Uniworld adds new ships, itineraries to 2001 program

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."

Town houses topped by gabies are typical of Amsterdam's canal-front architecture. The Dutch capital is included on several Uniworld river cruises. 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 beds.

"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.

France is one of Uniworld's fastest-growing river cruise destinations. Above, Uniworld's Douce France in Paris makes its way past Notre Dame on the Seine River.
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 barge specialist.

"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 and Quedlinburg.

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 cruises.

"We were a little late in getting behind this trend, but we now offer fall foliage and wine cruises on the Danube."

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