The rivers are alive, with the sound of music

Date Posted: 13/08/2015

Tiefental Valley Austria

Pictured: Tiefental Valley Austria.

Jeannine Williamson met Elisabeth von Trapp on one of Uniworld’s first commemorative river cruises through Austria.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music, which took the world by storm, winning five Oscars and two Golden Globe awards.

To celebrate, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has launched a series of sailings themed around the musical, which have Elisabeth von Trapp on board.

Jeannine Williamson took one of the first of these topical cruises – which will also run throughout 2016 – to see what passengers can expect.

The full cruise review will feature in December’s edition of Cruise Magazine. But here, Jeannine offers a taste of what it’s like to be on board a ship with Elisabeth, and chats to her about how she came to be involved in the themed cruises and what her time on board means to her.

Jeannine meets Elisabeth

The name von Trapp is inextricably linked with the family whose flight from Nazi tyranny was immortalised in The Sound of Music, so it is possibly no surprise that Elisabeth von Trapp, granddaughter of Maria and Baron von Trapp, has forged a musical career as a singer and guitarist.

“One of my first memories as a three-year-old was when my father got out his guitar and sang Silent Night in German,” she said, as we cruised towards Salzburg, The Sound of Music’s homeland and Elisabeth’s base for part of the year.

“It is wonderful to be on the river and I love opening the window in my cabin and watching the scenery drift by,” she said.

We were on the celebratory trip aboard Uniworld’s River Beatrice where Elisabeth has already enchanted guests with a repertoire of songs that extended far beyond the popular tunes (which in fact were never sung by the von Trapps but were written for the film by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein).

“I always try to pick songs that describe my own journey as well as telling the story of my family who made a deep impression on my life,” said Elisabeth, who grew up in Vermont with one sister and four brothers.

But Elisabeth’s journey into music hasn’t been an easy one, like you might expect. If her mother had had her way, Elisabeth might never have taken the path into playing for audiences on occasions like Uniworld’s specialist cruise. 

“When I said I wanted to go into music my mother told me to study something else. I had been sent to school in Austria at the age of ten and after high school I took my mother’s advice and studied other subjects, which led me to start a clothing business making Austrian dirndl dresses and also working in education. Yet I always knew I had to pursue music.”

Elisabeth von Trapp

Pictured: Elisabeth von Trapp.

After making the transfer into music, Elisabeth quickly became reconnected with the musical that made her family name famous. She has played the part of Maria herself, and greeted audiences around America at performances of the stage show that first opened on Broadway in 1959.

She was entranced to hear about How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, the UK reality show that saw telesales girl Connie Fisher become leading lady in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revival of the musical.

“It was like a fairy-tale to see an unknown picked to take part in the story,” she said.

Chatting to Elisabeth on a Uniworld cruise gives you the opportunity to get her insight into The Sound of Music phenomenon. An engaging and philosophical woman, Elisabeth told me that whilst aspects of the film are “pure Hollywood”, it carries a powerful and pertinent message, reinforced by the family’s real-life struggle to start anew.

“They actually left for Italy by train quite legally and later boarded a ship in England to sail to America,” she said. “They arrived with little money and survived a time of momentous change by vowing to stay together and support each other.”

Fact and fiction aside, Elisabeth cites the one common connection between the film and her family. “It hinges on love,” she says. “Maria’s story is a saga of a remarkable and courageous woman whose life continues to inspire and fascinate those who encounter it.”

And in its golden anniversary year, there’s no doubt people will continue to embrace the film, and the inspiration behind it, for many more years to come. Especialy those on a cruise like this.  

To find out more about Uniworld’s Sound of Music cruises visit


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