ENCINO, Calif. -- Uniworld, which claims to have "invented" river
cruising for the U.S. market in the 1980s, expanded its European
programs for 2001 with new ships and itineraries.
The company's newest ship, the River Princess, will be the most
deluxe ship to sail on the Danube, Rhine and Main rivers, according
to Uniworld president Serba Ilich.
Uniworld does not own the ship, but as is the case with many
others it charters exclusively, the River Princess is being built
to the company's specifications.
Ilich emphasized that the ships Uniworld charters are for U.S.
passengers only, "so that announcements, tours and food are
tailored to the needs and preferences of U.S. travelers."
The River Princess, set to debut this spring, will have glass
elevators and 153-square-foot cabins. Ilich said most European
river ships have cabins that are 100 to 110 square feet.
The River Princess, along with the Amadeus II, will sail on a
new weeklong cruise from Amsterdam to Nuremberg, Germany, on the
Rhine and Main rivers between April and September. Prices start at
$1,498, cruise only.
Further west, "One of the newest developments in river cruising
is the growth of itineraries in France," said Ilich.
In this vein, the company is for the first time chartering a
ship on the Rhone River for the entire cruise season.
The Rhone Princess, also to debut this spring, will have 60
cabins, "unlike other ships its size on the Rhone that have 89
cabins," said Ilich. "The cabins are larger than others on the
river, and the Rhone Princess is the only ship with hotel-style
"It also has only two decks, so people can stay on the top deck
throughout the cruise. Other ships on the Rhone have three decks
and because of the bridges on the river that they must pass under,
passengers are not given the pleasure of staying on the top deck
for the whole sailing," he added.
Among the ship's itineraries is a weeklong cruise on the Saone
and Rhone rivers through Burgundy and Provence, priced from $1,498,
cruise only, from March through October.
Ilich said that France has been so successful for Uniworld, he is
entering the barge market and soon will issue an all-France
brochure that features barge and river cruises. The barge sailings
will be offered in conjunction with Continental Waterways, a French
"We thought that some of our more adventurous Rhone and Seine
river passengers might be interested in adding on a six-night barge
trip in Champagne, for instance," he said.
"These sailings emphasize food and wine and run $228 to $250 a
day, including all meals, a price that is near impossible to match
with a land program."
In northern Europe, Uniworld increased its Brussels-to-Berlin
cruise from two departures in 2000 to eight for 2001.
The 14-night program, priced at $2,698, cruise only, stops in
some German cities that even travelers who are familiar with
northern Europe might not have heard of, such as Magdeburg, Emden
The appeal of these cities is their quaint towns and Hanseatic
roots," said Ilich, referring to the Hanseatic League, a group of
medieval German city states that through trade, gained enormous
economic and cultural importance.
"This is a cruise for those who have traveled everywhere and
want something different," said Ilich.
Uniworld also added more departures on its most popular cruise,
a two-week sailing from Amsterdam to Budapest, Hungary, that calls
at ports in Austria, Germany and Slovakia. Thirty sailings will be
available from spring through fall.
Now that river cruising has "come of age" in the U.S., Ilich
said Uniworld will have to keep pace by "introducing more theme
"We were a little late in getting behind this trend, but we now
offer fall foliage and wine cruises on the Danube."