The Changing Face Of Uniworld
[PHOTOCAPTION]PHOTO: Uniworld offers more locally sourced foods typical of the destinations in which it sails. [/PHOTOCAPTION]
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has evolved over the years into an increasingly luxurious product with lavishly decorated ships that operate throughout Europe and more exotic locales, most notably India. The line also has embraced a farm-to-table philosophy while offering more culinary-focused and active excursions.
“Travelers are increasingly drawn toward active and immersive travel,” says Guy Young, who was president and CEO of Uniworld for a decade before moving up into new positions at parent company The Travel Corporation.
That too, is part of Uniworld’s changing face. Young’s replacement is Ellen Bettridge, a former executive at Azamara Club Cruises, Sandals and Silversea Cruises. She joined Uniworld as president and CEO on Aug. 6 and a few weeks later named her former Silversea deputy, Kristian Anderson, as senior vice president of global sales of Uniworld.
Young now serves as the global brand engagement officer at The Travel Corporation, as well as president of CostSaver, Trafalgar’s fast-growing value brand. But before he departed Uniworld for his new posts, he updated Agent@Home on developments at the upscale river cruise line.
“Uniworld believes that one of the best ways to ensure a truly authentic experience is to immerse passengers in the local culture of the regions to which they travel,” he says. “The best way to do this is to experience local cultures through a culinary lens. Uniworld uncovers the finest foods sourced from regional farms, farmers’ markets and artisan producers, ensuring that every meal embodies the unique character of the surrounding region and the current season.”
That extends to the new Connoisseur Collection, which offers food-focused excursions on select departures in France. These tours are ideal for foodies, Francophiles and oenophiles, Young says. Among the activities are an onboard Valrhona chocolate tasting and wine pairing; a cooking demonstration and tea party at the Institut Paul Bocuse; tasting apples, cheese, cider and calvados at a local apple farm; cognac tasting at the Rémy Martin Estate; hunting for truffles at a truffle farm; and visiting La Couronne in Rouen, where Julia Child enjoyed her first French meal.
Uniworld’s target clientele also seek more active adventure during their vacations, including biking and golf. In fact, the company just partnered with Butterfield & Robinson to offer biking excursions along the Danube River. Also new are golf excursions in France, which tee off in 2017.
“Almost all of our product changes and enhancements are a result of what our guests tell us they are looking for, based on our guest feedback surveys and discussions [held] on board,” Young says. “Certainly, more active excursions come up repeatedly as well as the fact that many of our guests are avid golfers. Adding some golf excursions on some of our itineraries seemed the logical next step to differentiate ourselves and appeal to our guests.”
Uniworld was a pioneer in offering river cruises on the Ganges in India on the 56-passenger Ganges Voyager II. In 2017 it will operate the 13-day “India’s Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges” from New Delhi to Kolkata. The trip includes Jaipur’s Pink City and Agra’s Taj Mahal.
“Our India program has done very well and is very popular among our guests – especially those looking for a more adventurous and exotic location to sail in,” Young says. “Uniworld started sailing on India’s Ganges River in response to our growing customer demand and in an effort to expand into other regions.”
Uniworld also is building another ship that will enter service in March 2017. The S.S. Joie de Vivre will operate the eight-day “Paris & Normandy” itinerary on the Seine River. “The S.S. Joie de Vivre has the same width as the other Super Ships, but is shorter in length,” Young explains. “While the other Super Ships are 443 feet in length, the S.S. Joie de Vivre is 410 feet, so as to be able to sail the Seine River.” The S.S. Joie de Vivre will accommodate 128 guests in 54 staterooms, eight Junior Suites and two Royal Suites.
The ship is permitted to dock in the heart of Paris on the Seine River, making it the first of Uniworld’s Super Ships to do so. Its design incorporates 20th-century Parisian design, art and culture, drawing inspiration from artists and designers from the 1920s through the 1960s. “The Joie de Vivre will reflect the color, glamour, elegance and free spiritedness that were representative of Paris after the end of the Second World War,” Young says.
NEW FOR NEXT YEAR
As luxury ocean-going and river cruise lines continue to bundle more features into the advertised fares, Uniworld is simplifying its message by incorporating port fees into the total cost starting in 2017.
The company also says it will implement 24-hour room and in-suite butler services in 2017, as well as a new onboard concierge service that will help guests personalize their itinerary to cater to individual interests.
Additionally, Uniworld also is introducing two new itineraries in 2017: the 10-day “Rhine-Main Discovery & Munich” cruise including Jewish heritage excursions on all departures, and the 10-day “Paris & Impressions of the Seine” voyage, which explores northern France’s countryside and the beaches of Normandy
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A version of this article appears in print in the September 2016 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.
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