We boarded the River Countess after 7 wonderful days on our own touring Tuscany, Florence and Cinque Terre by car. My husband is a great driver and was able to master the 6 speed manual transmission! We turned the car in at the Venice airport and took a cab to the Santa Marta docking space to board the River Countess.
There was a smile as we entered.....the pictures you see online were accurate!
The staff was professional and cordial. We had a light lunch and our cabin was ready by 2 pm. The cabin is small compared to ocean cruising ships ( we knew this before booking) but they have done a fabulous job using the space available.
Luxury, fine linens, mirrors, marble, great water pressure in shower, plenty of storage (look under the bed for 2 more drawers), vanity/desk, 3 AC/110 outlets (we were able to charge phones etc. easily), a safe, good air conditioning system, all this adds up to an A+ cabin.
Meals/dining room: Very well done, attentive staff, good presentation and variety, and of course 360 degree views of Venice most nights! That is a wow.
Ports: Venice was terrific. Much larger than I had envisioned, more boats, more land, more dwellings. We actually spent a total of 4 nights in Venice...great.
Had free time and some scheduled tours of the city. One highlight was to visit St Marks for a private tour at night....slowly the lights come on, very special!
Tour to Padua: By bus we drove about 45 minutes west to the city. They use 3 buses each day but have 5 city tours guides so your groups are about 16-20 people. The Scrovegni Chapel and interior fresco paintings (painted around 1305)
come to life as our guide detailed the works. Of note, you have to sit in a cleansing room for about 20 minutes prior to entering the chapel...but they have video of the history so that is helpful. Lunch was on your own, I was disappointed that most of the shops were closed after lunch (we were not told this) then we had to board the bus at 2:30pm.
Ravenna: This was about a 1 3/4 hour drive south to the "Mosaic Church" Basilica Sant' Appolinare Nuovo. A wonder to see! We did tour the town also and then had lunch at a local restaurant. We enjoyed the countryside ( lots of green crops) and a nap on the drive back to the boat.
Bologna: This was a 2 hour drive south west from our port. WE had a city tour, but by this time it was a lot of dates, and old buildings. This stop I would not do again. The redeeming factor was a pasta making demo and a great lunch with wine etc. (I feel Uniworld could have done this pasta making somewhere closer to the ship and skipped Bologna) Too long a drive.
Verona: Great city, had some free time too. Could have spent more time there. Good shopping areas. Also about 1 3/4 hours each way to the boat.
Back to Venice on Saturday morning and we sailed the lagoon, wonderful from the sun deck and then had free time in the afternoon! While we did not have a great dock location that day Uniworld had Mercedes vans available to shuttle us to Plaza Roma and we could walk from there to many great places.
Entertainment: A very versatile piano player was aboard for the week, George, he was great! One night they had Veneto Commedia Art'e...it was ok. They had a great band on Friday night and on Thursday they had some opera singers. A lecture on the Venice Lagoon was informative. Our "cruise manager" was personable but I am not sure how often he has done this itinerary with Uniworld. Lots of referring to notes and not as communicative as he could have been....still he was professional and approachable.
I have detailed some of this cruise because no one had yet reviewed this itinerary. It is a river cruise but not like the Rhine. We did go through one set of locks and cruised the Po some. Venice is wonderful and having your first class hotel float with you is quite nice. Only had to unpack once. We will certainly consider Uniworld again.
When it was time to leave for the airport they had a van and an employee help us into the airport and make sure our boarding passes were printed. That was a very good extra that we appreciated.