S.S. La Venezia started out as the more modest River Countess, built in 2003 and sailing the Po River and the shallow Venice lagoon since 2013. Even before its current incarnation, River Countess was the most luxurious riverboat in Venice.
Now, the ship has been re-launched with even higher standards. In 2019, River Countess was partially crushed against the quayside at San Basilio, the small-ship dock on Venice’s Giudecca Canal, in an accident, when an MSC cruise ship ploughed into it. Fortunately, there were no fatalities and owner Uniworld used the downtime to completely renovate the ship, converting it into a "Super Ship," its most luxurious category, with new decor and furnishings, inspired by Venice and the surrounding area.
Uniworld’s Super Ships are always anything but generic, with extravagantly opulent decor and dramatic touches, from lavish chandeliers to swagged curtains and sumptuously textured wall coverings. La Venezia doesn’t disappoint, from the moment you step onboard into a lobby done out in black and gold and adorned with large potted palms, a circular sofa fringed with silver at its heart. Elaborate Venetian carnival masks adorn one end of Hari’s Bar, the main salon, where the bar is painted pale gold and the gilded chairs resemble small thrones.
While this sounds wildly over the top, the design works, and you quickly settle into what’s essentially an elaborately decorated floating boutique hotel. There’s certainly nothing snooty about the ship, despite its palatial appearance; the dress code is casual and the vibe jolly, aided by the free-flowing, all-inclusive drinks.
This inclusive pricing. -- and the fact that unlike Venice’s many hotels -- it moves, are what gives S.S. La Venezia the edge, all the more so since the 2021 ban of big cruise ships from the city center. During a week-long cruise, you really do get the best of Venice and the lagoon. Four of the seven nights are spent at San Basilio, or at the Sette Martiri mooring, even closer to Piazza San Marco. You’re in the heart of the city, either way, and are free to explore.
The other three nights depend on water levels in the lagoon. You are almost certain to go to Chioggia, a fishing community at the far south of the lagoon, and Mazzorbo island, connected to pretty Burano by a foot bridge. The ship is supposed to sail a short distance into the broad Po River but fluctuating water levels sometimes make this impossible.
When the ship stays at Chioggia instead of heading up the Po, shore excursions to Bologna and Ferrara are operated from here, and involve a longer bus journey. There seems little disadvantage to this as the Po is not a scenic river. The banks are lined with trees and reeds, and there’s very little to see.
Off The Ship
· Main dining room, pizzeria and panini snack bar
· Wide selection of wine, spirits and cocktails
· All shore excursions
· Use of the gym, including classes
· Specialty coffee
· Drinking water
· Spa treatments
· Dining in La Cantinetta
· Fit to Travel covid testing
· Premium drinks
Most passengers are mature North Americans, mostly couples, with a high number of repeaters. Uniworld also attracts British, Australian and a handful of mainland European passengers. A lot of people take the cruise as part of a longer land tour of northern Italy, so friendships form quickly.
You won’t see many families on La Venezia but in the summer school vacation, Uniworld offers Generations cruises, aimed at a family audience, with excursions and activities geared to younger cruisers.
Daytime: Smart casual, and practical, as most days are spent out on tour. Smart shorts are acceptable in the restaurant at lunchtime, but not swimwear or cover-ups. Respectable dress covering shoulders and knees is required to enter churches ashore.
Evening: Smart casual again. Men wear long pants and collared shirts and women tend to wear smart pants and tops, or cocktail dresses.
Not permitted: There are no hard and fast rules but shorts, baseball caps and T shirts are not generally seen at dinner.
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