Uniworld bosses were determined to launch a ship in Paris to show support to the French people following the terrorist attacks in November 2015 that claimed 130 lives.
New vessel Joie de Vivre was unveiled in the City of Light on Monday, with actress Dame Joan Collins attending as godmother.
The luxury line’s president and chief executive, Ellen Bettridge, said the decision to continue with plans to base the 128-passenger ship in Paris represented an act of defiance following the attacks.
She said that immediately after the attacks Uniworld’s owners, The Travel Corporation, temporarily put construction of the vessel on hold. However, within weeks it decided to continue with its French project to build Joie de Vivre.
Bettridge said: “We became even more determined to show support to the French people.
“Joie de Vivre is us supporting this wonderful destination. We have brought thousands of people [to Paris], and we will continue to show them the delights of the city.”
The ship will sail a mix of eight and 15-day itineraries on the Seine, including round-trips from Paris and cruises to Avignon.
“I love Paris and it’s wonderful that this beautiful ship is starting its journey here” Dame Joan Collins
Bettridge said sailings were 90% sold for 2017.
“People don’t stop and hesitate to book just because something could happen in Paris,” she said. “Joie de Vivre has been selling exceptionally well across markets.
“This ship is a dedication to Paris; our guests explore the city and then return to our ship where that French experience continues.”
UK managing director Kathryn Beadle said initial concerns that customers would not travel to Paris after the attacks had not come to fruition. “We were prepared for the worst but the demand is definitely there,” she added.
Dame Joan, who attended the christening ceremony, shot to fame in the 1980s playing Alexis Carrington in hit show Dynasty.
She has close ties with France, spending most of her summers on the Riviera, where she has a home.
“Dame Joan Collins is a true advocate of this city and that is a big part of why we wanted her to be the godmother,” Bettridge said.
Dame Joan said: “To me Paris is the most beautiful and cultured city in the world. It is the City of Light; I love it and it’s wonderful that this beautiful ship is starting its journey here.
“It hasn’t escaped me that we are standing between the Eiffel Tower, which represents progress, and Lady Liberty, the sign of freedom, and in front of the Joie de Vivre, which is the joy of living.”
Joie de Vivre
The ship is designed to feel like a floating French boutique hotel, says line president Ellen Bettridge. Dining venues include Le Pigalle, Salon Toulouse and Le Bistrot, plus Le Cave des Vins – a private venue where a seven-course dinner is paired with French wines.
McDonald show helped ‘knock the socks off sales’
Uniworld’s TV appearance on Cruising with Jane McDonald has helped the luxury line achieve “triple-digit growth” over the past 12 months.
UK managing director Kathryn Beadle also said the line was investing more to support homeworkers following the launch of its ‘Uniworld – In Your World’ homeworker network group last year.
“The UK is doing very well and we’ve knocked the socks off sales,” she said.
“That is partly down to the success we’ve had following the Jane McDonald show.
“We immediately saw a surge in interest for our brand and river cruising following that, and that is now starting to convert into bookings.
“The UK has seen triple-digit growth and we’ll continue to grow every year.”
A quarterly newsletter for homeworkers will debut in April and include reports written by sales team members. Sales staff are also hosting events for homeworkers at French patisseries across the UK to coincide with the naming ceremony this week.