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

Prestige Hong Kong - - AGENDA TOYS -

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

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