Uniworld unites at annual conference, gala

Category+ upgrade bidding platform a huge success, lateste innovation revealed

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has revealed its upgrade bidding program, Category+, generated more than US$1.6 million in revenue for the company in its first year. Launched in January 2022, Category+ is a platform that allows guests to place a bid on a potential stateroom or suite upgrade.

Additionally, Uniworld’s optional shore excursions, dubbed ‘Masterpiece Collection Excursions’ can now be pre-booked for guests prior to departure. The add-ons, as well as the Category+ program, are both fully commissionable to travel advisors.

Details on the success of Category+ and the ‘shorex’ innovation were announced at Uniworld’s recent annual conference held in Amsterdam, attended by the river cruise line’s teams from across the globe. A contingent of Uniworld’s Australia-based workforce was present, headed up by Alice Ager, Managing Director AU/NZ.

Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette, S.S. Beatrice and River Queen.

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Held aboard five of Uniworld’s ships while docked in the Dutch capital, participants were briefed on topics such as sustainability, culinary, onboard crew and other innovations, including Uniworld confirming a website revamp would be unveiled soon.

“The location was incredible being in the heart of the city, so we were able to do lots of walking along the canals to take in the energy – Amsterdam was full of tourists and had an amazing vibe,” Ager said.

Updates were provided from all aspects of Uniworld’s business, from nautical, housekeeping, operations, product and sales, as well as marketing, Ager noted.


Julie Higgins, Chief Sustainability Officer highlighted a number of a key points, such as Uniworld being the first river cruise line to have formalised a sustainability strategy, and that the brand has reduced onboard food waste by 50%, while 37% of produce served on European ships is certified organic.

Higgins also outlined Uniworld’s vision to source food for its ships from farms and markets within a maximum radius of 80 kilometres from each cruise port.


Meanwhile, Chef Robert van Rijsbergen, Director of Culinary Operations said the river cruise operator now has an improved range of vegan meals and extensive collection of vegetarian menus available in all dining rooms. Uniworld has also extended its vegan and vegetarian dishes – alongside gluten and dairy-free options – to its 24-hour room service menu.

Ager said “Our Australia regional update was to share that sales for our region are up 12% on 2019 and Australian guests will account for 10%

Ellen Bettridge during a sales meeting at the 2023 Annual Conference
Wannabe chef Bettridge with her favourite Uniworld dish, Parmigiana

of all guests this year. NZ is up 23% on 2019 with strong month-on-month growth from New Zealand agents in 2023.”

Uniworld chefs taught the Sales team how to make a classic schnitzel

“The ships were sparkling and the energy from our crew was off the charts – this is going to be an incredibly successful river cruise season,” she said with confidence.

The conference concluded with an uplifting Gala Dinner hosted by Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld CEO and Brett Tollman, The Travel Corporation Chairman, for all Uniworld crew and on-shore teams across the globe. Fran Gildon, Uniworld Australia Business Development Manager, was recognised as the ‘Rising Star – Sales’ category in the awards ceremony.

Lead image: At Uniworld’s Annual Conference Gala in Amsterday, from left are: Jen Paggett, Shelley Martin, Fran Gildon, Alice Ager and Renee Rowlands.

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