Already a leader in the luxury river cruise market, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collections is taking it up a notch this year with new itineraries and four new Super Ships being added to the fleet.
For adventurous travellers, Uniworld has the world covered, offering all-inclusive itineraries in Europe, Russia, China, Vietnam and Cambodia, India and Egypt – sailing on a total of 23 rivers in 24 countries.
By the end of this year, more than half of the ships in Uniworld’s fleet will be a “Super Ship,” along with the addition of three new vessels in Vietnam, Egypt and Portugal and another Super Ship renovation in Italy.
The new floating boutique hotels 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 a high crew to guest ratio.
Uniworld president and CEO Ellen Bettridge says 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 last April of the completely transformed S.S. Bon Voyage. The plan continues this year 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 Tollmans – 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.
NEW SHIPS LAUNCHING THIS YEAR INCLUDE:
S.S. Sphinx, Egypt
Egypt is back and continues to be a top trending destination for travellers seeking culture and adventure. Uniworld is the only luxury river cruise line in Egypt and is launching the newest, most luxurious ship on the Nile river. 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.
S.S. São Gabriel, Portugal
Uniworld’s S.S. São Gabriel will be the newest ship on the Douro river. Designed to embody the beautiful Douro River Valley region, the ship will bring the destination to life through its décor and delectable food and wine. The entire top deck will offer all lavishly appointed suites, enhanced with butler service.
S.S. La Venezia, Venice
The River Countess will undergo a complete design renovation and re-emerge as S.S. La Venezia, 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 cruise through and around Venice, the Po river and three outer-lying Venetian islands – Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello.
Mekong Jewel, Vietnam & Cambodia
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 ship is constructed with sustainable and eco-friendly materials, such as specially designed propellers that increase performance and efficiency, energy-efficient LED light fixtures, automatic air conditioning controls and a water cooled air-conditioning system. The 13-day itinerary will take guests from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, with visits to Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, and more.
In a first for Uniworld, the luxury line will set sail in South America with two new itineraries throughout the Peruvian Amazon aboard the Aria Amazon.
Itineraries include the 15-day Peruvian Amazon & Machu Picchu Exploration that starts off with a land portion in Lima staying at a five-star hotel, followed by the seven-night cruise through the Amazon rainforest, and ends in the heartland of the Inca Empire with trips to the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and Cusco; and the 11-day Peruvian Rivers & Rainforest Discovery that takes guests to explore the colourful capital of Lima, immerse in the pristine Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve and sail through the Amazon River round trip from Iquitos. On all sailings, guests are joined by native naturalist guides.
The Aria Amazon is an eco-friendly, all-suite ship with floor-to-ceiling windows, giving guests the ultimate panoramic views of the rainforest at every corner. The top deck features a Jacuzzi, indoor lounge and bar, and an outdoor observation deck.
New for 2021, Uniworld is introducing two new itineraries incorporating cruise, land and train travel.
In partnership with Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, the two packages will travel through Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. This offers clients the opportunity to explore a variety of destinations across several countries in one journey, combining major cities with little-known destinations.
“At Uniworld, we are constantly looking for ways to elevate the intimate destination experience our guests appreciate and, quite frankly, expect,” said Bettridge. “Like river cruising, luxury train travel is an opportunity to bring our guests to the heart of Europe and with a view that changes daily. Train travel is a trend we are very much at the forefront of, and we are thrilled to be using this opportunity to broaden Uniworld’s horizon’s and explore new destinations the brand has yet to travel to.”
The new itineraries include the 14-day Cruise & Rail: Milan, Venice & the Swiss Alps that starts with a land portion in Milan, a round-trip cruise from Venice and ends with a train trip to Zurich; and a 12-day Cruise & Rail: Venice & the Swiss Alps starting with a train trip from Zurich to Venice and then a round-trip cruise.
And how important are travel agents to the luxury line? In a word, “very.”
“Travel advisors are the cornerstone of our success in the Canadian market. We do not advertise direct to consumer, and, as such, we rely on our agency partners to promote and recommend the Uniworld brand to their clients,” said Michelle Palma, vice-president, Field Sales – North America. “We choose to invest our marketing dollars with agency partners to drive our growth because we believe in the power of these partnerships.”
She added, “Our goal is to provide advisors with the knowledge and tools they need to grow their business with Uniworld. Whether that’s through in agency training or online with our Uniworld University program, we know that the key to success is being able to articulate the Uniworld difference to their clients.
“We have an incredibly dynamic and passionate team in Canada with Lisa Willey in the West and Federico Berardinucci in the East. They are committed to helping agencies and advisors build their luxury book of business.”
Also keeping Uniworld in the forefront is its commitment to the environment. The luxury line has been a leader in sustainability for river cruising since 2013 with the launch of its Environmental Sustainability for River Cruising Guide, made in partnership with The Travel Foundation and TreadRight.
Beyond implementing and sharing these best practices, Uniworld is committed to enhancing and protecting communities the brand visits through diverse initiatives.
Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, The TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit working to safeguard the planet, wildlife and people for generations to come. TreadRight’s mission is to #MakeTravelMatter through conservation, leadership and support for communities.
“Our Make Travel Matter Pledge is another step on our journey and an impactful one, as it further solidifies our commitment to helping protect the destinations we work with, its communities and local wildlife,” said Brett Tollman, chief executive, The Travel Corporation and Founder, The TreadRight Foundation. “As responsible travellers, TreadRight’s ethos has become part of our company’s DNA and what we stand for, and we share our pledge with our guests, as well as partners in hopes they will join us.”
All of Uniworld’s on-board garbage is separated and recycled. Additionally, Uniworld’s newer Super Ships, including S.S. Joie de Vivre and S.S. Catherine, feature modern and efficient diesel electric propulsion systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These features will all also apply to the line’s new Mekong Jewel and S.S. La Venezia.
Uniworld works in partnership with “One Tree Planted” to plant one tree for every guest who opts for e-docs instead of paper documents, which contributed to reducing paper waste by 110,278 kg in the last two years. Additionally, all unnecessary stationery and paper items have been removed from the ships, and on-board paper use is regularly assessed.
Uniworld is committed to eliminating all unnecessary single-use plastics in its offices and on board its ships by 2022 and has already reduced plastic waste by 27,374 kg in the last year by removing all plastic straws, water bottles and related plastics from all ships in the Uniworld line. (www.uniworld.com)
As a primary sponsor of the 2020 Agents’ Choice Awards readership survey, presented by Canadian Travel Press, Travel Courier and PressToday, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collections is offering agents a chance to experience a one-week boutique river cruise for two on any European itinerary in 2020.
For a chance to win this prize – or others – simply take part in the Agents’ Choice Awards survey at travelpress.com/agentschoice.
The closing date for voting in Agents’ Choice 2020 is April 3.