Not everybody likes to travel with a crowd. When cruising some of the world’s most captivating rivers, many travelers prefer intimate local experiences and small-ship luxuries.
Enter: Uniworld. Offering voyages in more than two dozen countries that range from one week to a month, the family-owned global cruise company eschews big-ship entertainment and atmosphere for one-on-one or small group options, all while aiming for an elegant onboard ambience. “Our Virtuoso clients love the chic decor and owner Bea Tollman’s personalized touches,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Judy Perl. “The food is the best in river cruising, and Bea’s recipes are much appreciated by our guests.”
Next year, Uniworld will add four boutique-style Super Ships to its fleet – three new ships and one renovated vessel. The yachtlike vessels promise to pamper guests while setting the stage for personalized luxury and adventure. The voyages will trace the Mekong (Vietnam and Cambodia), Nile (Egypt), and Douro (Portugal) rivers, while the refurbished vessel will cruise Italy’s Venetian Lagoon. Each Super Ship features signature decor and original art – plus newly added suites and dining venues. A high crew-to-guest ratio ensures top notch service on every sailing. “We have been in a consistent and relentless pursuit of excellence,” says Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld’s CEO. “We look forward to making our high caliber of service and personalization in these remarkable destinations even better.”
Read on for a preview of Uniworld’s soon-to-debut Super Ship voyages.
The all-suite, 68-passenger Mekong Jewel leads the Super Ship fleet when it begins sailing through Vietnam and Cambodia on January 3, 2020. Guests can watch vistas float by from the alfresco dining area on the upper deck, or toast the end of each day from the lavish dining room bedecked with Asian flourishes. The Jewel was designed with eco-friendly performance in mind, which means passengers benefit from LED light fixtures, ergonomically designed ship propellers, and even a type of paint on the ship’s hull that minimizes drag. For creature comforts, expect a swimming pool, sauna, spa, hair salon, a nail bar, and more.
A 13-day sailing traces the course of the Mekong River from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to Siem Reap, Cambodia. In addition to shore excursions to the Mekong’s floating markets and ancient temples of Angkor Wat, this Uniworld cruise partners with charitable nonprofit Pack for a Purpose, which helps travelers donate relevant supplies to local communities. Departures: Multiple dates, January 3 through December 4, 2020.
Cruise Egypt’s captivating waterway on the 84-passenger S.S. Sphinx, which embarks on its maiden voyage on January 6, 2020. Trumpeted as the “newest, most luxurious” ship on the Nile, this vessel has three gourmet dining venues (including a private dining room and an alfresco locale on the upper deck), a swimming pool, and massage room. With locally sourced Egyptian artwork, furnishings, and fabrics, the Sphinx is right at home on the Nile. A 12-day roundtrip-from-Cairo sailing includes a visit to Egyptian burial grounds in the Valley of the Kings, a ride on a traditional felucca sailboat, and an opportunity to climb the pyramids of Giza. Departures: Multiple dates, January 6 through December 5, 2020.
Iberian Peninsula aficionados can head down the Douro River in Portugal beginning March 26, 2020, when the 100-passenger S.S. São Gabriel sets sail. With an interior design invoking the lush landscapes of the surrounding wine region, the ship offers a top deck of richly adorned suites, all enhanced with butler room service. On an 11-day Lisbon-to-Porto voyage, cruisers can browse Lisbon’s Campo de Santa Clara for local buys, take a walking tour of Porto, and admire the sand-colored architecture of Salamanca, Spain. Throughout the trip, expect locally sourced cuisine and wines (including a special Gala dinner in Porto), majestic terraced vineyard landscapes, and the chance to visit no less than seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. Departures: Multiple dates, March 26 through December 5, 2020.
For river cruisers already well-acquainted with Europe’s waterways, this lesser-known itinerary delivers a new experience. Embark on the eastward-flowing Po River in northern Italy aboard the 130-passenger S.S. La Venezia. Previously Uniworld’s River Countess, the revamped vessel now features four new elegant suites, two dining venues (including a traditional Italian-style kitchen and Savoy Restaurant), the Serenity River Spa, a library, and the glass-enclosed Osteria Siena Sky Lounge – all styled with a nod to Venetian heritage. (Keep an eye out for original artwork on board from Gustav Klimt, David Hockney, and others.) On a ten-day Milan-to-Venice sailing – which debuts on March 27, 2020 – the Venezia will cruise the Po River and the Venetian Lagoon waters that surround the islands of Burano, Mazzorbo, and Torcello. Two pre-cruise land days in Milan offers guests coveted opportunities to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper, plus other activities. Departures: Multiple dates, March 27 through October 30, 2020.
This article is sponsored by Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Images courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection unless otherwise noted.