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Ellen Bettridge CEO, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Feb 11, 2021

PHOTO: © UNIWORLD BOUTIQUE RIVER CRUISES

January/February

THE BASICS

Name: Ellen Bettridge
Title: CEO
Company, city: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises; Los Angeles, California
First job: I was a travel agent, fulfilling my dream to combine work with personal passion.
Where to next: As soon as Italy opens to Americans, I will step aboard our reimagined S.S. La Venezia to rediscover one of my favorite destinations.

A LITTLE BIT MORE

What actor or actress would play you in a movie of your life?
Reese Witherspoon, because she’s smart and independent. Apart from acting, she’s a producer and understands the value of developing a terrific team and empowering them to work toward a larger goal.

What would you be doing professionally if you weren’t in your current industry?
Chief People Officer of almost any industry. At my essence, I am a people pleaser and motivator. Extraordinary things can be done when people exceed their own expectations and come together to create something bigger than themselves. Everything we do requires human collaboration and, often, congratulations. I am good at both.

What is your favorite book, movie or television show?
It’s the holiday season, and in the midst of this pandemic it’s a good time to remember how great and lasting Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life truly is and to be grateful for the blessings of our lives.

What historical figure, dead or alive, would you love to have dinner with?
Having tea with Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II would be extraordinary. She has had a prominent seat at the world’s table for more than 75 years and endured; we both love family, tradition, our jobs and our pets.

THE BUSINESS

What is your most recent project, and what was the inspiration behind it?
We introduced our reimagined S.S. Venezia. The new design led by Uniworld’s artistic directors Toni Tollman and Brian Brennan was inspired by the work of celebrated Italian artist and textile designer Mariano Fortuny, marking the first time designs of the Fortuny company, debuted in 1907, are widely used on a cruise line. Like Uniworld, Fortuny and the company he built prize originality, made possible by artisans deeply committed to their craft. For our guests, this means a setting and style of service wholly immersive in the enduring fascination and magic that is Venice and is born from more than 100 years of experience, a distinguished honor also enjoyed by our parent company, The Travel Corp.

What is your favorite aspect of the job?
I truly love every aspect of bringing the Uniworld experience to life, and so the answer is leadership … setting a standard and achieving something I’m proud to be part of.

What’s the biggest business risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest risk and best decision of my professional career was leaving the comfort of a job I loved to take on a new role as the creator of experience. At Uniworld, the biggest risk was the introduction of a new brand, U by Uniworld, the first river cruise dedicated to a new generation of active travelers — bringing a new way to experience the world to people who may not imagine river cruising is for them.

Who is someone you admire professionally in the travel indus- try?
I admire Brett Tollmanasaboss, travel visionary and human being. As CEO of The Travel Corp., he continues to build upon a century of travel experience, helping us not only navigate this perilous time but also prepare for the future. He is a fearless leader, committed to sustainability and the power of travel to transform.

AS A TRAVELER

Tell us about a travel nightmare: My husband, his daughter and I decided to travel around Canada after my sister’s wedding, planning to go to Vancouver then Victoria Island, British Columbia. We mixed up the dates and took a ferry to Victoria Island instead and were stuck there. Our reservation in Victoria Island wasn’t until the next night, and the hotel was fully booked. We ended up crammed into a small motel room.

Share a comical travel experience: When my daughters were 3 and 10, I took my family on a work trip to Fort Lauderdale. At a gathering at the bar, I was busy talking with a colleague and my husband was playing pool when my 3-year-old ran for it. She had just been introduced to elevators, so she pressed all the buttons she could reach, which only got her to the fifth of 14 floors. While I frantically searched for her, a woman on the fifth floor called down to report an unattended child calling for her mother. We look back at it as comical, but at the time I was terrified. Thank God she wasn’t taller or we might have lost her for good!

What is your preferred method of travel — planes, trains, automobiles, cruise ships — and why? River cruise, of course! No other experience brings you to the heart of a destination as easily and, on Uniworld, with as much style. It is a great way to discover the world.

What has been the best example of customer service you’ve experienced during your travels? At the Rubens Hotel in London, the general manager overheard me talking to my daughter about how much we wanted to see Hamilton and arranged for us to see the sold-out show in the fifth row the next night.

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