In April 2013, Uniworld launched cruises in Italy with a goal to be the most luxurious line on the Po. The company succeeded with flying colors, and the freshly remodeled 134-passenger River Countess surpasses any other river vessel based in Venice.
From the moment you step onboard, the company's signature style of fabulous elegance is presented in full force. A large chandelier and leopard-skin circular sofa dominate the lobby, and natural light, fresh flowers and two parallel staircases combine to give passengers a warm welcome. River Countess might be elegant in style, but the dress code is resort casual. It caters to a predominantly English-speaking, retired clientele.
After 10 years of service, River Countess underwent a total transformation in 2012, with more than $5 million worth of refurbishments. Immediately prior to its Italian debut, the ship received a few extra touches, including a pizza oven and a new tapestry behind the reception area.
One of the most impressive spaces is the Sienna Salon Sky Lounge, a glass-walled conservatory-like cafe decked out with plants and outdoor furniture. On a blue-sky day, the cozy room lights up with sunshine. The main restaurant is also a sight to behold, with white leather booths, white tablecloths and white-tuxedoed waiters.
Seven-night sailings are offered between April and November, with four nights spent in Venice, using the ship as a base. Other shore excursions -- to the historic and cultural delights of Verona, Bologna, Padua and Ravenna -- require coach trips of one to two hours. For these reasons, the itinerary may suit couples who can't decide whether to see Italy by road or river, as there is less sailing time than on the average cruise.
In 2014 and beyond, fares will include all gratuities; unlimited fine wine, beer, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages; shore excursions with local guides; Internet and Wi-Fi in all rooms; and transfers on arrival and departure days. For the remainder of the 2013 season, house wine is complimentary, with other choices available at additional cost.