The global cruise industry is changing. Over the past decade, demand for cruising has increased by 62%, generating estimated revenues of $39.6 billion in 2015 alone — a $15 billion increase over a five-year span.

As the numbers are changing, so too are the voyagers themselves. Of the 23 million-plus people who annually embark on these watery expeditions, an increasing number are Millennials and Gen Xers. To attract this young clientele, cruise ships now feature celebrity chefs and hosts, elaborate shore excursions, movie theaters, and other amenities. This isn’t your grandfather’s industry anymore.

One such cruise line, U by Uniworld, is angling to capitalize on these shifting demographics. A new brand from Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, U by Uniworld is the first river cruise dedicated exclusively to travel enthusiasts aged 21 to 45. The experiential travel company will begin sailing in spring 2018 with eight-day itineraries on the Seine, Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers — with immersive shore excursions and longer stays available in cities including Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, and Budapest.

We were curious to see this new take on experiential travel for ourselves, so IVY Media sent our Trips Manager, Isabel Pett, on a special preview of U by Uniworld’s upcoming “The Seine Experience”. Here’s what we learned on the maiden voyage — and some of the social media influencers we saw.

IVY’s Trips Manager, Isabel Pett, aboard U by Uniworld’s luxury cruise ship, The B.

Paris is one the world’s most visited cities — but not everybody gets to see it on a luxury cruise ship. What did you learn about the city while floating along the Seine?

Isabel Pett: “You definitely get a different view of the Province from the water… I lived in France for eight months (five months in 2011-12, three months in 2014) and I had no idea that just outside of the metropolitan city limits of Paris were towns straight out of the sound of music! Never have I felt so at peace than when I was floating up and down the river while sitting on the upper deck with my morning coffee.”

What a great way to start a day: floating on a river through the French countryside, drinking wine and painting in watercolor

“Cruise chic” was the recommended attire for U’s The B maiden voyage celebration. What does cruise chic look like?

IP: “Being amidst so many social media influencers, I definitely felt like every day was a runway! These folks made fashion look effortless whether they were in their own line of yoga gear, dressed to wander the streets of medieval France, or in their satin pajamas for our farewell party! Some fan (read: me) favorites included Pia Muehlenbeck’s Versailles ruffles, Lauren Bullen’s glittering Eiffel Tower gown, or literally anything that the styling @yummertime couple Brock + Chris coordinated. Needless to say, I decided to leave my overalls in my suitcase!”

Paris is home to the Impressionists — and you got to attend an “Impressionism Paint & Wine Class.” Were you feeling inspired?

IP: “What a great way to start a day: floating on a river through the French countryside, drinking wine and painting in watercolor. Impressionism by definition includes the depiction of movement, so including this class during our trek between cities could not have been more relevant. We had the opportunity later in the day to literally follow Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s footsteps through Rouen as well as have a private cocktail reception in his old studio, so the entire theme was really well tied together by U by Uniworld’s crew!”

You were in town for the 2017 Street Art Race, an art-inspired 20K through the city’s downtown. Come across any good street art while on the move?

IP: “The race was such a great activity to have in the program! Not only did we get to see so much of the city that we wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to wander, but it was great to have an active component to a trip. For someone who travels so often, it’s really difficult to find time to stay fit!

“While the race was lacking in the traditional “street art” aspect — we didn’t see too many murals or artistic graffiti — there was a lot of music and that was pretty incredible. What better way to stay motivated over the course of 12-plus miles than to have different local bands serenading you every step of the way?”

I love having the opportunity to meet celebrities in a raw setting where you can get to know their true personalities and hear about their real passions.

Another excursion on your program was to the ancient “Mines of Paris” tunnel network. Tell us what you saw — particularly in the underground ossuary (aka the catacombs of Paris). Lots of bones?

IP: “So many bones. It was so interesting to see how neatly stacked all of these skeletons were, and often in interesting and intentional patterns. The tunnels were very low, dark, and musky, but being with the group and tour guide made it feel a lot less creepy. At every junction or shrine, our guide would give us a short historical lesson on the significance of that specific tunnel or historical figure. Very interesting!”

Your “Versailles Secret Tour” featured stories about the royal château told from the king’s mistresses’ perspective. Did you hear any good dirt?

IP: “This was actually my second time to Versailles and I happen to have a slight obsession with anything and everything Marie Antionette… That being said I didn’t learn anything new, but I was able to experience the grounds in a whole new way. U by Uniworld set up a tour of the castle as well as bike rentals and boat rentals so that we could soak up the views from all angles! Truly a magical experience.”

Enough about culture! How were the people and parties?

IP: “Wow, I met such a diverse group of people who share a deep passion for travel and making new connections. Honestly, it felt like an IVY event on steroids! Everyone I met aboard The B was truly an incredible soul and I learned so much from each of them in such a short amount of time.

“The most beautiful thing about traveling in groups (in my opinion) is the unmatched opportunity to get to develop such a deep and true connection in such a short period of time. The parties onboard the ship were also pretty epic — hello silent disco! It was so clutch to have both a lounge and bar space as well as an upper deck nightclub aboard the cruise. You could literally crawl to bed after partying until the sunrise!!”

And now the question on everybody’s mind: did you run into any celebrities?

IP: “The B’s guardian angel is Victoria’s Secret model Petra Nemcova, and she was onboard the yacht with us for the entire cruise. I love having the opportunity to meet celebrities in a raw setting where you can get to know their true personalities and hear about their real passions.

“Petra was chosen as the B’s guardian angel because of her non-profit, which the ship supports. She started the Happy Hearts Fund after surviving the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and now dedicates her life to helping children affected by similar natural disasters. IVY was given the opportunity to interview Petra alongside U by Uniworld’s President & CEO, Ellen Bettridge, and The Travel Corporation’s Chief Executive, Brett Tollman. Learning about the many ways in which these three individuals have made it their mission to use their fortuity to give back was a truly humbling and inspiring experience!”

U by Uniworld is offering IVY Magazine readers a savings of up to 20% off select 2018 itineraries, plus a $50 onboard credit for bookings made by January 31, 2018. Rates start at $190 per person, per day with the discount.

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