We recently had a chance to chat with Uniworld’s CEO, Guy Young, about Uniworld’s new SS Maria Theresa and the line’s new onboard offerings.
Michelle Arean (MA): Tell us about the new SS Maria Theresa.
Guy Young (GY): It launches in March 2015, the official date is March 26, and the first commercial sailing is on the 28th. It’s similar to the SS Catherine, which sails the Rhine. The differences in ships are the number of suites. The SS Maria Theresa has 10 suites and one Royal Suite that’s 410 sq. ft., the additional suites—that’s five more suites than on Catherine. There’s a capacity for 150 guests on the vessel—it’s one of the longer ships we can have on the Rhine—and it has 57 staff members, a very high staff-to-guest ratio. The low guest capacity is important to know.
MA: What new amenities or offers does the new ship have?
GY: As for the features, the upper deck has an indoor swimming pool that’s part of the Bar du Leopard (Leopard bar). It’s a signature bar we have on most ships, and also at top properties that are at [Red Carnation Hotels] the sister company to Uniworld with luxury hotels in Africa, Europe, and North America. The ship also features a small cinema with newly released movies, a fitness center, and small Viennese cafe that fits the destinations we’re sailing through.
The mid-deck has French balcony cabins that are 194 sq. ft., and the upper deck has touch balconies that have a full window—and with the touch of a button, a screen comes down and creates an open-air balcony. On the outside of the balcony, you have a window that goes up and down; if it’s cool or extremely hot outside you can touch the button and the window goes up. That way it’s still usable and creates an enclosed balcony area. It’s a beautifully enclosed glass area to enjoy the countryside.
Every single ship has a unique design and decor. We don’t do cookie-cutter ships. One deck will have one color theme and the threading on the bed will be one color, and another deck could be a different color theme. We spend a lot on artwork. On the Catherine, we spent close to $2 million on artwork alone for the ship.
We are all-inclusive. All meals and gratuities, beverages and excursions are included. It’s very luxurious.
MA: What would be the one thing you’d say makes this ship stand out from the others?
GY: Every single one of our ships, when you step on, you know you are on a Uniworld ship. They’re very different from our competitors because each have unique design and decor. What stands out is the beautiful artwork and beautiful furnishings. We try to make each ship resemble the destination we travel to. It’s going to be very different from anything else you see on the river. It’s very spacious and luxurious—150 guests on a 443-ft. ship. To be successful today you have to have great service, which we do.
MA: Who is your ideal guest?
GY: Our core guest is 55+, with a higher household income of $150k+. We do source clients from other luxury cruise lines. They’re usually empty nesters, and one-third of guests have traveled with us before. We have a large past guest following.
MA: Are there any FAM or promo offers for agents to familiarize themselves with the new ship?
GY: We do run a lot of travel agent rates. Agents should go to the agent section and check the agent rates. We have FAM trips with major retail partners such as American Express, AAA, etc.
MA: How important are travel agents for your bookings?
GY: Extremely important today—95 percent of our business comes from agents. We work very closely with them. They provide us the vast majority of our guests. We’re very aligned with the travel agent community. Our success is really dependent on them.
MA: Any last comments you’d like to add?
GY: It’s the best ship on a very popular itinerary. We suggest our guests and agents recommend it.