women in travel
Travel Courier
Issue Date: Mar 21, 2019
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The Uniworld story continues

Luxury river cruise line set for major expansion


With five new Super Ships coming online between now and 2020, as well as exotic destinations to go with them, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is once again raising the bar in the luxury river cruise category.

The new ships are in line with the line’s commitment to transform its entire fleet to Super Ships in the coming years.

By 2020, more than half of the ships in Uniworld’s fleet will be a “Super Ship” with the addition of three new vessels in Vietnam, Egypt and Portugal and another Super Ship renovation in Italy.

The new floating boutique hotels will feature the signature touches and distinctive themes the company’s ships are known for – more suites, more dining venues and more luxurious finishes, while maintaining their high crew-to-guest ratio.

According to Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge, over the last five years the company has aggressively moved on its plan to transform the fleet that began in 2017 with the successful launch of the S.S. Joie de Vivre, the debut of the fully renovated S.S. Beatrice in 2018 and the premier this April of the completely transformed S.S. Bon Voyage. The plan continues in 2020 with four new Super Ships planned for the Mekong, Nile, Venetian Lagoon and Douro rivers.

“We have been in a consistent and relentless pursuit of excellence,” says Bettridge. “But expansion for expansion’s sake has never been our business model. We are fortunate to operate under the guidance and vision of the Tollman family – a family synonymous with hospitality and innovation. We do not answer to a board of directors or investors, but instead, boldly commit to the projects that will continuously elevate Uniworld to the leading position within the river cruise industry. Our ships are absolutely unique and like a boutique hotel, reflect the destinations they serve from décor and artwork to food, beverage and programming. We look forward to making our high calibre of service and personalization in these remarkable destinations even better.”

Michelle Palma, vice-president, field sales – North America for Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, said Uniworld is committed to transforming its entire fleet to Super Ships and “excited for clients to sail on them,” with its sixth Super Ship, the S.S. Bon Voyage, set to hit the waters in April.

“Our entire fleet is being completely transformed in that we are stripping them back to the metal and creating completely new ships,” she said. “This reflects how we are continuing to evolve as a brand. We are adding new dining venues, swimming pools, increasing the number of suites and the sizes of the suites and so much more.”

In April, Uniworld will launch the newly transformed S.S. Bon Voyage that will sail the Dordogne and Garonne rivers as Uniworld’s sixth Super Ship. Clients will be able to experience the Bordeaux region of France in true all-inclusive luxury on the eight-day Brilliant Bordeaux itinerary where they’re sure to discover the proud legacy and heritage of the region.

Inspired by the renowned wine and gastronomic expertise of the region, Palma said the S.S. Bon Voyage will represent the bountiful destination – from the “beautiful design on the ship’s bow to the enhanced culinary opportunities onboard.”

Food and beverage is at the forefront of the Super Ship’s re-imagination with the introduction of two new onboard dining venues. The space formally known as the Blue Fox Café will be converted into a casual dining venue that opens up on to the new pool and serves lighter fare with a local spin, such as ham and cheese baguettes, Niçoise salads and pizzas directly from its pizza oven – well suited for daytime poolside dining. In the evening, this space will become an alternate bar location and will also be used for immersive culinary experiences, including intimate French cooking classes with the chef.

A bistro inspired by Bouillon Pigalle in Paris is being added at the bow of the ship, offering guests shared plates at dinner, reflective of the local cuisine onshore – from Beef Bourguignon to rich pâtés and escargot.

Clients will also have many opportunities to get out and go. They can enjoy yoga in the heart of the historic Blaye Fortress, a bike ride along Bordeaux, walking tours through quaint villages and much more.

Other new Uniworld Super Ships launching in 2020 include:
S.S. Sphinx, Egypt.
Egypt is back and continues to be a top trending destination for travellers seeking culture and adventure. Uniworld will be launching the newest, most luxurious ship on the Nile river on Jan. 6, 2020. Named after the goddess of the Nile, the S.S. Sphinx will offer three gourmet dining venues, including a private dining room and an al fresco dining experience on the upper deck, a swimming pool, massage room and 42 suites.

The ships itineraries feature 12 adventure-filled days allowing guests to experience Egypt and the Nile’s top sites starting and ending in Cairo.

S.S. São Gabriel, Portugal.
Launching on March 26, 2020, Uniworld’s S.S. São Gabriel will be the newest ship on the Douro river. The entire top deck will offer lavishly appointed suites, enhanced with butler service, giving guests the option to dine at any time they’d like while enjoying the ship.

Guests on S.S. São Gabriel will experience the UNESCO-designated Douro River Valley and indulge in the best of Spanish and Portuguese culture and cutting-edge, locally sourced cuisine.

S.S. La Venezia, Venice.
The River Countess will undergo a complete design renovation and re-emerge as S.S. La Venezia on March 27, 2020 bringing guests complete luxury while exploring Northern Italy.

The S.S. La Venezia will offer a 10-day itinerary that starts with an included two-day land stay in Milan where guests will visit Da Vinci’s renowned The Last Supper and then continue with an eight-day of cruise through and around Venice, the Po river and three outer-lying Venetian islands – Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello. Guests will also have the option of purchasing the eight-day cruise-only portion of the itinerary.

Mekong Jewel, Vietnam & Cambodia.
Debuting on Jan. 3, 2020, this will be the newest and most luxurious ship on the Mekong river. Uniworld’s all-suite ship will include two dining venues – one main restaurant and an al fresco eatery on the upper deck.

The Mekong Jewel will be 10 metres longer than the Mekong Navigator, but with the same capacity offering guests more space and amenities. The 13-day itinerary will take guests from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, with visits to Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat and more.

As for its relationship with travel advisors, Palma said that the luxury line and the travel agent community go hand in hand.

“Agents are the cornerstone of our success. Unlike other cruise lines, we do not do consumer direct advertising,” she said. “We’ve made a conscious decision to invest in our trade partners by developing the tools and resources they need to succeed in growing their river cruise business.”

For example, Uniworld recently launched a partnership with PBS’ new show, Amanpour & Company, and the TV spot directs viewers to contact their travel advisor to book.


Agents’ River Currents booking tool enhanced

Uniworld has also introduced new technology enhancements to its “River Currents” travel advisor booking tool, as well as new wait-list functionality.

These new advancements give agents more opportunities to generate sales, save time and ultimately avoid missing out on potential client bookings.

The new wait-list functionality for both Uniworld and U by Uniworld clients was created so that agents can add their clients to a wait-list on selected sold out cruises for a minimal deposit.

Other new enhancements include:
Expanded Promo Code Functionality and Messaging. When utilizing a promotional code, once entered, River Currents will now advise status of the Promo Code as either “successfully applied” or “rejected/invalid.”

Clear Break Down of the Savings. In the “Breakdown Section” after the promo code has been applied, it will breakout the savings amount upfront. Agents no longer need to complete a booking to see the full savings breakdown.

Ship Board Credits. Any applicable Ship Board Credits will now be notated in the savings breakdown section during the booking.

Simple Invoice Sending Options. Should an agent wish to send, view, print or e-mail a copy of an invoice for a booking, they can now do so via River Currents.

Booking Status Displays. All bookings made in River Currents are now displayed so that travel agents can easily determine a booking’s status. Statuses include: Confirmed, Paid in Full, Deposit, Released and Cancelled.

WIN A one week boutique river cruise FOR TWO on any European itinerary in 2019

As a primary sponsor of the 2019 Agents’ Choice Awards readership survey, presented by Travel Courier, Canadian Travel Press and PressToday, Uniworld is offering a one-week boutique river cruise for two on any European itinerary in 2019. For a chance to win this prize – or others – simply take part in the Agents’ Choice Awards survey at:

https://agentschoice2019.questionpro.com/ .

Closing date for voting in Agents’ Choice 2019 will be April 5, 2019.