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 seen—or smelled.
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 cauliflower steak.
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 kitchen.
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 Europe.
It was just my luck that the last station I arrived at featured the Traveling 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 small”
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.