Background - We are 2 New Zealanders, aged 56 and 63. We have travelled the world extensively over many years – river cruises, ocean cruises and land tours, as well as much DIY. This is our third river cruise with Uniworld; we have also river cruised with APT. We had been to Venice before, in 2005, but it was a fleeting one nighter as part of a coach tour and we had always wanted to return and see a bit more of it.
We arrived in Venice on Friday, having flown from our home in Christchurch to Sydney, Dubai and on to Venice. We stayed two nights at a hotel near Piazzale Roma, which was a good base while we explored Venice on our own. We mainly spent our time just wandering, a lot of the time through some lesser traversed parts of Venice were the tourists were fewer. You never know what you are going to see around the next corner in Venice. We did go up the Campanile on Saturday morning – were there when it opened, to avoid the queue. A good way of seeing the layout of the city.
On Sunday, we joined our cruise after lunch. The River Countess was moored at Santa Marta, and we walked there from our hotel, where we had left our baggage in the morning. It took us half an hour – the biggest pain being getting the suitcases over all the canal bridges! We are in cabin (they call them staterooms) 309. As past Uniworld passengers they gave us a complimentary 1 category upgrade from what we booked. It is light and bright and very comfortable. Lots of storage space. The bathroom is a decent size for a ship – in fact bigger than some bathrooms we have had in hotels!
The River Countess takes a maximum of 132 passengers, but there are only 89 on this sailing – 40 Australians, 28 Americans, 12 British, 2 Germans, 2 Dutch, 2 Canadians, 1 Chinese and us two Kiwis.
Sunday evening the ship moved from Santa Marta to Riva Sette Martiri, a short walk from St Mark’s Square. After dinner we walked into the square, which was very pleasant.
Today, Monday, we have again done lots more walking. This morning we started at 9am in 4 groups with local guides, for an included excursion. Our guide was truly excellent in every respect. We walked through the Castello district, eventually finding our way to St Marks’s Square where we did a tour of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). Then more walking to a point on the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge, where we were picked up by water taxis, for a cruise down the Grand Canal and return to the ship for lunch. After lunch there were some optional excursions available but we did our own thing, going to the Teatro La Fenice (the Opera House). There we did an audio tour. (Note that if you do this they ask you for your ID which they hold as security until you return the audioguides. We did not have any ID with us, but they agreed to take one of our cruise keycards. They do not tell you that ID is required when you purchase your tickets.) The opera house is magnificent inside and worth a visit. After that we went to the Museo Correr. We are not big museum fans (having become rather museumed out over the years of travel!) but it was included in our ticket which we were given to enter the Palazzo Ducale, so thought we may as well us it. There were some parts of interest.
After an early dinner this evening we had an after hours visit to St Mark’s Basilica. This was rather special, being able to visit without the droves of tourists. We were also allowed into the crypt, which is usually off limits. It is an amazing building.
That is it for now. I will try to get back to this as the week progresses. If anyone has any questions, please ask.