This Boutique Line’s Mystery European River Cruises Are Selling Out

Would you take a river cruise without knowing where you’re going until after you board?

This Boutique Line’s Mystery European River Cruises Are Selling Out

Uniworld’s first mystery cruise was on the Rhine and Moselle rivers—the destinations for the next ones remain under wraps.

Courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises by Hello Fotographie, Germany

In 2019, passengers boarded a ship of British brand Fred Olsen Cruise Lines in the United Kingdom and found themselves on a mystery cruise to the resort town of Great Yarmouth, and on to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Three years later, the mystery cruise concept is back—and travelers are eager to indulge in the surprise element of not knowing where they are sailing until after they board the ship.

Last month, upscale river cruise line Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection hosted its first-ever, 10-day mystery European river cruise, which sold out in 48 hours after initially going on sale in the spring. It was such a hit that two more such cruises are planned for the fall.


Uniworld guests participate in a winetasting at Eberbach Abbey in Eltville, Germany, during a June mystery cruise.

Courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises by Hello Fotographie, Germany

According to Uniworld, the timing is ideal for this type of fun and exciting travel experience. The company’s passengers have indicated they are ready to travel despite COVID concerns and aren’t as focused on where they go as much as on just wanting to get out and see the world again.

With two more mystery sailings on this year’s roster, the line’s websites teases: “This is your chance to go on a truly once-in-a-lifetime vacation that will leave you amazed at every turn, and our chance to pull out all the stops on one of our most incredible journeys yet. The catch? Every detail of it will be a surprise, so you’ll just have to trust us to do what we do best.”

Uniworld’s first Mystery Cruise, which set sail on June 12, 2022, took passengers to Switzerland, France, and Germany, along the Rhine and Moselle rivers. The sailing was on the 128-passenger River Queen, a vessel with art deco interiors that resemble a 1930s steamship—a river ship where Agatha Christie might feel right at home.


Mystery cruisers called Uniworld’s ‘River Queen’ home for 10 days.

Courtesy of Uniworld

As promised, passengers had no advance indication of where they were traveling, other than the fact they would be in Europe. About 30 days before the cruise, they received their cruise documents, which showed where they would be flying, with air arranged by the cruise line. They also got a suggested packing list in advance.

The ship embarked in Basel, Switzerland, and sailed to Baden Baden, Germany, with Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld’s CEO, coming onboard as the “surprise guest.” Each evening Bettridge led a creative reveal of the next port—one evening she dressed up in a grape costume to tell passengers that at the upcoming stop in Mainz, Germany, guests would have a choice of a winetasting or a brewery tour.

Along the way, passengers visited the Eiger Glacier in Switzerland, took a horse carriage ride through the Black Forest, and were served dinner at the medieval Castle Ehrenburg in Germany. Adding to the fun, the cruise featured such special events as a James Bond–themed evening, a Roaring Twenties party, and an audience participation magic show.


A horse carriage ride through the Black Forest was among the surprises on a recent Uniworld mystery cruise.

Courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises by Hello Fotographie, Germany

For its second and third mystery cruises, starting on September 23 and October 2 and operating on the same route back-to-back, the only clue is that the sailings will take place in a completely different destination than the first cruise. The fares are from $7,299 per person, with limited availability remaining.

One reveal: Bettridge will be onboard the September cruise. The special guest for the October trip remains a mystery.

>> Next: This Is Officially the Coolest Way to River Cruise

Fran Golden covers cruises for AFAR.
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