ENCINO, Calif. -- Uniworld president Serba Ilich said his 1980s
foray into European river cruising has paid off, with an estimated
33,000 passengers expected to book the firm's sailings next year.
The tour firm was among the pioneers of all-American charters on
the Danube and Rhine rivers, where U.S. travelers previously had
booked cruises where the food and service was tailored to a
Many companies have since entered the market, such as St.
Louis-based Intrav, which caters to deluxe clients, and Viking
River Cruises, a Swiss firm with its own ships that opened an
office in Woodland Hills, Calif., earlier this year.
"I welcome competition," Ilich said. "There are still not enough
operators who are marketing river cruising to the U.S. traveler, so
the more the merrier."
But Ilich has his limits. He filed a lawsuit in April against
Viking, as well as against its 12 employees who came from Uniworld,
including Viking's U.S. president, Rudi Schreiner.
The suit claimed that the employees were breaking Uniworld
confidentiality agreements and that they had recruited other
Uniworld employees for Viking while still working in Encino.
Schreiner said this was not the case. "After I left and they
heard Viking was opening an office [in Woodland Hills], dozens of
Uniworld employees asked if they could join me. It was spontaneous,
there was no planned departure and our depositions revealed that to
be true," he said.
No further action has been taken on the suit, which also claimed
that Viking violated its marketing exclusivity agreement with
Uniworld by opening a North American office.
"This would be true if Uniworld also had fulfilled its part of
our agreement, but it did not," said Schreiner, referring to what
he said was Uniworld's obligation to charter Viking ships.
"If the suit had merit, the judge would have scheduled a
hearing, but that hasn't happened," said Schreiner, who also denied
another accusation by Ilich, that Viking threatened not to honor
some Uniworld bookings on its ships that had been made in 2000 for