stepped stumbled off a six and a half hour flight from Brooklyn (who knew it took just as long to get to France as it does to get to LA?). Running on minimal sleep and airport Hi-Chew, we dove head first into our premier visit to Paris. Unprepared for the roller coaster-level line at Charles De Gaulle Airport customs, I wished I grabbed a SkyMall Magazine (do they still make those?) for the wait, but honestly, my excitement deterred any annoyance.
Jackson and I had never flown together before this, and he had never been to Europe. So when we were finally hit with our first cool Parisian breeze, I couldn’t help a beaming smile to unfold across my face. That’s when we were immediately greeted by the team at Uniworld for their first sail along La Siene. Allons-y, y’all.
Here’s our recap of the trip, one that is perfect for couples or those traveling to Europe for the first time.
Uniworld has been sailing luxury river cruises since 1976, but their average sailor generally fell between the ages of 50-65. Wishing to reach a younger, more lively demographic, the company launched U by Uniworld, specially catering to a 21-45 age group.We joined fellow travel writers, photographers, and “cool Instagram kids” from all over the world to set sail on The B, U’s first boat.
When we arrived around 8 a.m. on the first day of the company’s inaugural cruise, the crew gave us passports to scan when we got off and on the boat, to ensure the boat never left a sailor who drank a little too much champagne. The boat’s design perfectly reflected its Millennial passengers, with a loud, yet somehow not over-the-top aesthetic of bold patterns and neon signs.
We ran like children down the boat’s narrow hallway to our rooms, our shoes colliding with the black and white geometrically-patterned carpet, framed by complementary black and white, vertically-striped walls.
The boat had three levels. The bottom level housed half the rooms and a giant dining room where brunch and dinners were served. The middle level held the other half of the rooms, the check-in desk, and a cool lounge with an open bar and plenty of cozy booths outfitted with outlets to get work done (if you’re into that sort of thing) or to charge your phone while you’d have a drink.
And the top level housed the “Ice Bar” — a club/lounge of sorts that could fully collapse when the boat traveled under low bridges. This level also housed a sprawling deck, surrounded along the circumference by comfy couches and sunbathing chairs, all beneath a picture perfect Eiffel Tower backdrop.
The Uniworld brand is known for its incomparable dining service and upscale menus. U wished to capture and maintain that essence, but with a younger, hipper twist. The food served was super “farm-to-boat,” taking full advantage of the cultural culinary notes Paris offers. Each morning began with a brunch buffet, but this was no continental, half-done all you can eat.
We could choose from toasts like almond butter and jam, mozzarella and tomato, or hummus and roasted veggies, or a build a DIY yogurt bowl with healthy smoothies and juices, or even have a made-to-order pasta bowl or omelet. Not to mention, we could fill our plates from the obvious platter of European meats, cheese and baked goods, and naturally, finish off with something sweet like carrot cake or lavender cupcakes.
The brunch buffet served out around 30 choices each day, and then from day-to-day, never repeated a dish. Let’s just say we started each day like we thought we would never be starving again.
Dinners were equally as tasty, from DIY salads to a high-end burger to a full family-style swordfish. One night even concluded with a crazy build your own dessert plate, with tiny cakes, gummy candies and ice cream.
If the food wasn’t enough, somehow the drinks were even better. The bartenders on board came from all over the world, and brought their crazy good drink skills with them. On the first night, we sat at the second-floor bar for hours, choosing bottles and asking them to whip up whatever cocktails they’d like us to try.
“Another one?” They’d asked with coy smiles.
Needless to say, we were pretty tipsy by the night’s end, and around midnight, Jackson asked where we might find some late-night food — as New Yorkers, we’re accustomed to an after-bar pizza slice or deli sandwich. But her answer fulfilled a wish we did not even know we had.
“Oh, we have hot dogs,” she replied.
The dog came on a warm, toasted baguette, served with barbecue chips and toasted nuts. And when I say this was the best hot dog I’ve ever had, I mean it.
On the way back to our rooms we stopped by the vending machine at the end of the hallway, hoping to grab a final bedtime snack. Jackson grabbed a few Euros from his pocket and to check the price, hit the buttons corresponding to the potato chips. To our drunken surprise, the chips just fell down. For free. We turned to each other, smiling and jumping up and down like kids. “I think that was a top-five moment of my life,” Jackson laughed.
U by Uniworld brought a sort of “choose your own adventure” to this trip. Supplying us with multiple options each day for morning and afternoon activities, so we could build our own itineraries from their planned tours and for our own exploring. From bikes, smaller boats, and walking tours, to museum scavenger hunts, and secret rooftop adventures, Uniworld supplied endless chances to explore off the boat.
The catacombs were by far our most memorable activity. With Uniworld, we were able to skip the massive line and jet right to the front and down below the world.
Our guide offered the perfect amount of information, allowing us to also silently walk through the dark passages, the walls lined with the bones from six million bodies. We likewise loved the nighttime tour of the Eiffel Tower. We again jetted to the front of the line, just as the tower sparkled to signal 10 p.m. We traveled up to the second level and obviously enjoyed the #views with champagne and macaroons.
Our biggest takeaways from this trip were that U by Uniworld is a perfect option for travelers who like a bit of structure in their trips. Not to mention those who like to have a cool river’s breeze flowing by their beds each night. Uniworld also caters well to couples. There’s just something (even more) romantic about Paris on a boat.
Written and photography by Molly and Jackson