The Most Romantic Way To See Paris? It's On A Boat.

I never went on a babymoon. In fact, I was the kind of pregnant person who rolled her eyes at the idea. I silently judged the couples who posted carefree Instagram photos from tropical locales; mocktails and bikini-clad bump pics were not for me. This might be because I've never been much of a joiner. But reader, let me tell you this: If I had realized that it would be a full three years before my partner and I went on a solo vacation without our adorable, exhausting third wheel, I might have been more inclined to make the effort.

This is all to explain that when U by Uniworld invited me to check out its inaugural voyage on the Seine, I wasn't just jumping at the chance to fulfill a lifetime dream of taking a river cruise (damn you, Downtown Abbey!), I was also thrilled that my first real adult adventure in years would take me to the most romantic city in the world with my sleep-deprived, attention-starved significant other. It sounded like a dream vacation.

But maybe you don't have an energetic 3-year-old. Maybe you're a 20-something wanting to take a solo adventure that will allow you to meet some cool new people. Or, maybe you're a coupled-up 30-something looking to check France off your bucket list. Or, maybe you're a 40-something planning a getaway for you and your best friends. Should you check out U by Uniworld? Read on to find out.

Editor's note: The writer's travel and accommodations were paid for by U by Uniworld.

Photo: Courtesy of U by Uniworld.
The company's website promised rooms with Eiffel Tower views, and as we drove up to our ship, newly-christened the "B," the landmark loomed gloriously in the distance. It might been the jet lag, but the sight alone was enough to make me giddy — and the feeling continued as we boarded the sleek, matte-black boat.

The look of the B is intentionally more boutique hotel than cruise ship, which makes sense given its target demo: millennials. As you wander through the boat, there are interesting contemporary artworks and playful design features that feel primed for Instagram likes. The aesthetic is a little over-the-top, but on a luxury cruise, you kind of want it to be, right?

Our balcony bedroom was very small, but smartly-done. It had all of the things I look for when I travel: a comfy bed, plenty of outlets, free Wi-Fi, nice bath products, and convenient places to store all of our stuff. We didn't spend a lot of time in there when we weren't sleeping or getting ready; it was too cramped for that. But as we were cruising along, there was one morning where we lounged in bed with cappuccinos, looking out our balcony at a view of the French countryside. That was pretty spectacular.

Note: There are also studio bedrooms for solo travelers as well as hostel-style triple-occupancy rooms for people who are looking to get a cheaper rate.
Cruises aren't known for their food. While it wasn't the most memorable part of my trip, the two "farm-to-table" meals provided each day (brunch and dinner) were always beautifully prepared and pretty tasty. The croissants were some of the freshest I've ever had. The scrambled eggs were bizarrely good. (I'm pretty sure the secret ingredient was butter. Lots and lots of butter.) There were delicious French cheeses available at every meal. And I had one chocolate mousse that brought tears to my eyes. In other words, the kind of food you would expect to be amazing here, was. There were also plenty of healthier options for those looking to start the day on the lighter side, like chia pudding, fresh fruit and yogurt, and green juice.
Photo: Courtesy of U by Uniworld.
All of the dining spaces and lounges on the B are bright, open, and airy, and feel engineered to encourage mixing and mingling; we shared family-style dinners with new people almost every single night, but it never felt forced or uncomfortable — more like a dinner party of like-minded strangers. (The Champagne probably helped with that, but it's worth noting that alcohol is not included in the price of your trip.)

The waitstaff, and the staff on the boat as a whole, were incredibly friendly. Everyone we met made a point of getting to know us and what we liked. They wanted feedback on everything from the comfort of the bikes (are bikes ever comfortable?) to the nightly DJ lineup in the lounge. The B is small enough that it's possible to make real connections with everyone working on board; this wasn't something I'd experienced on larger cruises, and was definitely a plus in my book.
Photo: Courtesy of Caroline Stanley.
The Seine Experience cruise starts in Paris, and makes stops in Conflans Sainte-Honorine, Rouen, Honfleur, and Vernon. For the launch, we did a slightly abridged version that skipped Honfleur and Vernon.

Before we had a kid, my partner and I were the kind of travel snobs who prided ourselves on creating a well-researched dossier on every single place we visited. At this point in our lives, finding our passports is about all the challenge we can handle. We both agreed that we were happy with the curated activities and excursions the cruise offered in each location, as well as the opportunities to explore different towns on our own. (This is me tooling around in Conflans Sainte-Honorine, one of Vincent Van Gogh's favorite spots.)

U by Uniworld is big on the idea of offering unique experiences, which means that trips to more traditional landmarks like Versailles typically include some kind of insider access. (During our trip, we had the chance to venture into the gorgeous chapel where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI got married. That's not usually part of the tour, and the guide had to use a special key to let us in.)
Photo: Courtesy of Caroline Stanley.
One of the highlights of the Paris portion of the trip was a panoramic double-decker bus tour for foodies that took us around some of the most 'grammable parts of the city while we brunched. It was a very relaxing way to cover a ton of ground in a short of amount of time. I'd also highly recommend the treasure hunt we did at the Louvre with THATMuse — think The Da Vinci Code meets The Amazing Race — and the city roof tour, which takes you to the top of Place de l’Etoile and Musées du Monde Arabe.

And of course, the obligatory visit to the Eiffel Tower itself, which is a lot more magical when you do it at night (and get to skip the line!). We followed our visit with a midnight stroll along the Pont Neuf, which definitely lived up to the hype. My only regret: Not buying a chocolate crepe from one of the vendors we passed along the way.
Photo: Courtesy of U by Uniworld.
There is a spa on the B, which offers treatments like massages and foot reflexology for an additional fee, as well as a small-but-mighty gym if you're so inclined. (Victoria's Secret model Petra Nemcova, who was on board as the "guardian angel" for the ship's virgin voyage, gave the latter two thumbs up.) We took advantage of the open-air morning yoga classes on the rooftop deck (thankfully, the instructor took mercy on us), as well as the guided bike tours offered at each stop.

Outside of downward dog, the rooftop is a great place for grabbing a drink and watching the sunset — and for a few brave souls, even camping. For a brief moment we also turned it into our private dance floor during the ship's "silent disco" night; I was on the salsa channel and had no idea my partner was dancing to old-school hip-hop as we sailed down the Seine in the moonlight. That's an incredible memory I'll cherish forever, and it's not something we ever could have experienced on our own.
Photo: Courtesy of U by Uniworld.
The B officially debuts in April 2018, offering eight-day Seine Experience sailings with rates starting at $1,759 per person. If you book your trip before December 31, 2017, you can save 20% on your fare. There are also U by Uniworld cruises that take you along the Rhine and Danube. Find out more here.
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