Moored on Quai de Grenelle near the Eiffel Tower, the jet black livery of The B immediately distinguishes itself from the white ships which sail lazily along the Seine. It might seem like a simple paint job, but really it’s a signal of intent.
U by Uniworld is a bid to reinvent an industry that’s growing steadily with the over 50s, but making no such splash in the millennial market. Its biggest challenge is changing the perception that cruises are antithetical to authenticity.
For the next four days this floating boutique hotel, where guests can shop MCM and Gucci as they sip on cocktails and chill on deck, will take a handful of American influencers from Paris to Rouen and back again.
It’s just a small taste of what’s in store for U by Uniworld in 2018 (see for yourself with the hashtag #travelforu), which promises longer stopovers so guests can spend more time experiencing local culture and excursions hand-picked to suit millennial tastes, with the help of partners Contiki.
The B operates on a tight security system, with facial recognition to identify guests as they climb aboard – and the technology doesn’t end there. Guests can communicate with crew over Whatsapp and stay updated via email. The experience will be even more personal once the U by Uniworld app launches in 2018.
There are 30 crew on board, including a team of chefs (who can prepare gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan meals on request), bartenders and a well-being instructor. There’s a 24-hour gym below deck and a cosy spa where guests can receive a range of treatments as the French countryside sails by.
U by Uniworld will also sail through the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria. Wanderlusters can sign up for a ‘supercruise’, combining two or more itineraries and lasting anywhere up to 22 days. There’s also the option to coincide your cruise with Oktoberfest, Paris Jazz Festival, Sziget Festival or King’s Day.
It’s early days but Uniworld is already hoping to capitalise on being the first river cruise for 21- to 45-year-olds. ‘We’ll be adding Vietnam and Cambodia within the next three years,’ says Brett Tollman, CEO of The Travel Corporation which owns and operates Uniworld.
Culture Trip was given a taste of what will happen when the first ship sets sail on 14th April 2018. First a mixology masterclass with two of The B’s enigmatic bartenders while tasting an assortment of healthy-yet-delicious canapés. U by Uniworld has made a commitment to only serving farm-to-table produce.
Next we are picked up by Retro Tours Paris and shown France’s capital city from the sidecar of a fabulous vintage Royal Enfield motorbike. Haring around the cobbled streets of Paris we are exposed to the real sights and sounds of the world’s most romantic city, seeing more in one hour than if we’d spent an entire day on foot.
After being dropped off near the city centre, we embark on a street art tour with French painter Simon Jacquin. While winding through the graffiti-splattered alleyways of Paris we are handed a bag of cans and shown how to create street art of our own.
Other excursions on offer include a behind-the-scenes look at the Eiffel Tower, a guided tour of the catacombs, which lie beneath the city, and an exploration of Paris’ famous rooftops. For foodies there’s the option to book a table at a local restaurant or enjoy a meal with a Parisian via partners VizEat, the app that connects strangers for a meal and a taste of culture.
Back on board there are 25 whiskies and 11 different vodkas to choose from and a wide selection of wines. There are live DJ sets at Ice Bar and enough sofas to put Ikea to shame, with plenty of space to chill out and get to know other guests.
You can also opt to charter the B exclusively – although it will cost you $350,000 dollars per week.
U by Uniworld’s eight day ‘The Seine Experience’ cruise on The B costs from £1,519 per person (£190 per person, per day). Lead in rates are based on triple occupancy and include on-board meals, two dedicated U Hosts, included excursions and on-board activities, a local celebrity DJ party, port charges and gratuities. Travel from London to Paris by Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) costs from £58 per person.