Passage through Europe

MANY dream of cruising on some of the most iconic rivers in the world onboard a ship that boasts luxurious amenities.

Now, Los Angeles-based Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is making such dreams a reality.

Founded in 1976, Uniworld offers themed voyages for its passengers with all-inclusive itineraries to Europe including Russia, as well as China, India, Egypt,

Vietnam and Cambodia – a total of 22 rivers in 26 countries worldwide.

The company has 12 ships in Europe, and one each in Vietnam, China, India, Russia, Egypt, and Spain.

Uniworld president and chief executive officer Ellen Bettridge, who came onboard in August 2016, is responsible for managing and overseeing Uniworld’s global business.

When met recently in Kuala Lumpur, Bettridge said the appeal of a river cruise, as opposed to one on the ocean, can be intriguing.

She explained: “There are only about 130 people on each cruise. It feels intimate. You never feel rushed.

“Service is impeccable because the staff can actually take care of you. They know who you are when you get on board.

“The real appeal of the river cruise is being in the heart of the city and the opportunity to visit so many places that ocean cruises can’t provide.”

Since most European cities were built along the banks of great rivers, travellers can enjoy great views of Amsterdam from the Amstel river, Paris (the Seine),

Venice (the Po and Piave) and Budapest (the Danube).

During their cruise, passengers will get to know more about the smaller towns that dot the length of the river.

Bettridge said that in some cases, passengers are amazed by the history connected to these little towns.

“Passengers also get a chance to visit the local vineyards and taste the local food,” she added.

Bettridge commented that Uniworld’s river cruises has been attracting a lot of interest from Asia, with business in Asia “growing exponentially”.

She added that most Asians like the Rhine and Danube cruises as well as the cruise from Paris up to Normandy and back to Paris.

She said Asian tourists like the convenience and services that Uniworld’s river cruises offer.

“We actually create unique experiences for the customers. We are proud to be able to give them an experience that no one else does.

“In Venice, Italy, we take our customers to St Mark’s Basilica at night when no one else is there.”

Even one of the oldest and best-known river cruises, the Nile river cruise, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

Bettridge said: “Our [Nile river cruise] bookings have gone up significantly over the past two years.”

The attention to service and care for its customers is not unusual for Uniworld.

“Our heritage, the brand behind us, is the Red Carnation Hotel in London,” Bettridge said.

“So that is how these ships are decorated. You feel like you are in a small boutique hotel.”

For a taste of what passengers can expect, look no further than what can be found on Uniworld’s newest ship, the 128-passenger Joie de Vivre, which sails from central Paris on an eight-night luxury cruise to Normandy.

In addition to Le Pigalle, the ship’s main restaurant, there is a Parisian-style bistro at the front of the ship with river views, and Le Cave des Vins, a food-and-wine-pairing venue, which is stacked floor-to-ceiling with bottles of wine.

There is also the heated pool in Club L’Esprit, a wellness area with a small gym, and indoor and outdoor seating that turns into a night-time supper club venue called Claude’s.

Passengers can unwind at morning yoga, swim in the resistance pool, and watch French classic films on movie nights.

The decor is inspired by 19th century Paris styles and fashion, featuring plush fabrics, marble-clad bathrooms, French-inspired furniture and art sourced from Sotheby’s.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has also recently launched U by Uniworld, the first-ever cruise brand of its kind aimed at travel enthusiasts aged 21 to 45.

There are nine enticing European itineraries that offer fun, immersive, authentic and adventurous travel as well as a seamless way to experience Europe from city to city.

Booking is now open for travel beginning April next year onboard the first two U by Uniworld ships – The A and The B.

For more, visit the Uniworld website.