Lisa Pease, Manager and Travel Specialist in Fox World Travel’s Sheboygan Office recently had the opportunity to explore Venice and the Gems of Northern Italy with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. Hear all about her trip here!
This river cruise experience was my first, and I was very fortunate to sail one of the best…
The drive from the airport to the ship was only about 30 minutes. The motor coach stopped just a few yards from the ship and we were welcomed aboard immediately. The check in process was extremely quick and a light lunch was waiting for us in the lounge. Our cabins were ready by 2:00pm at which time I took a well-needed nap.
The River Countess is extraordinarily beautiful. The ship is not gaudy, but, instead welcoming, luxurious and opulent (without the snootiness you might expect).
Unlimited drinks-Wines, Beers, Spirits, Cocktails, soft drinks, juices, cappuccinos, lattes, espresso and French press coffee, teas and mineral water. Some higher end liquors for a slight charge. (Gratuity included)
The cabins are “cozy”. I was surprised with my own cabin with a french balcony which at 140 square fee, I greatly appreciated. There are ample storage areas in closets and space under your bed for your luggage.
- Very comfy beds with down comforters or blankets as needed
- The bathroom is very luxurious complete with bathrobe, slippers and L’Occitane bath products.
- Fresh water in a pitcher and candies are replenished daily.
- Maid service is offered 3 times per day
- Pillow menu is offered
- Internet access
- Uniworld Intranet
- Flat screen TV’s with movies and shows
All meals are included on board the ship.
The food is phenomenal prepared with fresh fruits, meats, vegetables.
Breakfast is served from 7:00-9:00am with a smaller offering until 10:00am.
Lunch is served from 12:30-2:00pm. Dinner is served from 7:00pm-9:00pm. All dining is open seating.
It is very enjoyable to sit with different guests each night. The wait staff is excellent. They never missed a beat or made a mistake. They were all charming, personable and professional.
The top deck was very nice complete with a Pizza Station, lounge chairs both shaded and unshaded and a designated smoking area. No pool.
As an all inclusive river cruise line, shore excursions are included.
A portable audio headset (found in the closet in your cabin) is used on the group tours.
You have the option to do the standard pace or gentle walking tour. The shore excursions offered are somewhat unique. You are not required to take the shore excursions except on Tuesday & Thursday. Several of the guests were upwards of 70 years old and Venice was having a heat wave with 90 degree temps, so many stayed back on the ship.
The walking tours were a bit long for the older folks. In Verona we walked about ½ mile (perhaps more) to get to the motor coach. Uniworld taxied some of the handicapped folks to the motor coach.
Day 1-Embarkation in Venice
Included Tour to the Glass Blowing Factory in the afternoon.
Day 2- Venice Walking Tour with a visit to Doges Palace or Alternate Gentle Walking Tour
Optional tour (at cost) Venetian Painters: Scuola Grande di San Rocco & Frari Church (55 Euro)
Exclusive Evening visit to Saint Marc’s Basilica.
This was a very unique opportunity (my favorite) to visit the Basilica and hear a lecture with just our group. No one else was there!
The tour begins with a water taxi taking us from our port to St. Marks’s Square. We had a short walking tour of the square and then ushered into the Church where we were given a tour. The Church dates back to 828. We were given an informative lecture on the history of the Basilica as well as the story of St. Mark.
St. Mark’s remains were taken from their resting place and moved to the Basilica where they rest at the base of the alter. We were shown the treasury located on a swivel behind the alter. This is not shown to the general public.
The art and tile in the Basilica are breathtaking and the experience was very unique.
Be wary of pick pockets in Italy. In addition, there are many gentlemen offering roses to the ladies. They tell you they are free…but, then chase you down for money.
We were given the opportunity to stay in Venice to shop/walk around, but, most everyone chose to go back to the ship.
Day 3- Excursion to Padua with a visit to Saint Anthony’s Basilica.
The ship did not have authority to take passengers across the Adriatic Sea, so this excursion was a requirement as everyone had to disembark.
The drive to Padua was about 90 minutes. It was extremely hot this day so there weren’t many visitors on the streets or at Saint Marc’s Basilica. Padua is an extremely religious town and one of the oldest in Northern Italy.
The quaint streets around the Basilica are lined with religious trinkets and paraphernalia.
It is also a University town, so there were many students milling about. We visited Saint Anthony’s Basilica which was comprised of the church, gardens and school. We had some free time to explore the city with its narrow roads (very easy to get lost).
Shopping in the main square consisted of Luxury Brand name stores (Gucci, Prada, etc.) but, more economical stores could be found along the narrow streets. We had difficulty finding shops that were open as most shops close in the afternoons and open again in the late afternoon/early evening.
When visiting Churches in Europe, remember to cover your shoulders (scarf) and no shorts or skirt above the knees.
We were late for the Welcome Reception Dinner because the driver couldn’t find the ship. (See my note below on ship placement).
Day 4- Day on your own in Polesella
The walk into town was about 10 minutes. It is a very small village with lovely homes, gardens and shops. The two most notable structures were the Commune Polesella and the American Disco J.
Day 5- The ship did not have authority to take passengers across the Adriatic Sea, so an excursion was a requirement as everyone had to disembark.
Excursion to Ravenna visiting the Byzantine Mosaics or Excursion to Chioggia with seafood lunch
Chioggia (also know at Little Venice) is extremely charming. If you look at pictures of this town you would swear you were in Venice. The drive by motor coach took about an hour. We were dropped within the walled city of the 6th century town. We arrived just as they were closing up the street markets. We had only about 60 minutes to shop…wish we had more! The prices at the market were extraordinary.
Dresses for 10-20 Euro, Blouses & Skirts for 8-12 Euro, Purses for 8 Euro, Scarves for 1-3 Euro. You could find pretty much anything you were looking for at this market. The walk was about 1 mile from the city walls to the water.
The market closed up by 12:30pm and everything was cleaned from the streets and everything closed. We had lunch at a lovely seaside restaurant. We would have enjoyed it a bit better had it not been so hot. There was no airflow and we were all melting. We met our ship about 1 mile from the town.
Day 6– Excursion to Verona
Walking tour of the Historic center of Verona with a visit to Juliet’s Balcony.
The walled city of Verona sits on the Adige River and is very beautiful and more quaint (in my opinion) than Venice. Verona has its own coliseum dating back to 30AD.
Similar to Venice you will find high end shopping as well as small markets for the usual Italian souvenirs.
Afternoon optional tour (at cost)-Winery tour with lunch and wine tasting (85 Euro)
The drive to Valpolicella was gorgeous as we passed by vineyards built into the rolling hills. The Serego Alighieri Estate was about an hour drive. We were able to sample ½ dozen cheeses with honey & preserves, salad, bread and olives.
For lunch we had risotto soaked in wine and cake for dessert. Each course was served with their three regional wines. Afterwards we were able to purchase wine, preserves and honey. The wine cost was reasonable. The tour itself a was a bit overpriced at 85Euro.
Day 7- Excursion to the market in Venice or day on your own.
We shopped the very busy streets of Venice and took a Gondola Ride. The cost was 80 Euro for 6 people.
Afternoon optional Tour (at cost)-Venetian Painters at the Accademia (45Euro)
WHAT SETS UNIWORLD APART FROM OTHER RIVER CRUISE LINES:
- Luxurious ships uniquely designed
- Culinary experience
- Choice of itineraries
- Truly All Inclusive
OTHER NOTEWORTHY MENTIONS:
- Uniworld offers Nordic walking sticks and bicycles.
- They had a wellness program on board. You could sign up for massage or private yoga classes (at a cost). The prices were very reasonable compared to 5 star hotel or other cruise lines.
- Uniworld does not make announcements over the intercom or ring a bell for dinner. It’s a very quiet, relaxing environment.
- Key cards are wrapped in leather and service as your room key and embarkation/disembarkation car (Very simple to use.)
- There is an internet station onboard with two laptops.
- On the days we were forced to disembark, lunch vouchers were issued for the guests.
- Lectures and briefings were offered almost daily in the afternoon.
- Laminated recipe cards featuring the entrée, appetizer or dessert for the evening are delivered to your cabin.
Ship docking assignments are requested by the cruise line two years in advance. They never know where the ship will be docked. In some cases dock changes are made in as little as 2 days prior to embarkation. I received a dock change in my email just a few days before sailing. If you have clients arriving a few days prior to sailing, be sure to let them know to watch their email for changes.