Are river sojourns really "the next big thing" in cruising? Uniworld thinks so. At a lunchtime press conference yesterday in New York, the line revealed more details on its upcoming river ship, River Royale ... and although the launch of this 132-passenger vessel seems to be the antithesis to that of, say, Royal Caribbean's gargantuan Freedom of the Seas, Uniworld's forward-thinking advancements could take this niche to the next level, attracting a broader and possibly younger clientele.
In addition to being the first river ship afloat to offer Wi-Fi and Internet access with e-mail -- as well as satellite ship-to-shore calling (read our initial coverage here) -- River Royale boasts a sophisticated hydraulics system that allows the upper deck railing and bridge to be lowered at the push of a button for easy gliding under low bridges.
On the non-technological front, River Royale will also feature new, more luxurious in-room amenities. Staterooms will be outfitted with European-style duvets and comforters, flat-screen televisions, a choice of pillows, and plush terry-cloth robes. On land, innovative shore excursions encourage activity rather than just sightseeing -- instead of just touring a winery, meet the vintner; instead of just tasting local chocolates, try your hand at making them. And for independent travelers, the line's new "Grand Value Cruising" program offers lower fares to those who want to customize their own roster of excursions (Uniworld's otherwise all-inclusive fares incorporate selected shore tours).
River Royale will set sail on its first season of seven-night Provence and Burgundy sailings on April 12.