parent company, The Travel Corporation. Tollman noted that the company plans to tap into the expertise of its Contiki and Busabout brands, which are aimed at younger travelers, "in order to fully realize this expansion of the Uniworld brand."
In recent years, Uniworld has evolved its main river cruise brand into a six-star luxury all-inclusive river cruising experience featuring bedazzled vessels that primarily cater to the well-heeled baby boomer set, complete with white glove butler service and over-the-top details and decor.
According to Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld's president and CEO, "U by Uniworld will deliver the same superb quality of authenticity and personalization that the Uniworld brand is celebrated for, while offering a new way for exploratory, younger travelers to experience the pulse of Europe."
In a very millennial-esque approach to developing the new product, Uniworld will also be crowd-sourcing suggestions and requests for U by Uniworld through a social media campaign, #AllAboutU, and is encouraging participation through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The new U by Uniworld brochure and website, along with additional details, will be released in early 2017.