This was the fifth Uniworld cruise for my wife and me and it immediately followed the Highlights of Eastern Europe on the S.S. Beatrice. Our experience on the Beatrice did not meet the Uniworld standards so we were anxious to see if this cruise met the Uniworld standards. This cruise was excellent in all areas: the staff, service, ship, food and excursions. Be advised that this is not your normal river cruise. There is some cruising but much of the time is spent docked in the Venice Lagoon and traveling by water taxi. It’s a great way to visit Venice.
The trip started with two nights at the Rosa Grand Hotel in Milan. There was a welcome meeting at 5 pm where the local Uniworld host explained the schedule for the next two days which was followed by a vicinity walk around the hotel area. Uniworld made dinner reservations at a local restaurant (at your own expense) or you could have dinner on your own. Uniworld did this for both nights and it was very convenient to have the reservations made because Milan was very crowded because it was Design Week. The next day following the included breakfast at the hotel (which was a delicious selection) we had a walking tour of Milan. The group size averaged about 25 people. Our first stop was a private viewing of the Last Supper. Our group was alone in the viewing area for about 30 minutes while the guide discussed the painting. Our last stop was the interior of the Milan Cathedral (Duomo). That afternoon there was an optional Duomo Rooftop Tour via elevator (55 € per person) which included an aperitif after the visit. You could also purchase a tour ticket and do the tour on your own. I would recommend doing it with the group because it includes a very knowledgeable guide. This tour was very interesting but not for anyone with a fear of heights or mobility issues. It includes a lot of walking and stairs.
The next morning following breakfast, we traveled to Verona where we had a walking tour followed by lunch and wine tasting at Serego Alighieri Wine Estate. We arrived in Venice about 4:30 pm and boarded the River Countess.
The next day we had a 3.7 mile walking tour which included a visit to Doge’s Palace and returned to the ship thru the back alleys and streets. The groups were small and the guide was excellent. Several different excursions were offered each day. That afternoon we sailed the Venice Lagoon. Our group visit to St. Mark’s Cathedral was cancelled due to Easter preparations. An after-hour visit of Scuola Grande di San Rocco was substituted. Many guests, ourselves included, felt this was a poor substitution. It involved a lot of walking over uneven ground in the dark and once we reached the building, the paintings weren’t that interesting.
The next day was one of two when the River Countess crossed the Adriatic Sea and Italian Maritime authorities do not allow passengers to remain on the ship. We enjoyed a walk through Chioggia and a boat tour through the lagoon to hear about mussel harvesting before enjoying a delicious lunch at a local restaurant. That afternoon we sailed the Po River.
The next day we had a Bologna walking tour, pasta making demonstration and Bolognese lunch. That evening we sailed the Po River.
The next morning we visited the local market in Chioggia and sailed the Venice Lagoon in the afternoon.
The next day we visited the “Magic Islands of Venice” (Torcello, Mazzorbo and Burano) via private boat.
The following day was one of our favorite excursions: a water taxi ride to the Rialto market with the ship’s chef to purchase produce, meat and fish for today’s lunch and dinner. We also had time to take a gondola ride. In the afternoon we visited the AVG Murano glass factory for a glass-blowing demonstration and opportunity to purchase Murano glass pieces.
Early the next morning Uniworld took us to the airport for our flight home. A Uniworld representative took us to our check-in counter and then to the security check to make sure everything went smoothly.
The River Countess is a wonderful ship. We enjoyed all of our meals in the Savoy restaurant and there is Osteria Siena which seats about 20 people and serves delicious pizza. There was an on-board musician that played during the afternoon and evening hours when local entertainment was not brought onboard. Our cruise director was wonderful and made sure everything ran smoothly.
The walking groups averaged about 15 people, the local guides were excellent and a gentle walkers group was offered. Since we were past passengers, we each had one bag of laundry done. The turnaround time was quick and everything came back nicely folded or on hangers. There was a lady on this cruise that used an electric scooter. The Uniworld staff members went above and beyond to accommodate this passenger, carrying her scooter on and off the boat for excursions and assisting her in every way imaginable. They went above and beyond.
Our cabin had plenty of room, was laid out well, had plenty of storage, and plenty of electrical outlets (both American and European). There was a nice ledge under the window that provided additional storage space. Each room had its own temperature control that kept the room comfortable.