It doesn’t get more convenient than docking in the very heart of a city. You simply walk off your riverboat and into the charming squares and bustling marketplaces of Europe’s iconic cities…

Your ‘vehicle’ through Europe affords you the convenience of unpacking only once and enjoying world-class hospitality and cuisine on board.

The popularity of river cruising has been rising steadily, with 11% growth in river cruising globally reported in 2016, according to the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA).

“We are seeing the same upward trend in South Africa,” says Divan Viljoen, Cruiseabout Marketing Campaign Manager. “This is especially the case among younger travellers who desire a seamless, affordable and comfortable way of travelling through Europe and other destinations that offer river cruising.”

U by Uniworld

Interest among millennials for river cruising recently prompted Uniworld to introduce its U by Uniworld offer – the first river cruise dedicated to a new generation of adult travellers. Says Lieria Boshoff, Brand Manager for Uniworld: “This river cruise promises a sexy, stylish look and feel that offers immersive experiences along the world’s most popular rivers,” with amenities such as rooftop venues, spas, mixologists, international DJs, communal tables for dining and local farm-to-table cuisine.

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U by Uniworld

From themes to active river cruising, younger travellers have a variety of options and destinations from which to choose.

Viljoen offers these top picks for the 2018 cruise season:

1.      Get under the skin of Europe

River cruise ships can dock in the heart of big cities as well as in small villages along the river banks, explains Boshoff. Many of these smaller villages are often overlooked by the more traditional cruise operators.

On an Enchanting Danube cruise, Flight Centre and Uniworld offer travellers the chance to enjoy a ‘Village Day’ in Durnstein, with an exclusive Nikolaihof wine estate visit and tasting, and optional visit to the Saffron workshop. Or consider a Vinegar Tasting excursion at Doktorenhof Vinegar Estate on the Castles Along the Rhine cruise.

2.      Go local

For travellers who want to ‘do as the locals do’, river cruising provides insights into the day-to-day activities of locals with specialty excursions that are designed to go beyond tick-the-box travel experience for an authentic look inside the destination.

Uniworld’s partnership with EatWith gives travellers an innovative and immersive food experience during which they will have the opportunity of sharing a meal in the home of a local host.

Avalon Waterways meanwhile offers ‘themed river cruises’ where travellers can, for example, enjoy a beer-tasting experience, sampling some of the local beers on their way from Amsterdam to Belgium or travel with a professional sommelier through France.

U by Uniworld

“Themed cruises are appealing as people don’t have to create their own itinerary around their passion,” says Vijoen. “You can share your love of wine with a group of like-minded explorers or even your love of art, gardens, golf, history and music.”

3.      And the beat goes on

Avalon also offers special music and jazz cruise departures, including excursions to a classical concert in Vienna, a visit to Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg and the hills that came alive to the ‘sound of music’. There’s also the option to visit Vienne in France during its world-renowned Jazz Festival.

U by Uniworld meanwhile has timed certain cruises around major cultural events and world festivals. How about a visit to ‘EuroWoodstock’? Held on Óbudai-sziget – a.k.a. Old Buda island, a 266-acre strip of land in the middle of the Danube River – the Sziget Festival is one of the largest music festivals on the planet. From August 6-13, hundreds of bands, artists and DJs will take to the stage to entertain a crowd of half a million hard-core music fans.

4.      Bike,  hike and be active

A popular myth of river cruising holds that this kind of holiday is best suited to sedentary travellers. “Nothing could be further from the truth in the modern river cruising offering,” says Viljoen.

Many river ships have a small gym and carry bicycles and Nordic walking sticks. They also offer morning yoga classes and recommend onshore jogging routes and shore excursions that may offer cycling, hiking and kayaking.

On a river cruise to Switzerland, for example, adventure travellers can enjoy the area around Bamberg that boasts some of the most accessible climbing areas in the world. During a U Time excursion with Uniworld, you’ll travel to this beautiful outdoor playground, comprising 6 500 rock climbing routes etched into hollow crags and overhands, towers and massifs. Climbing pros can take on the Action Direct route, one of the most difficult free-climbing routes in the world.

Whether you’re an avid climber or still learning the ropes, this excursion will satisfy your experience level.

U by Uniworld