Welcome to The Art of River Cruising, my blog highlighting all the exciting things
happening at Uniworld. I hope you enjoy reading!
Uniworld President & CEO
August 8, 2019
AN UPDATE ON THE RIVER COUNTESS
It has been awhile since I have written a post and I want to take this opportunity to update you
on the River Countess.
On June 2nd the River Countess had just completed a very successful week in
beautiful region of Venice. It was early in the morning and most guests had disembarked to
travel home and a few others were enjoying their last breakfast on board or completing the last
bit of packing. All of this was abruptly interrupted when the MSC Opera lost control and hit our
We are incredibly fortunate that our Captain quickly reacted and instructed the sailors to cut
the ship’s lines, avoiding the full impact of the collision. I am convinced that this quick
reaction from our experienced Captain saved lives. The crew and remaining guests on board were certainly in a state of shock but again we
are fortunate nothing too serious happened. Since then, the River Countess has been at
a ship yard where a team is quickly working to get her repaired. The damage was extensive; however, we
are confident that she will be sailing again on September 8th.
I am incredibly proud of the Uniworld team and how well they managed through this situation. The
management team followed the emergency procedures while our crew did exactly what they were
supposed to do, which is to ensure our guests are cared for. Our land operations team
immediately secured two 5-star hotels for the guests that were due to arrive for the next cruise
and developed a plan for their experience since we no longer had a ship that would sail. My team
in Los Angeles quickly put together a communication plan and reached out to our customers and
partners to ensure they were informed of the situation. It was a very stressful couple of weeks,
and we could not have managed so efficiently without the support of every member of our team.
The team deserves all the praise we have received from our customers and I wanted to share with
you a few quotes from passengers that were onboard the morning on June 2, 2019:
“My husband and I were lucky to have no injuries as a result of this frightening incident.
We appreciate very much the caring and quick action of the crew, the follow-up call I received
upon our return home, and the continued concern expressed in this email. Our trip with Uniworld
was wonderful and left nothing to be desired, and our complete satisfaction with your company is
unaffected by the harrowing experience as we disembarked. Uniworld has nothing for which to
apologize as the accident was not your fault, and your people have made every effort to help
those who were negatively impacted by it. We have no hesitation about cruising with Uniworld
again and continue to recommend you to our friends.”
– Lynn Fraser
“Once again, I would like to express my appreciation to the crew who were so effective and
solicitous after the accident, to your CEO Ellen Bettridge for her concerned and immediate
response, to you for your ongoing support and to Calvin, our long-time agent who introduced us
to Uniworld many years ago. We have always enjoyed our cruises with you.”
– Patricia MacRae and Hugh Macdonald
“I would like to take this opportunity to compliment the River Countess crew,
the Ship’s Captain, for the amazing work during this emergency. Their response was remarkable
under terrible conditions...Uniworld should be very proud of them. Please pass these compliments
along to the appropriate Company parties/officials.”
– Robert Irving
On June 2nd we also had customers who were scheduled to board the River Countess and
disappointed when they heard the news. We provided them with the option to go home with a full
refund or stay and enjoy the land experience our team organized. As you will see from the
comments the Uniworld team did an excellent job:
“We have heard nothing but good things about this line, and now I can add my voice to
the praise. The few days we did experience were very well done. The tour guides were quite
good and things were organized well.
I must also comment on the way Martin handled everything after the crash. He was extremely
helpful and professional, even though I'm sure he was stressed to the max. He handled
changing our flight home, among other things, and found us a direct flight. That made the
trip home so much easier.
We will probably wait a bit before booking a river cruise (this was to have been our
first!), but when we are ready I will definitely book through Uniworld.”
– Chris Zyburt
“Special thanks to Martin Kummer and Louisa for taking care of us and working to make
our trip a success.
Also thanks to Uniworld for providing us with the gems of northern Italy even though it was
by land. It was sad when some of our cruise mates left as we had started making friends but
we also found new friends with those who stayed for the unique adventure.
Jenny and I have been on four ocean cruises and three river cruises. This would have been our
first Uniworld cruise. We hope we get a chance to cruise with you in the future.”
– Edmond and Jenny Lee (they just booked a cruise on
S.S. Catherine for 2020)
“A few lines to thank you for the responsible efficient manner in which your
organization handled this difficult situation for all the passengers.
I wish to commend the Tour Director (Louisa). She was terrific. The updated information
presented at meetings was clear; she answered questions with available facts, carefully
explaining details. Her approach set this tone for the right group of dynamics. No
frustrations, no complaints from anyone.
Good wishes to UNIWORLD for a long corporate life!”
– Lupe Suarez
I appreciate these letters and will ensure all the crew members and employees have the
opportunity to read them. I am looking forward to early September, when the River
Countess will sail out the rest of the fall and then in 2020 after her transformation
to the S.S. La Venezia. Please come join us!
I will end by once again praising the Uniworld team on board, on shore and in our corporate
offices – I have an amazing team! I also need to thank my parent company The Travel Corporation.
During and after the incident they have been incredibly compassionate and supportive. This
fourth-generation, family-owned and passionately run travel company will celebrate 100 years of
hospitality in 2020. This is an incredible milestone and we are honored to be part of this
family and their commitment to be the very best across the travel industry. Their investment in
our success can certainly be measured financially and just as importantly, it’s the investment
of their time, their energy and their heart in our fleet of ships and in our team that will
always ensure that we maintain our position as the World’s Best River Cruise Line.
March 28, 2019
UNIWORLD 2019 GLOBAL KICK-OFF
I just returned from our Uniworld 2019 Kick-Off meeting in Düsseldorf, Germany—our annual event
that jumpstarts the sailing season. Our staff and crew joined together onboard the River
Duchess, River Princess, River Queen, S.S. Antoinette and U
River Cruises’ The A for
teambuilding activities, training, a refresh on safety procedures and to help familiarize each
other with what’s new across the different departments. The latter is a particularly fun day
which has been dubbed “FAM Rotation Day,” which is designed to showcase each department and
learn what they have in store for the upcoming cruise season. We all make rounds, touring each
ship present at kick-off, sampling the kitchen’s newest dishes, hearing from the housekeeping
team, learning about the new onboarding program for our crew from human resources and much more.
This year, we also placed a special focus on our Travel Advisors, taking time to work on how we
can best communicate with the people that work to continually deliver their clients the most
impressive experience on the rivers. We were fortunate to have Arnie Weissmann, Editor in Chief
of Travel Weekly with us to get a behind the scenes experience—check out his story here.
Aside from informative trainings and meetings, we managed to have a great deal of fun as well.
On one night, the Sales Team hosted a “Get Your Groove On” 70s-themed party onboard the S.S.
A few nights later, we enjoyed a Chef’s Party in the Leopard Lounge and a special dinner to
sample all the latest creations from our team of Uniworld chefs. I am not a vegetarian but
always love our vegetarian dishes on board and now I have a new favorite, beetroot and apple
crumble–it’s delicious. Our culinary team is stronger than ever and ready to deliver fantastic
local dishes sourced from the regions we sail in along with the best selection of recipes from
our founder Bea Tollman.
The week culminated with a wonderful Blue & White Ball in a beautiful botanical garden nearby.
It was a spectacular evening that celebrated the hard work and dedication of our staff and crew.
You have never felt so much love and excitement in a room as when the winners were announced.
Our Uniworld family knows how to celebrate the successes of their fellow teammates and they are
all so proud. Throughout the evening we cheered and celebrated 41 individuals; and there might
even be a few names you recognize from our frontline crew:
Bartender of the Year: Violets Sarbu
Butler of the Year: Marko Medic
Waiter of the Year: Vladimir Radenkovic
Sommelier of the Year: Nedko Nikolaev Nikolov
Concierge of the Year: Martin Jancovic
Well Being Coach of the Year: Dusko Vujasin
Purser of the Year: Marija Traikovska
Hotel Manager of the Year: Romica Ruse
Cruise Manager of the Year: Adrian Leggatt
Captain of the Year: Janos Varga
This was my third kick off meeting since joining Uniworld and I am already looking forward to
next year since it is the one time of the year that I get the opportunity to see the majority of
our crew all together. I only wish there was a way to bottle up all the energy, passion and
enthusiasm our crew has; that would be worth a fortune!
I am looking forward to the 2019 sailing season knowing I have the best team on and off the
ships, the most stunning fleet of ships and the full support from our owners to deliver the very
best to you. We look forward to welcoming you onboard.
February 11, 2019
HOW DO YOU ELEVATE THE “#1 RIVER CRUISE LINE”?
It's hard to believe it's 2019 already. A new year always comes with high hopes, and here at
Uniworld, we're already rolling out some of our resolutions. Thanks to my amazing Uniworld team,
we're on track to deliver a menu of exciting advancements that will unfold over the next two
years. Get ready for a steady stream of new ships, new routes and splendid refurbishments to
debut through 2021.
We’re elevating the brand by offering onboard and onshore experiences that can’t be found
anywhere else—and we’re doing it by constantly evolving. Because your tastes and preferences are
always changing, we’re never stagnant. We’ve pledged to grow and change with you. It started in
2017 with the launch of the fantastically French ship S.S. Joie de Vivre. We followed
up in 2018 on the Danube with the Austrian-themed S.S. Beatrice.
At the beginning of this year, we introduced our guests on China’s Yangtze River to the lavish
and spacious Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer. The ship boasts the largest cabins and
suites in the region as well as an unparalleled 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio. In April, we will
unveil the transformation of the River Royale into the S.S. Bon Voyage. Her
new design highlights the region’s world-renowned wine and gastronomy. I’m excited to taste for
myself and look forward to meeting some of you when I host the 2019 River Heritage Club Reunion
Cruise on the June 30, 2019 sailing of Brilliant Bordeaux.
Even more excitement is in store for 2020, when four new Super Ships will join our fleet on the
heels of the S.S. Bon Voyage. Now more than ever, we’re
emphasizing what’s onboard and designing the ships to reflect their destinations in a way
you’ve never seen. By 2020, 60% of our ships will be Super Ships, redefining luxury along the
world’s most legendary waterways with their enhanced dining venues, additional suites, grand
staircases and average capacity of 130 guests.
In Vietnam and Cambodia, guests will sail onboard the newest ship on the Mekong, the Mekong
Jewel. Launching January 3, 2020, this dazzling new all-suite vessel will allow you to
experience Southeast Asia’s beauty in stunning fashion. In Egypt, we’ll be introducing guests
to the newest ship on the Nile, S.S. Sphinx. She’ll launch in 2020 and will
transport you in style to countless bucket-list destinations. Portugal’s Douro River will be
the home of the new S.S. São Gabriel. Launching in April 2020, this new vessel will
replace the Queen Isabel, with onboard butler service and a higher staff-to-guest
ratio. Plus, all top-deck accommodations will be suites. Launching March 27, 2020, Italy’s
River Countess will become S.S. La Venezia, boasting a transformation inspired
by “The City of Water.”
Also for 2020, we’re adding a brand-new itinerary, Rhine, Moselle & Blissful Baden-Baden, where
guests will enjoy a myriad of wellness opportunities along the Moselle. As I write this I’m
nursing a sore back, and a trip to the world-famous spa town of Baden-Baden sure sounds
Nestled in the beautiful Black Forest, Baden-Baden has long drawn tourists to its mineral-rich
thermal waters. Established over 2,000 years ago as a destination for relaxation, the city’s
thermal waters are known for their healing powers, which you can experience for yourself with a
trip to the Caracalla Spa and Sea Salt Grotto. I wish I could sign up for a relaxing massage
I invite you to see how we’re continuing to offer the most impressive experience on the rivers,
this year and beyond.
September 6, 2018
THERE’S SO MUCH TO BE PROUD OF
Summer went by with a flash and it’s back to school time for my youngest daughter Abigail.
It’s her senior year of high school and I swear she was just starting kindergarten. Makes
you feel old, but at the same time incredibly proud.
My two years at the helm of Uniworld have flown by as well, and recently we’ve also had a
lot of reasons to be proud. Over the past few weeks the awards and recognition for Uniworld
have been pouring in.
Top European River Cruise Line in Cruise Critic’s Cruisers’ Choice Destination
Awards: View on Cruise Critic
The A from the U by Uniworld Fleet named one of TIME Magazine’s
World’s Greatest Places in 2018: View on TIME
I am so thrilled for the entire team to receive this well-deserved praise. It’s amazing
to think that we would have such thrilling news so soon after the debut of our newest Super
Ship, S.S. Beatrice, and the launch of our new brand, U by Uniworld In fact, we were so
overjoyed to see the jaw-dropping
transformation of S.S. Beatrice and our guests’ reactions to her new look in
April that we couldn’t wait another second to get to work on renovating another vessel.
In the coming months The River Royale will undergo extensive renovations and reemerge
as S.S. Bon Voyage in spring 2019. She’ll still be cruising
through France’s incomparable Bordeaux region when she is relaunched. S.S. Bon
will be reimagined to capture the wine-making and gastronomic expertise of the region. From the
design scheme to the enhanced culinary experiences onboard, it will be a unique, delightfully
French experience, through and through. The S.S. Bon Voyage will be a one of a kind
experience just like all of the other ships across our fleet.
She’ll boast a redesigned top deck, added swimming pool and lounge area, and two new
dining venues: Le Café du Soleil and La Brasserie. The
casual Le Café du Soleil, which opens up onto the new pool, will serve lighter French
fares with a local spin. In the evening, the venue will transform into a bar and the setting
for intimate French cooking classes with the chef. La Brasserie, a bistro inspired by Bouillon
Pigalle in Paris, will be serving up delicious sharing plates reflecting local cuisine. The
main dining room, Le Grand Fromage, will also have its enhancements, including a chef
demonstration area and a private dining and wine tasting venue.
Plus, S.S. Bon Voyage will include four new luxury suites, marble bathrooms throughout
and the gorgeous yacht-like finish that you may know from the S.S. Joie de Vivre and the
Beatrice. The one thing that will not be changing is our amazing crew. Our onboard
team lives by the motto “no request too large, no detail too small,” and I am so
proud of each and everyone one of them. They make the difference every day!
I can’t wait to see her and experience this amazing wine region. To secure my spot
onboard, I’ve arranged to host the 2019 River Heritage Club Reunion
which will take place on the June 30, 2019 sailing of Brilliant Bordeaux. I invite you to
reserve your spot on this exclusive cruise and join me and my family along with fellow River
Heritage Club members next summer.
My final great news, in a few days Uniworld will make our television debut as the founding
corporate underwriter of Amanpour & Co., a new nightly series on
Amanpour & Co. features CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.
She’ll be presenting wide-ranging and in-depth conversations with various noteworthy
contributors including author, history professor and journalist Walter Isaacson, NPR host
Michel Martin, PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan and journalist and commentator
I had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with Christiane Amanpour. She is engaging, funny
and incredibly bright. In short: perfect for the Uniworld brand. Her travel experience is a
legacy of going everywhere as a renowned and trusted international correspondent for CNN. Tune
in on Monday night, September 10th at 10/9c on PBS (but be sure to check your local listings as
Trust is very important to the Uniworld customer and that is why we chose to make our
television debut with PBS. As a brand and experience we are dedicated to the highest standards
of service. PBS delivers the same service for their audience with similar passion and respect.
PBS shared that their viewers are 48% more likely than non-viewers to take a cruise, 66% more
likely to take a foreign cruise, and 121% more likely to spend $8,000 or more on foreign
travel. They are curious, well-educated and affluent—that’s the PBS
audience—and it’s ours too.
Thank you for all your love and support of Uniworld.
June 28, 2018
A Great Summer Start
Hopefully, everyone’s summer is getting off to a great start. I know mine is, and
it’s largely because of the support of the great staff I have here at Uniworld. I’d
like to share a story that illustrates that.
While a big part of what Uniworld does is to carefully map out fascinating itineraries for our
guests to enjoy from beginning to end, unforeseen incidents occasionally throw us a curve that
sends us back to the charts to adjust our best laid plans.
One such unplanned “adventure” came just this week when we received word that a
cargo ship was involved in an accident in a lock near Weissenkirchen, Austria, on the Danube.
All boat traffic was temporarily blocked. While none of our ships were even in the area at the
time, it would soon affect two of them. The River Duchess, bound for Amsterdam, and
the River Princess, on her way to Budapest, were both on the Danube. Coming from
opposite ends of the river, they were scheduled to pass each other during their voyages.
However, with the lock out of commission for an undetermined amount of time, both ships were
headed for an impasse in Weissenkirchen.
While Weissenkirchen is a quaint 14th century town, named for its white church and surrounded by
vineyards, we didn’t think our guests would appreciate spending the bulk of their
vacations there. Luckily, quick thinking on the part of Ben Wirz, Head of Operations in Europe,
provided a brilliant alternative plan that saved the day. Since the ships are virtually
identical in design, he reasoned that they could swap passengers at the disabled lock and turn
around, allowing everyone to finish their planned routes—only on different vessels.
The plan was simple - the passengers on the River Duchess would leave with their
luggage to make a short bus trip around the lock and check into their corresponding cabins on
the River Princess. Then they would continue on to Amsterdam, almost as though nothing
had happened. The River Princess guests would do the same, transferring to the
Duchess to sail on to Budapest. Voila! Not only did we solve a complex problem, but
our guests got the chance to experience life onboard TWO different Uniworld
ships during their trip.
I am fortunate that Uniworld has so many employees who are clever enough to react nimbly to the
inconveniences (both major and minor) that from time to time arise on the river. Sometimes our
guests are aware of it. Sometimes their voyages continue on seamlessly. In a way, it’s a
reflection of our size. I believe that as a small, debt-free, family-owned company, our staff
feels a special connection to our guests and a sense of ownership to ensure that your vacation
is perfect. I know this is true from the beautiful letters I receive and the comments posted by
our guests on Feefo (a platform for collecting unedited comments and ratings from our
customers) that sing their praises. This positive attitude and genuine caring spirit is in our
DNA and makes us special.
At the same time, Uniworld also enjoys the travel expertise and support that comes from being
under the umbrella of The Travel Corporation, the 30 + brand tourism company that was founded
more than 50 years ago by Beatrice and Stanley Tollman. Providing excellence in travel
experiences has always been the goal throughout the corporation. Perhaps you are familiar with
some of these companies that provide family, individual and youth tours, luxury hotel
accommodations and safari adventures across six continents; brands like Brendan Vacations,
Contiki, Trafalgar and The Red Carnation Hotel Collection are just some of our amazing sister
brands. I’m thrilled that our past Uniworld guests are able to take advantage of a
past-passenger discount with any of our sister brands and of course on your next Uniworld
Finally, I am very happy to announce that I am planning my next Uniworld experience on the
Joie de Vivre on December 6th when I will be hosting a River Heritage Club Reunion
Cruise. It’s my chance to meet with more of our amazing guests, share in the Uniworld
experience together, and listen to the feedback our guests have on the services we offer. My
husband Jack and I are looking forward to connecting with our customers while enjoying Paris
and other enchanting French cities on the Seine during the holiday season.
One thing is for sure: we will be in great hands with our amazing staff looking after us. I hope
you will consider joining me on the incredible S.S. Joie de Vivre.
April 27, 2018
From Ship to Super Ship
I have witnessed the renovation of many a ship in my career, but the word we usually use to
describe it—refurbishment—hardly does justice to what just happened to the River
Beatrice. “Incredible transformation” was the term that rushed to my mind
when she debuted on April 4th as our newest Super Ship the S.S. Beatrice. From stem to
stern, she is more dazzling than ever.
You step aboard and are greeted by a grand staircase—the signature design element of all
our Super Ships—then quickly realize that, from its yacht-inspired décor to its
new dining and public spaces to its collection of fine art, you are experiencing a brand new
The Super Ship designation is the one we reserve for the newest vessels in our fleet. Now with a
total of five, the growing category is taking the river cruising experience to the ultimate
level. River travel may have its size limitations—based on the size of the locks, the
ships can only be so long and so wide—but Uniworld has found a way to stretch the
boundaries. We do it, not by making the ships bigger, but by making them better.
The S.S. Beatrice is bright, modern and elegant and every detail is perfect. The new
visual motif is based on yacht-style blonde wood and touches of blue and white everywhere. The
lounge features sofas and chairs with hand-made upholstery, a parquet floor, upholstered
ceiling panels, solar shades and new USB ports allowing guests to charge their devices anywhere
they are sitting.
You are greeted by elegance right off the gangplank, just after you meet our security guard that
is (a standard on all our Uniworld ships). The lobby features a white Murano Chandelier with
blue shades, elegant mirrors and white marble floors. The grand staircase, fashioned from
nickel and iron, follows. Then you’ll start to notice the original artwork placed
throughout the ship–pieces by Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Pino Signoretto.
To enhance the onboard culinary experience, we added two additional dining venues. Located at
the stern, Max’s is named for the Austrian-born composer Max Stein who wrote the scores
for Gone with the Wind, Little Women and King Kong. He was also the
first recipient of the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, which he won for his score
for Life with Father and his wife’s name was Beatrice–what a coincidence!
Max’s offers intimate cooking classes led by the chef as well as the best reimagined
steak dinner on the rivers with gorgeous meat aged to perfection in our dry ager.
At the ship’s graceful new bow is the other dining addition: Schubert’s. It’s
an Austrian-styled café that offers lunch and afternoon refreshments. In the evening,
the wonderful locally-inspired menu starts off with a tempting shared plate and ends with Mrs.
Tollman’s famous Honeycomb Ice Cream. Of course, Mozart’s, the ship’s main
restaurant, and Wolgang’s, the bar and lounge, are always an option. (Are you starting to
recognize the Austrian composer theme here?)
And while we couldn’t make the ship any bigger, no one said we couldn’t add suites.
The S.S. Beatrice has two new Grand Suites (310 square feet) as well as an additional
Royal/Owner’s Suite (390 square feet). The staterooms are pretty amazing in themselves.
They all come with the usual lush, Uniworld appointments: marble bathrooms, ample storage
space, Savoir® of England beds draped in high-thread-count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and
European duvets, along with a menu of pillow options. Connecting rooms, ideal for friends and
families travelling together, have also been added.
Lest you get the idea that this Super Ship is only about onboard amenities, let me describe the
inaugural itinerary. The Highlights of Eastern Europe cruise is a 10-day trip beginning in
Budapest, Hungary, and ending in Bucharest, Romania. Before the journey begins you can explore
Budapest on one of our Do As the Locals Do excursions or by exclusive guided
Go bicycle tour. In Croatia, you can see ajvar being made in the courtyard of a
monastery or visit the Vucedol Culture Museum followed by lunch at the Goldschmidt winery.
Belgrade offers a plethora of architectural styles – Gothic, Ottoman, baroque, art
noveau, modern high-rises as well the opportunity to explore the 19th century Residence of
Princess Ljuubica and tomb and memorial of Josip Broz Tito. When you get to Golubac, the Danube
presents more of its treasures, like the Iron Gates, an 83-mile stretch of scenic gorges cut
through mountains that offers dramatic and beautiful sights. In Vidin, drive through scenic
Bulgarian red rock country to Belogradchik and explore the astonishing rock formations nearby.
Rousse has the ruins and history of Veliko Tarnovo, perched on the hills above the Yantra
River. Finally, in Bucharest, there’s the chance to explore the opulent Ceausescu
Mansion, home of Romania’s infamous former leader, Nicolae Ceausescu. And that’s
just the beginning. This is an itinerary not to be missed!
In other exciting news, I’m already planning a cruise on another one of our newest Super
Ships. Beginning December 6th my husband Jack and I will be hosting a River Heritage Club
reunion cruise on the beautiful S.S. Joie de Vivre on our Parisian Royal Holiday
itinerary. Please come join us as we explore the Christmas markets of France and have some fun!
March 29, 2018
Uniworld 2018 Global Kick-Off
The minute I walked in the room I knew I was going to throw my diet overboard. Spread before me
in the dining room of the beautiful River Duchess was the most sumptuous banquet I’d ever
At the beginning of March, I attended the annual Uniworld 2018 Kickoff event—our final
run-up to the beginning of the cruise season. Our crew members come together to hone their
skills and look at new ways to enhance the experiences of our guests. One of my favorite days
is our “FAM rotation day” designed so that employees can familiarize themselves
with what the other departments have in store. Everyone tours each section of the ship every
year. This day, the kitchen was showing off the bounty of food that they would soon be offering
our guests in the upcoming sailing season.
The room was filled with table after table of tempting dishes. Bernhard Zorn, our Culinary
Director, a Master Chef certified by the World’s Association of Chefs, with over 30 years
of experience, had outdone himself. New sinful selections like the chocolate hamburger and
scrumptious cupcakes along with some gorgeous healthy selections like the quinoa burger and the
I could have filled up on that spread alone, but I needed to soldier through if I was going to
sample something from each tasting plate. There were new soups, local meats and an array of
cheeses. In addition, several delicious recipes were inspired by our guiding force at Uniworld,
Mrs. Beatrice Tollman, from her cookbook A Life in Food, a book I keep on hand in my home
Of course, every plate had a suggested wine pairing curated by our sommeliers, who choose from
only the finest wines sourced from renowned vineyards and regions our guests sail through.
Moreover, Uniworld (which is part of The Travel Corporation and owned by the Tollman family)
also serves the family’s vineyard—Bouchard Finlayson’s award-winning
wines—aboard every ship.
I made a mental note that after this I’d have to avoid the bar—tempting as it would
be. Not only are Uniworld’s onboard bars stocked with 11 vodkas, including Grey Goose and
Chopin, as well as 28 different whiskies and bourbons, each ship has a signature cocktail based
on ingredients sourced from the region it sails through. And if you’re not a spirits
person, you can enjoy unique lagers, ales and stouts crafted by small specialty brewers in
It was just my luck that the last station I arrived at featured the Travelling Lite menu, our
selections for those interested in healthier, as well as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free
dining options. Why couldn’t I have found this first – it was all amazing! Anyway,
the point is you won’t go hungry onboard a Uniworld ship.
Lest you think Kickoff Week 2018 only showcased dining and drinking options, there was plenty
for me to experience as we reviewed procedures in every aspect of the Uniworld experience.
Many of our staff have worked with us for over a decade and 93% of our crew return to Uniworld
from one season to the next. We boast the highest staff-to-guest ratio in the industry, and
everyone is a consummate professional. Valentin Gradescu, our lead butler reviewed room
procedures and another one of our dignified butlers, Sandor Tomasek, went over phone etiquette
and communication to ensure they are always at the top of their game.
Of course, our butler program is another source of great pride for Uniworld and we recapped all
their duties onboard with everyone randomly involved. These professionals are educated under
the tutelage of Zita Langenstein, at England’s Ivor Spencer Butler School, adhering to
the same standards of excellence required by Buckingham Palace.
I’m a devoted fan of Downton Abbey, but here’s one thing I’ve never seen on
TV: the prospective butlers actually being trained by serving other experienced butlers. Who
better to guide them, I suppose?
There is one thing our butlers don’t do: venture into other positions. They assume the
role of butler 100% of the time. That way they can focus on delivering an exemplary experience
around the clock.
However, every team member onboard Uniworld from the housekeepers to the bartenders has a common
bond. They are all guided by the mantra: “No request too large, no detail too
The week ended with an incredible celebration to thank the crew for all they do every day. It
was a beautiful event and an evening filled with love. All of us look forward to welcoming you
onboard this season.
January 26, 2018
Ushering in a new era of Uniworld
I hope everyone had a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year! It was a wonderful time to
reflect on just how much Uniworld has accomplished in the last year and prepare for all of the
momentous occasions we have in store for 2018. In the spirit of fresh starts and new things, I
wanted to take a moment to share a few of my resolutions for the coming year.
Get in shape.
I know, I know, that’s everyone’s New Year’s resolution. But at least when
I’m travelling to visit our ships I’ll be able to take advantage of our
well-equipped, onboard fitness centers. As well as riding a stationary bike, I might also
venture ashore on some of the many guided mobile bicycle excursions available. Hopefully I
won’t forget that all the galleys also serve delicious light fare alternatives for those
who do not want to indulge in the many dishes that are always tempting me.
Find time to relax.
Every hectic schedule should be balanced with some downtime. When I’m onboard I look to
the morning yoga sessions and the Serenity River Spa on our European voyages (when I want to
pair my meditation with real indulgence).
Pilot one of our Super Ships through a lock on the Seine.
Well, that one isn’t going to happen. It would violate too many waterway regulations
without my going to school and learning the ropes like our talented and dedicated crew.
The family has finally settled into a new house since I relocated for my position at Uniworld.
And I’m itching to make some changes. Maybe I’ll consult with the Uniworld design
team that has managed to pack so many special touches into every ship of the line. Of course,
that might give my husband, Jack, heart failure.
My favorite cocktail to mix is a Bourbon Old Fashioned, but I hope to widen my horizons with
some of the specialty cocktails available onboard. Our experienced bartenders hold regular
seminars on how to fix them.
More family time.
All of us with a busy schedule hopes for quality time with their families. Mine includes my
teenager Abigail and college grad Grace, who is leaving the nest soon for her own apartment.
We’re already planning a voyage through Vietnam and Cambodia in December.
Try a meal I’ve never had.
I mean that figuratively as well as literally. 2017 was a year of many spectacular firsts and
has motivated me to continue experiencing those precious moments of discovery in 2018 and
beyond. From learning which dishes are guest-favorites onboard and what European UNESCO World
Heritage Sites are most popular, to discovering the history of Amsterdam’s famous
Rijksmuseum and why guests love certain destinations, there’s no greater feeling than
truly understanding why our guests return to Uniworld time and time again. In 2018, I’m
thrilled to continue delving into and experiencing the cultures of the magnificent places we
Get to know more of our guests, staff and crew on a personal level.
This is a never-ending endeavor. My first full year as President & CEO included a lot of
listening, learning and meeting new people, something I’ve particularly enjoyed.
I’ve had the pleasure of forming bonds with so many wonderful people in the Uniworld
family, hearing their stories and discovering what drives them to create the best possible
experiences for our guests. That spirit after all is an integral part of the Uniworld
experience. We pride ourselves on our dedicated and passionate team, whose commitment to
excellence and love for what they do stems from their relationships with guests. I’m
extremely grateful to be a part of such an incredible, supportive and spirited family who
inspire me to make everyone feel as welcomed and as accommodated as I’ve been.
A look at the year ahead
A lot of exciting things are coming to fruition in the next few months, and I’m so excited
to watch our planning and hard work brought to life for you to finally enjoy. On our April 4,
2018 sailing of Highlights
of Eastern Europe, the S.S. Beatrice will make her much-anticipated debut.
We’ve spent the last several months readying her for her maiden voyage, transforming the
River Beatrice into our magnificent fifth Super Ship. After going an extensive bow-to-stern
renovation, S.S. Beatrice will re-emerge with a fresh, sleek look and graceful bow,
redesigned lounge, an elegant grand staircase, two new Royal Suites, an additional
Owner’s Suite and several connecting rooms ideal for families travelling together. She
will truly rival her sister ship the S.S. Joie de Vivre. I invite you to experience the magic
of river cruising onboard our newest Super Ship, S.S. Beatrice, as she cruises along
Europe’s dazzling waterways on some of our most beloved itineraries.
2018 is an especially big year for U by
Uniworld. Its first open-to-the-public cruise aboard The A happens April 14.
Guests will be Rolling on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Frankfurt in a few shorts
months. They’ll discover one-of-a-kind experiences fit for any travel personality.
Adventurers can go blokarting on the beach in Haarlem, foodies can take a mouthwatering crash
course on Dutch cheese, history buffs can learn how Jewish people played a crucial role in the
city of Frankfurt’s success and night owls can follow a local expert on an exploration of
Amsterdam’s notorious Red Light District. With U, guests will find that there’s
truly something for everyone. And that’s just one of six phenomenal itineraries. After
the excitement surrounding U’s inaugural cruise in October, we’re eagerly awaiting
The A and The B to officially set sail and make their mark on the industry.
We can’t wait to welcome a whole new generation of guests to the world of river cruising.
With all that’s going on, I won’t have to search far for resolutions for next year.
What are your resolutions for 2018? If they involve new experiences, expanded horizons, or
revisiting a place you hold dear to your heart, we’d be honored to be a part of them.
Here’s to another year and another opportunity to full of accomplishments.
December 21, 2017
2017: The year our world got even bigger.
When I look back on 2017, I’m reminded of so many memories, many of which seem like they
were just last week. Time flies when you spend it well, there was never a shortage of exciting
moments. 2017 marked my first full year as President & CEO of Uniworld, making it all the
more memorable. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. This year Uniworld received several
recognitions from Cruise Critic, including the following 2017 Editors’ Picks
Awards in the River category. In the U.S. we were awarded
New River Ship” for S.S. Joie de Vivre and “Best
Service”, in Australia “Best River Cruise Line”,
and in the UK “Best River Cruise Line”, “Best River
Cruise Line for Luxury”, and “Best River Cruise Line for
2017 came right out of the gate with a bright start, as we launched a new marketing campaign
titled The World Is Your Canvas. When I first stepped on a Uniworld ship years ago, it
was like nothing else I had ever experienced—one of a kind in every sense. It felt like I
was in a luxury boutique hotel, museum and five-star restaurant at the same time. Our The
World Is Your Canvas campaign was created to capture these artistic elements and
breathtaking moments that you’re bound to experience on your cruise and to share those
with past guests and Uniworld first-timers alike. So much of the amazing destination experience
is interwoven into what you’ll encounter onboard, from meals made with ingredients
sourced from just miles down the road, paired with local wines, to a ship design that draws
inspiration from the places you visit. The world is beautiful, our ships are spectacular and
your canvas is blank to build your perfect vacation.
Spring sprung in vibrant fashion at Uniworld, with the launch of a new Super Ship, S.S. Joie
de Vivre. From the very beginning, S.S. Joie de Vivre was a labor of love and
passion, all of which is very apparent the moment you step onboard. I don’t know how Toni
Tollman and the Uniworld design team manage to repeatedly outdo themselves with each new ship
build, but they did and the S.S. Joie de Vivre is stunning through and through. The
design, reminiscent of 20th-century Paris, is both classic and innovative—just wait until
you see the pool in Club L’Esprit transform into Claude’s supper club in the
evening. Amid all the Tiny Noticeable Touches and astonishing features, one of my
favorite activities onboard is to simply sit in Le Salon Toulouse and look out the
window, with a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. “The joy of living” shines through
every aspect of the ship, and if you didn’t get a chance to cruise with her in 2017,
I’d love to invite you to do so next year.
S.S. Joie de Vivre wasn’t the only reason to get excited this year. We also
announced the launch of U by Uniworld, our groundbreaking and innovative endeavor to
share the love of river cruising with a new generation—21-45 year olds, specifically. In
October, we hosted an inaugural cruise from Paris to Paris, bringing social media influencers,
travel agents and a few lucky guests onboard. To say it was fun doesn’t even scratch the
surface. There was brunch on a double-decker bus, kayak excursions, a silent disco, a pajama
party and so much delicious food. The ship design was equally as impressive. The all-black hull
of The B couldn’t help but attract some stares as we sailed down the Seine
River. Onboard, the design feels sexy, modern and inviting. It’s a boutique hotel in and
of itself, and incorporates design elements that appeal to our 20- to 40-something guests. 2017
was just the beginning for U, as the first open-to-the-public cruises will set sail in
spring of 2018.
This past summer, I had the pleasure of travelling with my husband Jack on our Gems of
Northern Italy sailing, as part of my President’s Voyage. This itinerary is not
our typical sailing. Instead of cruising down a river, our River Countess cruises up
and down the Venice lagoon, docking at different areas of the island and allowing you to
explore this unique Italian gem in depth. It’s truly a floating boutique hotel. You step
right off the ship and you’re in the heart of Venice each day—it couldn’t be
more convenient. For us, it was the perfect pace of having multiple excursions and activities
to choose from each day, while leaving time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. If
you’ve cruised with us on a more traditional itinerary and are looking for something a
bit different, I strongly recommend this sailing.
What a year 2017 has been. One of the many aspects that drew me into Uniworld was The Travel
Corporation’s family-focused approach to running the many companies in their portfolio.
In my first full year, I feel so fortunate to be able to work alongside Brett Tollman and the
entire Tollman family to continually take Uniworld to new heights. The Tollmans’ passion
for travel and their dedication to creating the best experiences for our guests are contagious,
and drive our entire team to push the envelope day in and day out.
It will be hard to top 2017, but given some exciting announcements we have in the works, 2018
will keep the momentum going. I wish you all a happy new year and the opportunity to colour your
canvas however you choose.