Women of Influence in the Cruise Industry
The cruise lines of the world are experiencing an industry boom like none other. We look into the future of cruising with two standout women; Lisa Pile and Ellen Bettridge at the helm.
Vice President of Sales for Regent Seven Seas Cruises (Australia and NZ)
Getting the word out about the most luxurious ship ever built isn’t the biggest challenge for Lisa Pile – it’s keeping up with demand.
For Lisa Pile, it’s the simple things in life that matter: coffee enjoyed with friends; a strong work ethic; honesty; integrity; and passion for what you do. “I really do have the best job in the world,” she says of her role at Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC). Her role Involves ensuring that Australians and New Zealanders know about “the best luxury cruise brand in the market”.
The most luxurious cruise ship ever built
For back-up to her claim, you need only look at Seven Seas Explorer, the latest ship from RSSC and christened by HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco as “the most luxurious ship ever built”. Ms Pile might be relatively new to the cruise industry, but she has begun her oceangoing career at the top. After years of working overseas in the hotel industry for the likes of Kempinski and Raffles, she was the top pick to help Steve Odell launch RSSC and sister brand, Oceania Cruises, in Australia and New Zealand in 2016. “He knew my background and knew exactly what he was looking for,” she says
RSSC has since garnered an impeccable reputation for five-star resort luxury at sea. Ms Pile is hardly surprised. “Know your product, know your market,” she says. From the brand’s response in Australia, it’s evident she’s well versed in both. “RSSC is pure luxury without any pretension,” she explains. “There really is nothing out there like it.”
Explorer was the fourth ship to join the fleet, with another new vessel due in 2020. For now, says Ms Pile, the hard work is in keeping up with the deluge of demand; Australians and New Zealanders have embraced RSSC’s informal take on luxury so much that inventory is now her number-one challenge.
Getting on board
Booking early is essential, with the best suites and cabins selling very quickly. While the Mediterranean is still the number one destination for Australians sailing with RSSC, the Baltics are rising in popularity, as is the Caribbean region thanks to new itineraries visiting burgeoning hot-spot Cuba. For Ms Pile, however, it’s China and Japan that have captured her imagination. “Both have amazing food and we offer some great itineraries taking in these countries. They are fantastic destinations, steeped in history and culture.”
President & CEO, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
As Uniworld’s new head, Ellen Bettridge is leading luxury river cruising in new directions, with millennial-minded travellers firmly in her sights.
Ellen Bettridge takes a personal approach to her role at the helm of the opulent boutique river cruise company. “I’ve never launched a ship of my own,” she says of Uniworld’s new vessel, S.S. Joie de Vivre, inspired by the vivacity of 20th-century Paris and christened on 27 March in a prime position in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Before taking on the rivers of the world, however, Bettridge spent almost 23 years at American Express, graduating from selling travel as a frontline agent to running AmEx’s retail travel business in the US. After time spent at Silversea and Azamara Club Cruises, she relocated with her family from Florida to Los Angeles to answer the call and lead Uniworld.
“I was given an opportunity to run the operations as well as the sales and marketing, which was something I was very attracted to. It was a chance to really spread my wings and learn.” It’s certainly an opportunity she’s embraced since taking on the role in August 2016.
Where Uniworld is headed
She’s leading river cruising in a new direction with the launch of U by Uniworld in October 2017, a brand for millennial-minded travellers who haven’t been sure if river cruising is for them. “For the new brand, we’re taking two of our existing vessels and they’re going to go through a slight renovation,” Ms Bettridge says. Rooms will largely remain untouched – “with the incredible bed, flat-screen TV and marble bathroom” – but common spaces will receive a contemporary makeover, blending fun with a touch of elegance.
Technology is increasingly coming into the equation. There are plans for the already-included onboard Wi-Fi to be supplemented by Wi-Fi hotspots that guests can take on shore for a nominal fee. “Guests want to stay connected all the time,” Ms Bettridge says. This new offering will allow them to Instagram and update statuses even in the quaintest of European hamlets.
There’s certainly a lot to share on board a Uniworld ship. Each vessel is designed to reflect and immerse guests in the environment she sails past, from the Schönbrunn Palace-inspired S.S. Maria Theresa to the touches of Versailles aboard S.S. Marie-Antoinette. S.S. Joie de Vivre is a celebration of all things French, with a yacht-like feel of polished wood and light colours.
On board, guests will find “amazing French food, amazing French wine [and] French experiences”, Ms Bettridge says. Her itinerary follows the Seine from Paris up to Honfleur, “the most adorable place that looks like it’s frozen in time”.
Bettridge’s Personal Highlights
One of Ms Bettridge’s personal highlights for the coming year is cruising from Budapest aboard S.S. Maria Theresa with her family: “This will be their first opportunity to see the ship and understand why I love my job and why I’m so passionate about it.”
This article appeared in volume 26 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.