Great blog by Lisa Homsy!!
In April I was invited to experience the best way to travel Europe with U by Uniworld. A cruise setting sail down the River Rhine from Frankfurt to Amsterdam. I was so excited to be part of this project! I remember having seen other influencers on the U by Uniworld ship through Paris back in November and the boat looked amazing. Earlier this year I had written a blog post on my 2018 bucketlist destinations, and I would be knocking 2 of them off the list in one trip! I was also really excited to share this experience with my bestie Mel. Lately, we have been working on different projects and it felt like we hadn’t traveled together in a forever. Plus it was her birthday so a European celebration seemed appropriate!
The last time Mel and I were in Amsterdam it was last January on a 12-hour layover on en route to Bali. Since we were traveling to the tropics we obviously were not properly dressed and spent our time running (literally running) from cafe to cafe to keep warm. Needless to say, we didn’t see much of the city.
In this blog post, I’m going to break down my whole experience with U by Uniworld into different categories. This will give you a better idea of what to expect when considering it for your next vacation and why I think it’s one of the best ways to travel Europe.
We landed in Frankfurt early on Sunday morning and made our way to the ship. When I say “ship” you need to know it’s much smaller than you probably think. Remember, we were cruising through a river, not an ocean. The U by Uniworld’s ships has a capacity of 120 guests and decorated with a very modern feel. Black and white tiled floors, unique artwork, a spacious lounge, and a beautiful rooftop. They also have amenities such as morning yoga on the rooftop, a gym, laundry room and a spa on board.
The rooms are small (I expected them to be, but they were smaller than I had imagined), perfect for 1 person. But they do have a ton of smart storage so that you aren’t tripping on your luggage. Thankfully, we each had our own room so the tight quarters weren’t really an issue because we barely spent any time there aside from sleeping. But if you want a little extra space, especially if you are sharing the room with someone, there are 4 suites on board which are much more spacious.
Now, the beds need a shout out all on their own for being the comfiest bed I think I have ever slept in! No wonder we rarely got up early.
It’s never easy when you have guests with so many different dietary needs but I have to give major kudos to the staff for listening to our every need. From pescatarian, vegetarian, gluten-free and celiac, the staff was so receptive and the meals got better every day. They took note of every allergy and preferences to make our time on board even more enjoyable. For example, after the first day, the staff went out shopping and surprised us with coconut and almond milk for coffee!!
Breakfast on the ship runs from 7-10am where they offer coffee and pastries. To be honest, I never went. As much as I love croissants, I need more than pastries for breakfast so I opted to just wait for brunch. Brunch runs from 10-1pm and is an elaborate buffet of freshly baked bread, yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit, an omelet station and a delicious salad bar, satisfying everyone’s needs. The salad bar was my favorite part, it was filled with leafy greens and some yummy ready-made salads. I always seemed to make a huge breakfast salad topped with a poached egg to fill me up.
The only issue with the brunch is that there isn’t really anything to eat on board the ship from 1-7pm if you get hungry. My suggestion, pack snacks! After a day of exploring or early morning shooting our group would always be the first waiting downstairs for the dining doors to open at 7pm.
Dinner was our favorite meal of the day, which came as a surprise to me because I’m such a big breakfast fan. Dinner is always a set 3-course menu, they always had the yummiest veggie option for those of us with dietary restrictions. One thing that really ties in the millennial theme is that everything on board the ship is either communicated to you via email or a group what’s app message. The dinner menu is sent out every day in case you want to opt out of dinner on the ship and wander the town to find a local spot. Honestly, the dinners onboard were always so good that we were excited to come back to the boat.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, we started our trip in Frankfurt and over the week made our way to Amsterdam, docking at several points along the way. Here is the map of our route and the locations we docked at, sometimes overnight and others just for a couple of hours.
If you are a solo traveler spending a week on board a Uniworld ship is actually a perfect way to see these cities and make some friends. The ship offers 11 group activities and 12 U Times (optional excursions) you can sign up for. We often opted to do our own thing as we were hunting for photo locations. However, we did participate in a few activities which were a lot of fun. Check out what we got up to in each city from my photo diary below!
We had a couple hours here so while most of the ship’s guests hiked to a castle, we caught an uber to explore a different one, Erhenfelds castle. The castle was all locked up but we had the entire place to ourselves and spent an hour roaming the grounds. Just remember to always get back to the port on time. Our uber driver got lost trying to find us and the ship nearly left without us. (Yes they will leave without you if it’s past their docking time.) If you miss the boat, it’s then up to you to find your way to the next port, trust me you don’t want that.
Mel had the genius idea biking the city and it was so much fun!! The ship has bicycles on board all so we each rented one out before leaving. By bike, we pedaled the cobblestone streets and were able to see so much more of the city in such a short time. We biked along the Rhine River to visit the old town Market Square (these colourful buildings). The Cologne Cathedral is also really impressive to see in person. It’s a massive church with gothic architecture and was actually declared a World Heritage Site.
Mel and I loved this town, it had so much charm. Dusseldorf is known to be a great little shopping town, and it didn’t disappoint! It was a little cold the day we were there and Mel was just in a summer dress. We ran into H&M to escape the rain and we both left with sweaters (that’s where I snagged this pink one). In wandering around we stumbled on this little farmers market with beautiful florals. And finally, when we got too cold (and hungry) we found a Thai restaurant to have a late lunch. You know I’m a sucker for green curry so no need to elaborate on what we ordered!
We only had 1 full day to explore Amsterdam so Mel and I hit the ground running. Prior to getting off the boat we had made an itinerary and mapped it all out. While we didn’t make it to everywhere on our list we did manage to see a lot fo the city. We started off at Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market where Mel picked up some red tulips and I got a bouquet of sunflowers.
Next, we went to the Botanical Gardens called Hortus Botanicus, before making our way to the Public Library. At the front entrance, the security guard stopped us and we were told that sadly we couldn’t enter with our newly purchased flowers. We didn’t want to give up our beautiful flowers so we made the decision to skip the library and went to lunch. (If you don’t have flowers in had you should definitely visit, it looks beautiful!)
I found The Avocado Show through Instagram and was dying to visit (an entire menu devoted to avo, yes please!), so we stopped here for lunch. At that point, we knew we weren’t going to be able to hit all the places we wanted to so we switched to plan B. After lunch, we went to Cornerhouse bakery so Mel could get a picture with their sinful milkshakes. And before heading back to the boat we made a point to get some iconic Amsterdam shots along the canal.
The last thing we needed to experience in Amsterdam was the Red Light District at night and on King’s Day no less! The streets were packed with people in orange and we had to keep laughing to keep our mouths from hitting the floor. Even this blog post cannot prepare you for the things you may see going on at night. Just be forewarned but it is definitely something to experience once in a lifetime and can make for a great rated R story.
On our final day, the ship docked in Haarlem and we caught an Uber to Lisse to visit the tulip fields. Keukenhof Gardens are so beautiful but very crowded so don’t expect to get many solo shots. After much deliberation, we braved the cold and rented bicycles. Looking back, it is the best way to see the tulip fields! We found this one farm with every color in the rainbow and the owner let us walk among his tulips to take photos. Note that typically you aren’t supposed to walk through the fields. In fact, there are signs everywhere forbidding you but if you just ask and are respectful, most farmers are very nice about it.
I hope you liked this blog post and found it helpful. When considering your next European adventure, don’t forget to check out U by Uniworld. The whole trip is an experience unlike anything else, you won’t be disappointed.