Falling for U
Approaching the port in Budapest, I saw her straightaway. Black against a sea of white, she exuded an aura of cool that made me feel like a rockstar amid a crowd of wannabes. She was one of U by Uniworld’s newest ships, the A, who along with her sister, the B, has made river cruising funky for the young and young at heart.
The onboard aesthetic continues the chic theme with pops of neon colour and Andy Warhol prints accenting the sleek black and white decor.
But while the look is cool, the vibe is warm with welcoming staff ready to make us feel at home. Their only request? For us to have fun!
This seems like an easy desire to meet as we greet our new sailing friends joining us on this eight-day cruise, ‘The Danube Flow’, from Budapest to Regensburg. A mix of Americans, Canadians, South Africans and Aussies, they include solo travellers, along with groups of friends and couples.
Let the voyage begin!
Choose your own adventure
Thankfully the days of relentlessly regimented itineraries have been replaced by offerings balancing guided tours with unescorted adventures. And U by Uniworld has this down pat.
On our first evening, after enjoying a hosted stroll through the legendary after-dark hotspots of Budapest, we peel off from the group and discover a cosy underground gin bar, the perfect setting to soak up the city’s night-time mood.
Over the next few days, we continue this theme, sticking to our own path in Budapest to take in the grandeur of Buda Castle and a dose of history at the House of Terror museum. Then on our half-day in Bratislava, we go for the hosted tour for a lesson in Slovakia’s communist past and a walk around the old town.
Back on board the A, we settle in for a half day of cruising on our journey to Vienna. The rooftop proves the perfect vantage point to take in the scenery and chill out to relaxed tunes from the resident DJ. As the sun soaks our deckchairs, the cocktail of the day provides cool relief and it’s hard to imagine any bar at home ever living up to this.
The city of dreams
As we arrive in Vienna, the sun has set and we head off after our U host, who leads us into the thick of the local nightlife. With all the must-see spots pointed out, we’re left to our own devices and team up with some new friends for a city exploration.
Stunning baroque streets take us to the spectacular St Peters church after which we venture up to the Sofitel hotel top floor bar, where the blanket of twinkling lights below adds to the magic of this enchanting destination.
A trip to Vienna would not be complete without a musical interlude and the next evening we’re treated to a private concert for Uniworld and U by Uniworld guests. Feeling like Austrian nobility, we sit in awe as a small group of musicians from Vienna’s Symphony Orchestra brings the popular concertos of Strauss and Mozart to life.
A bevvy good time
Sailing into the Wachau Valley, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful viticultural landscape. We drift past steep terraced vineyards and storybook towns, before arriving in Weissenkirchen for a tour of the gorgeous Holzapfel winery. The tasting showcases Austria’s star grapes – Grüner Veltliner and Riesling – and we board the ship satiated, ready to unwind once more on our rooftop haven.
The pastel painted streetscapes of Passau in Germany are our next destination and we take bikes from the boat to explore beyond its borders. Having conquered the incline up Veste Oberhaus, we reward ourselves with a Bavarian beer at the top. On the way back, it’s tempting to get lost in the backstreets, to slip into one of the many cafés, bars, shops or churches.
But dinner back on board beckons and it’s exciting to anticipate what the chefs have prepared. Every day is different and with both brunch and dinner included in the fare, there’s so much to savour.
Highlights included the omelette station at brunch, freshly pressed juices and a range of options catering for any dietary need. Everything is fresh, with local ingredients featuring in the buffet-style feast. While drinks are extra, the one-off pre-payment ensures a daily flow of mimosas at brunch, cocktails in the afternoon and wine with dinner.
As our journey winds up in the port of Regensburg, we’re left with not only a new bunch of friends, but a much sexier perspective on cruising.
The Danube Flow is one of six European itineraries from U by Uniworld. Prices start from $2,499 for 8 days. See ubyuniworld.com or get inspired at #TravelforU on Instagram.
Exclusive offer for Selector readers/Wine Selectors members: Book any 2019 cruise, and U by Uniworld will give you a $100pp credit to use for U time excursions.