Uniworld has asked the travel trade to become intimate with its luxury offering to cut through the noise from other river cruise companies.
“Our story is still a little lost. We have two really big partners out here who are selling river cruise and Uniworld is a boutique company and we’re not for everybody, and we know that we’re the most expensive and we offer the most value, and most incredible experiences,” Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge said.
“Getting that message out there is tough, so we appreciate your [the trade industry’s] help.”
Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge was in Sydney to launch plans for 2019, in conjunction with The Travel Corporation CEO Brett Tollman and Uniworld managing director Fiona Dalton.
They held a sit-down three-course dinner for 80 members of the travel trade, who they reaffirmed their commitment to.
Tollman emphasised the trade relationship.
“We’ve listened so hard and earnestly to each and every one of you.”
The key is to enunciate Uniworld’s differences, Tollman said. “What we ask and implore of you is that you understand what makes Uniworld special,” Tollman said.
“We are not getting our fair share of river cruisers out of this market,” Tollman told the audience.
“The challenge is to find ways and find that cut through and identify those travellers,” he added.
Bettridge continued, “What I want from agents to do more than anything is when a client comes in asking for a river cruise, I want them to qualify the person.”
“I want them to ask what they want out of their vacation, as well as where they have stayed before, what hotels they like so they can get a good feel for what that client wants. If they put them on the wrong product they’re not going to come back to them or to the cruise line,” Bettridge said.
On April 4, Uniworld will launch their new river ship S.S. Beatrice.
“We’re never going to stop getting better. We’re never going to stop improving,” Bettridge said.
“Our biggest challenge is making sure we know why we are the best. Trade needs to understand what is the difference – and able to talk to your customer as to why you should sail Uniworld.”
“We are committed to two things: delivering to our guests the best, most luxurious river cruise experience in the world and to providing our partners with the tools and training to share this extraordinary experience with their clients,” Bettridge said.
Following the upcoming unveiling of its newest Super Ship the S.S. Beatrice, Uniworld will introduce a new ship to its guests on the Yangtze river in 2019, the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer.
Uniworld also announced an extension to its 11-day Highlights of China & The Yangtze itinerary with the introduction of new six-day pre-trip to Mongolia including visits to the Gobi Desert and capital city, Ulaanbaatar.
Other developments underway in 2019 include an interior transformation of the River Royale, Uniworld’s intimate ship in the Bordeaux region of southwestern France; the inclusion of onboard and onshore personnel gratuities for all Uniworld itineraries in Russia, Asia and Egypt and an expansion of the brand’s all-inclusive onboard beverage program to Russia, Asia and Egypt.
For 2019, Uniworld will offer three new itineraries in Central Europe. The 15-day Alluring Amsterdam & Vienna and 10-day Authentic Danube & Prague itineraries aboard the River Princess, will sail the Danube and offer optional two-night extensions in Vienna.
The third new itinerary, the 10- day Magnificent Moselle & Rhine aboard the River Queen, offers a unique perspective on this singular German wine-making region and allows guests to fly roundtrip via Frankfurt.
Uniworld has arranged bus and train transfers between the final port of Cologne and the Frankfurt airport, as well as luggage transfer service.
Said Bettridge, “This is a seamless product that pays close attention to value and customer convenience.”
Uniworld will also enhance several itineraries on rivers throughout the world in 2019. In Europe, after a hiatus in 2018, the company will bring back its seven-night Holland & Belgium at Tulip Time itinerary and expand from seven to 10 days its popular Jewish culture and heritage itinerary, Remarkable Rhine & Historic Holland.
Along the Mekong, Uniworld has shortened its Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap itinerary to 13 days and introduced a new four-night extension to Hanoi and Ha Lon Bay that includes one night aboard a luxury junk boat.
In India, Uniworld is enhancing its Golden Triangle & Sacred Ganges itinerary with the introduction of a comprehensive wellness program centered around the destination’s ancient tradition and practice of yoga.
Available on every sailing, the complimentary program – led by a certified and resident yogi, will celebrate the holistic health benefits of yoga with daily sessions introducing the different types of yoga, group lectures and classes as well as individualised meetings, so that guests at every stage of their practice can participate in this culturally immersive program comfortably.
An accompanying “Nutrition and Wellness Food” menu has also been developed especially for this program. Featuring organic items and guidelines for eating healthy, the menu will be available daily during breakfast, lunch and dinner service.
This Indian itinerary also offers an exclusive Uniworld “ME to WE,” alternative pre-cruise option, an immersive and transformative guest experience that brings them closer to the local communities of the destinations Uniworld visits.
In India, guests begin their 2-night tour with a Poja, a traditional Hindu prayer ceremony signaling the start of the experience, stay in the luxurious mountainside Aravalli Cottages and Tented Camp, participate in a community development project, sample traditional Indian food and bear witness to age-old Indian traditions.
In Egypt, which is rebounding, Bettridge said, Uniworld will introduce two new extension trips in 2019; a pre, four-night trip to Jordan with stops in Amman and Petra that includes a one-way flight between Amman and Cairo and a post, four-night extension to Jerusalem including a one-way flight between Cairo and Tel Aviv.
Both offer luxury accommodations, sightseeing and transfers, and will match the high standards that guests will experience on the River Tosca.
“Together with our agent partners, we finished 2017 as our best year yet – exceeding every expectation and laying the foundation for a tremendous future, which is coming to fruition now.
“2018 Wave Season bookings are on pace to surpass last year’s record-breaking rate. This momentum makes it even more exciting to share our plans for 2019,” Bettridge said.