Apologies for the digital hiatus everyone but I’ve just returned from a glorious week of floating through the Rhine. Needless to say that my mind is still on cloud nine and I’m still wishing that I were waking up to the gorgeous green pastures in Germany. U by Uniworld was launched in April this year as the younger, sexier and more playful sibling to the OG of luxury, boutique river cruising – Uniworld. After this trip, I graciously retract all previous statements I’ve ever made about river cruising.
I know what you’re all thinking at the moment… the answer is no – I haven’t quite settled into retirement just yet. But what I will say is that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed being on a river cruise. Goodness gracious, I’m sounding older than I need to. Did anyone else read the last two sentences with a posh English accent? Because I sure as hell did.
Back it up. Let me rephrase (in a more youthful way) what our week was like onboard The A…
OH EM GEE, the cruise with U by Uniworld was low-key lit AF. #SorryNotSorry. The struggle is real right now with all the FOMO I’m experiencing of not being able to be a basic b*tch and insta-storying the sh*t out of everything on fleek about this trip. TMI? OTT? I can’t even.
Don’t worry, I have pics…so it did happen.
Now, back to the experience onboard The A and I’ll make sure I recount my experience in words that we can all understand (including me) so here goes nothing.
I chose to experience the Rolling on the Rhine itinerary for this trip, which for us – started in Frankfurt and finished in Amsterdam. I’ve surprisingly done very little of Germany with all my visits to Europe and I thought it was time that I gave it the proper attention it deserved.
There are two ships in the U by Uniworld fleet and we were onboard the sleek and chic vessel dubbed The A. Personally, I’m relieved they’ve gone with no muss no fuss names and not something cheesy like Wind Dancer or Serendipity. I’ll give you one guess as to what the other ship is called. Yep, The B. Who woulda thunk it.
You’ll never have to worry about ever losing the ship or not being able to find it because it’ll be the only black ship on the water. Because everything is better in black right?
So here are some of the features of the ship:
- A rooftop bar fully equipped with lounges and outdoor sunbathing arena. I say arena because it really is a sport when it comes to soaking up all that European Vitamin D goodness.
- A U Lounge that’s on the middle floor that comes complete with dancefloor, foosball table and DJ.
- A gym that is surprisingly well equipped for the space it’s in – treadmill, bike, cross trainer, TRX, weights and the works.
- Rooms that all have a view so there’s no need to feel like you’re ‘slumming it’ like you would on traditional cruise ships with their no window inner cabins. The bathrooms are ridiculously luxe and roomy compared to some cruise ships I’ve seen and who can get enough marble-esque interiors?
The beds are dangerously plush so willing yourself out of bed each morning can be onerous to say the least.
- A dining area that serves buffet breakfasts and dinners throughout your stay to ensure that your waistline is adequately increasing whilst on vacation.
- A laundry room… well your dirty knickers need cleaning after all (there’s only so many times you can turn things inside out haha) and these guys have you covered with washer, dryer, ironing board and detergent.
The A sails through Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary whilst The B stays in France.
Food & Drinks
You’ll have breakfast/brunch and dinner included on board where the chefs will prepare the meals from fresh local produce to emulate local dishes in the region that you’re sailing through. Drinks are readily available and you need only request and the bartenders will accommodate almost every cocktail you’d like. They even make special ones each day based on the city you’re in!
The ship offers a drink package, which allows you unlimited drinks (alcoholic or not) for the entire week.
You know what they say…it’s not just where you travel…it’s who you experience your travels with. I definitely agree with this one 110% because what makes a trip even more memorable is the people you meet (both other travellers and crew members) and the bonds you forge.
Having come from a customer service background from a ripe young age of 14, I definitely consider myself a connoisseur when it comes to judging anything in the customer service category. The crew are always incredibly friendly; from the Captain to the vigilant waiters in the dining room who will never let you leave the room thirsty for water (it’s an inside joke but you’ll understand what I mean if you go experience one of these trips for yourself).
During your stay you’ll have two U Hosts who will basically be your first point of contact for any questions you may have about the week, any of the U Time excursions or just life in general… these guys will be there for you. You’ll also have a Wellness Coach who runs classes both on and off the ship depending on the sailing schedule. If you find yourself jetlagged and unable to sleep then get yourself up early one of the mornings and do one of the classes!
I’m going to take this chance to do another round of thank you’s to everyone including – Diana and Jennie (our U-hosts and fun-makers of the trip), Rene (our wellness coach, DJ, masseur and everything else he moonlights as… thank you for also accompanying me on my one and only morning run that I managed to wake up for), Captain HenkJan (thank you for noticing my hourly outfit changes), Tito (our hotel manager who has demonstrated that he is without a shadow of a doubt, a much better bike rider than I), all the restaurant guys from the chef to the manager to the waiters… you guys ROCK! (and a special shout out to my buddy Carlos for sharing my love for running and I hope your knee recovers soon!).
Last but not least, the security staff. I feel bad because I know none of their names – they never spoke much but… beneath their brooding silence, they were still friendly and worked incredibly hard every time we had to dock the ship. You’ll see what I mean when you get onboard yourself.
The U Time Excursions
These are the excursions that you elect to go on that aren’t part of your U-Host guided orientation walks or your bike rides. They’re usually experiences that are taken by local guides to give you a true understanding of the city you’re visiting.
The U Time excursions we chose to do were:
Red Light Special, Amsterdam– I’ve been to Amsterdam a few times now but I’d never gotten the opportunity to experience the Red Light District. It’s confronting but educational at the same time and the best part of it is you get to cruise down the canals at dusk with a cheeky drink.
Tip: Keep your phone in your pockets when walking through the district because the lovely ladies in the windows don’t appreciate any phones being taken out and won’t hesitate to let you know. Even if you’ve got maps on, wait until you’re out of the area before you take out your phones. Be respectful.
Canal Cruise, Amsterdam– you haven’t been to Amsterdam until you’ve cruised through the canals on a boat. Don’t take one of those big commercial boats but a smaller and more intimate open-air boat. If you’re lucky, the captain may let you take the drivers seat.
A’dam Lookout & Swing, Amsterdam– this was actually one of the activities on a U-time tour (bike the dike) but we chose to do this on our own sans massive bike ride (one Tour de France ride was more than enough for me). You can take a ferry across to the A’dam building and buy tickets to the lookout and experience the swing at the top that propels you out over the edge of the building. It sounds more extreme than it is and lasts just under a minute but we still had fun nonetheless.
Tip: Get there early to get your session time for the swing because we had to wait an hour before it was our turn!
Abbey Wine, Rudesheim – Game of Thrones fans should definitely check this place out. I’ve always wanted to a do world tour of visiting all the GoT set locations and you can cross one more off the list with the visit to Eberbach Monastery. You’ll also get to taste some Rieslings made in the region – it’s always 5pm somewhere in the world so I say cheers!
Dragon Castle, Bonn– I always knew I was destined to live in a castle and I found the one I’m going to move into (jokes) – Schloss Drachenburg aka Dragon Castle. Built by a banker (of course) in 1882-84, this castle was finished in two years but no one has ever lived in it. Such a shame. Those views are seriously breathtaking.
Tip: Make sure to climb up the north tower because the view is so amazing up there! Also visit the girls bedroom on the left side of the castle… it’s like a dream.
InOrbit K21, Dusseldorf– this was an added bonus that we got to experience at the K21 museum where you got to suspend yourself 20 metres above the lobby of the museum. With only a few steel mesh nets between you and the drop, this was seriously a treat for people who love heights. I promise that if you Google it – it looks easier and less confronting than when you’re actually on it.
Tip: Prep yourself for a sweat fest though because there’s no airflow up there and you have to wear prison jumpsuits during your session BUT it’s totally worth it.
We also signed up for the Blokarting trip but were unlucky with the weather, as we needed wind to actually make the karts move. I envisioned a bunch of us completing a Mario Kart race on Koopa Troopa beach; hurling shell bombs, leaving oil slicks and dropping banana peels on each other. But alas, it didn’t materialize. Hopefully you guys get luckier when you go!
Tip: If you plan on doing the Rolling on the Rhine trip then I suggest booking Anne Frank house tickets early (two months early) because the chances of you scoring tickets during the trip will be slim to none. You can thank me later and yes – it is that popular.
The U-Host Walks
These are the included orientation walks you get with your U-Hosts in each city you arrive in. Usually between 1-2 hours, they will take you through all the main parts of the city to help you get you bearings and then leave you to explore on your own. Some of these turn into bike rides but they will always offer a walking option for those (like myself) who aren’t particularly confident on two wheels.
After refusing to get back on a bicycle for seven years, I finally conceded and let baby brother teach me how to ride again in Frankfurt and let me tell you… I’ve never had to harness as much concentration into one moment in my life as I did the first day we checked in. With the crew from the ship staring at me (Captain included), the pressure was on.
Good news is that after a few wobbly attempts, I got the hang of it. Needless to say that by the fourth day of the itinerary when we had our Tour de France ride from Remagen to Bonn (25km to be exact and yes I realize we were in Germany) – I felt like Lance bloody Armstrong. If you enjoy bike riding then you’re in for a treat.
What You Need to Know About U by Uniworld Cruises
- You’ll be ridin dirty down the Rhine in the coolest looking, sleek black ship that comes complete with neon light trimming.
- Relax and enjoy yourself on the generous rooftop deck.
- There are two ships in the fleet that visit various cities including Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. They always dock in a central location which means that the key points of interest are usually within walking distance!
- Sleep ins are permitted onboard as most excursions start around 9-10am in case you have a late one.
- They have you covered with breakfast and dinners throughout the trip.
- Pick your poison with the range of U Time excursions on offer and customise the trip you want.
- There are bikes onboard the ship for you to take one out and go exploring in a city on your own.
- The ship is equipped with dance floor, silent disco, gym and laundry.
- Unpack just once. This is probably the best feature of travelling this way because we all want to see as much as we can but who else hates packing and moving from each location to the next, from hotel to hotel?
Alright so if I haven’t convinced you already to give river cruising a try now… I’m not sure anything else will.
Be sure to check out the different routes offered on the U by Uniworld website and let me know if you guys have any questions.
Check out my post on the essentials you need for your next European summer adventure here.