PLY ME A RIVER
The level of comfort, service, wining, dining and cultural interaction aboard a Uniworld Boutique River Cruise makes a week or two’s meander most appealing
AT WHAT KIND of 130-guest accommodation might you find 17 premium whiskies, 11 vodkas and nine gins? Your first guess may not be a river-cruise ship, yet that’s a typical example of attention to detail – as is a staff-to-guest ratio of 1:2 – aboard US-based Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, which is all about such luxurious touches. Anyone who has been on a quality sea cruise may wonder what differences to expect on a Uniworld river cruise. “With the small number of passengers, everyone knows your name, or if you like your water sparkling or flat. It’s a truly intimate experience,” says Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge. “You never wait in line for anything, unlike aboard a big ocean ship; you can literally hop off at a small port – there’s no long wait for the docking process. It’s quiet, there are no waves, you always see the land next to you; it’s definitely a more relaxed experience.” Routes include some of the world’s most famous waterways, alongside exclusive sightseeing and cultural experiences: the rivers Rhine and Danube are plied in 15 days from Amsterdam to Vienna, with visits to a BMW factory and Austria’s oldest wine estate; the Danube canal and lower river make up a 10-day itinerary from Vienna to Prague that takes in castles and Jewish heritage sites. In Asia, the Mekong, Ganges and Yangtze rivers are all cruised – and in Hong Kong, Miramar Express is the Uniworld general sales agent. “Visits to Venice are special,” says Bettridge. “We visit St Mark’s Cathedral [Basilica] at night, and get a unique experience to go behind the altar and into the catacombs. And our Morning with the Masters programme visits museums before they open, when we’re the only people there.” Sustainability is paramount. Uniworld aims to “lead the industry with recommended best practices, from energy and solid-waste to water and environmental management systems”, according to Bettridge. “We try to offer the local food in the destination we’re at – it’s about supporting the people around us and enjoying what’s really in the local markets. In France, for example, we’d serve local beer, wine and cheeses.” The priority for Uniworld is passenger enjoyment. “All drinks and gratuities are included,” reminds Bettridge, “so the customer can just switch off.” The average stay is seven nights, while the longest is 25 – a route from Amsterdam to Bucharest.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: CEO ELLEN BETTRIDGE; A DINING ROOM ABOARD THE SS MARIA THERESA; CRUISING PAST THE HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT BUILDING ON THE RIVER DANUBE; LUXURY ACCOMMODATION ABOARD THE SS MARIA THERESA