I am just back from a fantastic holiday in Italy, and loved my experience with Uniworld and the River Countess.
We started with the pre-cruise add-on in Milan, which was a great start to our vacation. The hotel was well located and comfortable, and the walking tour gave a nice introduction to the city. The transfer to Venice was excellent, with Verona being a hidden gem that ended up being our highlight of the trip - it is a beautiful town I would love to return to.
Arriving in Venice, embarkation was smooth. The River Countess is a good looking ship for its type, and it has all the advertised features. It doesn't have the range of on-board options we've experienced in sea-based cruises, but I wasn't expecting it to. Food was uniformly good, with some meals being excellent - I am fussy with food and was very pleased with what we received.
The best part of the River Countess experience was the staff - they were all consistently friendly and helpful. It truly seemed that nothing was ever too much trouble, and the small size of the ship (just over 100 guests the week we cruised) meant they started to get to know us and our preferences as the cruise progressed. I was particularly impressed by the mid-cruise request for feedback, as my feedback was acknowledged and implemented by the next day.
The excursions were good, although some of the guides shared more information than I personally needed. This is a hard balance, as others seemed to love the stories about the art and churches etc. Having individual ear-pieces was great as it allowed me to wander away briefly and look at things of interest to me while others stayed with the guide.
My only reservation about the experience was the 'river cruise" component. Cruising on the Po was unexciting, as there was little to see on either side of the river much of the time. Spending two days on the river felt forced, and the excursions were based on where we were rather than any particular tourist merit (not that all weren't charming in their own ways). For myself, I'd have been just as happy spending that time in Venice.
Lastly, a note on my fellow cruisers. The week I cruised it was a family cruise, so there were a mix of ages. I liked that. I got the impression that other weeks the age profile for the average cruiser will be heavily 60 (if not 70)+. Passengers came from USA, Canada, UK, and a range of other countries. All were friendly. The small size of the ship meant you saw most people around the ship or on the included tours, and dining was communal (there were only two tables for two), so it was hard to stay anonymous. That will suit some people but not others.
Overall, I gave this cruise 4 stars. It didn't get five because of my reservations about the river aspect, and because River Countess is a small ship with limited facilities. Other than those, it was a 5 star experience and something I would happily do again.
Mr first impression was "wow, it's small" but I was wrong. Sure, it's compact, but once I got used to it there was room for everything we needed. There were some minor signs of wear, but overall I was happy.
Before disembarking I peeked in to look at the category 1 and 2 rooms and am glad I didn't upgrade to them. Category 2 is the same size as category 3, but has the sliding window - nice to have, but not worth paying for (IMHO). The category 1 rooms were bigger, but didn't actually add a lot of usable living space. Again, I wouldn't wanted to have paid a big fee for them.