Source: Avalon Waterways
Luxury Travel

Once Sleepy River Cruises Aim for Millennials with DJs, Action Sports

Floating down the Danube has never been a millennial’s dream vacation … until now.

The standard river cruise goes something like this: You’re on a convivial ship with fewer than 200 passengers seeing the sights of inland Europe while enjoying nice digs, good food, organized group tours, wine and beer with meals, and free Wi-Fi. Much is preplanned and prepaid. All good, if you’re happy to travel at a slow pace with the senior set.

That relaxed river-cruising model is headed out the porthole, though. New on the scene are bold new adventure-themed itineraries: guided runs through Amsterdam, biking around Bavarian castles, dancing to celebrity DJs, and kayaking down the Seine. As for the nice digs, good food, and copious wine and beer? They’re staying put, of course.

Buildings sit on the edge of the River Rhine in Koblenz, Germany, on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017.

German villages as seen from the Rhine, a popular destination for river cruisers.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Leading the charge is U by Uniworld, which makes its debut next year with Danube and Rhine itineraries that go heavy on adventure.

“If I had a crystal ball, I would predict right now that we’re probably going to end up with people between the ages of 27 and 35,” says Ellen Bettridge, chief executive officer of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection Inc. Her argument: Visiting four countries in one week is the perfect lure for young professionals who are hungry to see the world. “They are seeking that vacation to have an opportunity to hang out with new people, new cultures.”

River cruisers on a bike tour in Hungary with AmaWaterways.

Source: AmaWaterways

Uniworld happens to share a parent company with Contiki, the go-to for younger travelers (age 18 to 35). In focus groups and surveys, river cruises proved they could be attractive to young, wealthy travelers. It’s the same crowd that could stay at luxury hotels but chooses hostels instead for the camaraderie, says Bettridge. “So we’re creating this great place for them to meet and connect.”

They aren’t the only ones. Here are the best of the bunch—along with the itineraries to know.

For Cycling Aficionados

Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin department, Alsace, France, Europe

Sailing through Strasbourg, France, with Scenic cruises.

Source: Scenic Cruises

A new partnership with biking tour operator Trek Travel LLC ramps up the action factor on Scenic, an Australian cruise line that puts the focus on all-inclusive luxury. (Booze is included, for instance.) Rhine and Danube voyages take place on 169-passenger ships, with daily bicycle rides stretching as long as 50 miles, though they’re broken up with visits to local wineries and breweries. After climbs of up to 3,000 feet, call on your butler to draw you a scented bath in your palatial suite.

The itinerary to book: One-week Danube River Cruise, from $6,899. Available May through September.


For Young Families

An Adventures by Disney ship sails down the Rhine.

Source: Disney

Disney fans of all ages are booking cruises on the Danube and Rhine with Adventures by Disney, which charters new 158-passenger ships from California-based river line AmaWaterways, aimed at more than just the under-18 set. Sure, the atmosphere is lively, with Disney guides supplying hand-holding and occasional silliness. But the tour roster includes zip lining and horseback riding. Seven Beauty and the Beast cruises down the Rhine feature dinner dishes that may be familiar to fans of the movie (Beef ragout! Cheese soufflé!), special French châteaux-inspired décor, and a visit to the French village that claims to be the inspiration for Belle’s hometown in the film. Disney also offers a few adults-only culinary cruises that focus on wine or beer.

The itinerary to book: One-week Rhine River Cruise, from $4,849 for adults, $4,619 for kids (under age 12); for departures in April, June, July, and August 2017.


For Type A Fitness Addicts

Biking along the Danube with AmaWaterways.

Source: AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways has long offered city tours by bike in its ports of call—now it’s added fast-paced hiking tours and a robust wellness program. On Paris-based sailings aboard the 148-passenger AmaLyra, guests have access to an instructor who leads runs onshore as well as onboard yoga and Pilates classes. Detox with fruit- or rose quartz-infused waters in the main lounge and green smoothie shots at breakfast. Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways, says the line attracts a good number of young honeymooners and that its wine-tasting cruises, hosted by California vintners, also draw a younger crowd. “You’ve done Napa—now you can do it on a ship,” Karst says.

The itinerary to book: One-week Paris & Normandy on the AmaLyra on the Seine, from $2,149. Available March to November. 


For Night Owls and Solo Travelers

One of the ships Uniworld is retrofitting, on the banks of the Seine.

Source: Uniworld River Cruises

U by Uniworld is launching next spring on two refurbished 116-passenger river ships to head down the Seine, Rhine, and Danube. With mixologists and local celebrity DJs on board, the experience promises to feel more like a floating nightclub, with an extra charge for all booze. A cafe and bar on the sun deck are decorated with beanbag chairs, sun beds, and hammocks, while the main lounge is getting remodeled to feature an expanded dance floor. Friends can book triple cabins, and solo travelers can get paired with a roommate to save a few bucks. Overnights in some cities allow for still more nightlife excursions, while tours such as brewery-hopping in Amsterdam and kayaking outside Paris will be scheduled later in the day for those who want to sleep in.

The itinerary to book: One-week in Paris & Normandy, priced from $1,999 per person. Available April to October (starting in 2018).


For the (Slightly) Intrepid

The 66-suite Avalon Panorama, which primarily sails the Danube.

Source: Avalon Waterways

Colorado-based Avalon Waterways has just introduced Active Discovery itineraries on the Avalon Luminary and Avalon Felicity, both of which carry 138 passengers, where hiking and biking tours are just the start. On the excursion lists: mountain climbing in Salzburg, running through the streets of Vienna, and river canoeing from Spitz, Austria. The trips premiered this year on the Danube but will expand to the Rhine next year. Not into such exertion? The line also draws a younger crowd on its occasional beer-themed cruises through the Netherlands and Belgium.

The itinerary to book: Eight-day Active Discovery on the Danube (including a hotel night in Budapest) from $3,519. Available July to September.

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