December 21, 2014
St Mark's Basilica

St Mark’s Basilica

The Northern Italian city of Venice, with its famous canals and incredible architecture, is one of the world’s most unique cities and one of the most popular with visitors to Europe. So popular is Venice that it’s almost impossible to find a quiet time of the year to explore the wonders of this historic city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor centuries Venice has been an important trading port, thanks to its location on the Adriatic Sea; more recently, it has become a hub for cruise ships. Every morning, especially during the northern summer months, there is a procession of cruise ships into the terminal where they disembark passengers and sail out again in the evening.

There is just so much to see and do in Venice that a one day visit as part of a Mediterranean cruise, does not do this city justice.

Visiting Venice on board a river ship, as I did recently, provides a better alternative. The stylish “River Countess” spends several nights docked in Venice, during Uniworld’s “Venice & The Gems of Northern Italy” river cruise, sailing on the Venice Lagoon and the Po River, also visiting Padua, Bologna, Ferrara, Verona and Ravenna as well as some quaint fishing villages along the way.

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We boarded River Countess in Venice and after settling into our very spacious and luxurious cabin, akin to a five star hotel room, we decided to explore the area. As we were docked right in the heart of Venice it was so amazing to just walk along the quayside, watching the water taxis and other water craft on the lagoon. Lining the quayside were a myriad of historic buildings, old warehouses that had been converted into shops, restaurants, hotels and apartments. It was not long before we came to a canal, which we crossed via a hump shaped bridge and caught our first glimpse of a gondolier, followed by a virtual procession of gondoliers. Nothing like seeing a gondolier to make you believe that you really are in Venice.

Our cabin on Uniworld's "River Countess"

Our cabin on Uniworld’s “River Countess”

Returning to “River Countess” for a cocktail while we listened to the evening briefing and learnt of the exciting plans for the following day, it was then time to enjoy our first dinner on board and meet our fellow passengers. The food was exceptional during the entire cruise. Using only the freshest local produce, the meals were just as much a highlight of the cruise as the cities we visited. Complimentary matching wines were served with lunch and dinner and throughout the cruise, complimentary alcoholic beverages and soft drinks were also served.

The next morning our guided walking tour took us to explore the wonders of the Doge’s Palace and the famous Bridge of Sighs. Afterwards we were free to explore the city on our own. That evening our guide brought us to Piazza San Marco where we were fortunate to have an exclusive visit to the spectacular St Mark’s Basilica, where we sat in awe as our guide related its history while pointing out the treasures contained inside this ancient building with its incredible domes, before taking us down into the crypt. This was a most memorable experience.

Sandra Tiltman    Photos: John Pond