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S.S. La Venezia


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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.

Uniworld’s Super Ships are always anything but generic, with extravagantly opulent décor 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 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. When you add up all the elements of the cruise - all meals, drinks, activities, gratuities and accommodation - it becomes clear what a competitively priced way this is to spend a week in Venice, in extreme comfort.

Dress code

**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.

Activities on board range from gentle stretch classes in the morning to enrichment lectures and commentary when the ship is sailing the Venice lagoon. The standard of guides who come on board to offer this is exceptional. Other than this, there are library books to borrow, a souvenir shop, a small spa treatment room and a gym. Occasional evening entertainment is brought on board, ranging from a singer and band performing traditional Italian songs to an opera trio. Evenings otherwise tend to be quiet; unless there’s arranged entertainment, people are tired after fairly intense sightseeing days ashore.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

Most days are spent on tour ashore, so life on board for those not joining the tours is quiet. Most guests are content to lounge on the top deck or read or play cards in Hari’s Bar and Lounge, the ship’s main lounge. A selection of books is provided in the Panini Bar, a separate section of the lounge.

Bars and Lounges

There are just two lounge areas, where all talks, drinks parties and briefings take place. Hari’s Bar is the main lounge, with the smaller Panini Bar off one end.

**Hari’s Bar (Murano Deck):** Hari’s Bar is the main gathering place on the ship, flooded with light thanks to windows that run the length of the bar on both sides. There’s a bar in shimmering gold at the centre, with glass tables and gilded chairs along each side. A pianist entertains in the evenings. This is where the Captain’s welcome and farewell drinks take place. As well as drinks, tea and specialty coffee are available at Hari’s Bar all day. You can get a croissant here in the mornings if you miss breakfast, and a small selection of cakes and cookies is put out in the afternoons.

**Panini Bar (Murano Deck)** The Panini Bar, so called as it offer lunchtime panini, is a pretty room located forward of Hari’s Bar, done out in pale gold and sapphire blue, with comfortable chairs and bookshelves. If offers a quieter space than the main bar and can be used separately for private groups.

S.S. La Venezia Outside Recreation

Sun loungers, chairs and tables line the upper deck of the ship, with oversized umbrellas in striped brown and black providing shade. There is no pool or hot tub. There’s no jogging track, but passengers do run or power walk laps. The upper deck has full waiter service. There’s a giant chess set, too. This area is always busy during the scenic sailing elements of the cruise, with a guide providing narration through the Quiet Vox sets that are issued to every passenger.

S.S. La Venezia Services

The reception desk is where guests book shore excursions, while the lavishly appointed reception area, done out in gold and black, is also where the cruise manager’s desk is located. WiFi is free on board. There is one lift that travels between the three passenger decks but does not access the uppermost open air deck. A 24-hour tea and coffee station is located on Burano deck, while there’s a passenger laundry, free to use, on Torcello deck. The ship carries a fleet of bicycles but this is something of a mystery as you’re not allowed to use them anywhere in Venice, or in Chioggia. Essentially, they appeared to be for the crew.There’s a tiny ‘Serenity River Spa’ — really, just a single treatment room — forward on Burano deck. Treatments are charged by length. Treatments include hot stone massage, wellbeing massage, body buff, reflexology and facials. A fitness centre is located on Burano deck, with exercise bikes, a treadmill and weights. Gentle stretch classes are held on deck in the early morning. The ship carries a fleet of bicycles but there is nowhere on the itinerary where their use is allowed, so they seemed a rather pointless addition. A cycling tour from Chioggia uses an external supplier.

**Ristorante Rialto (Murano Deck):** The open seating main dining room serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with dining times working around the shore excursion program. The space is beautifully appointed, with sumptuous leather chairs and comfortable banquettes. Vases of peach roses adorn every table and there’s more than a hint of the iconic Orient Express train in the frosted glass panelling that separates the booths at one end of the room, and the art deco brass table lamps. Breakfast is buffet-style, with an impressive range of dishes. Bacon, eggs, sausages and hash browns are always available, while omelettes are made to order and daily specials might include Eggs Benedict, or waffles. A separate station serves fruit, cheese and cold cuts, while another section still offers freshly baked bread, preserves and thoughtful touches like Nutella and peanut butter miniatures. Prosecco and Bloody Marys are available for those in celebratory mood. As with all meals, vegetarian, low sugar and gluten free options are offered and clearly marked. Lunch is timed around shore excursions and is usually served from 12.30 p.m. to 2 p.m. This meal is also a buffet. There’s an impressive salad bar with cold cuts and antipasti, as well as a daily soup and a different panini every day. There are four entrées daily, including fresh pasta, a fish or seafood dish, often with Venetian influence, like fresh mussel stew, and a heavier meat dish, such as slow roasted marinated beef rump, with local herbs. Desserts are delicate but decadent, with cheese, fruit and cookies also available. A gelato station serves the flavour of the day, with assorted toppings. Wines are generously poured and if you don’t want the wine of the day, the waiters are obliging at providing alternatives. Dinner is an elegant, à la carte affair, usually served between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. There are four starters, two soups, three mains, a pasta of the day, and three desserts, as well as a fruit or cheese plate. Always-available options include sirloin steak, chicken breast or fillet of salmon. Starters might include tomato salad with eggplant caviar; whisky-cured salmon; or seafood pasta. One of the soups is always the signature chicken soup of Bea Tollman, the matriarch of the family that owns Uniworld. Mains include dishes like pan-seared sea bream, a vegetarian brioche burger or slow-roasted veal tenderloin. The use of local ingredients and culinary style is impressive. A section of the menu highlights the Venetian-inspired dishes, as well as indicating which dishes are lighter and healthier. Wines are poured with dinner, while wine pairings from the premium list are suggested.

**Cielo’s (Lido di Venezia Deck):** Cielo’s is a casual pizzeria located on the top deck, perfect for a laid-back evening of comfort food. It’s a pretty, conservatory-style setting with a dedicated pizza oven. There are only 18 covers, so you need to make a reservation, and a fixed menu. Antipasti include sharing plates of burrata and grilled peppers. Pizza choices are pretty classic, ranging from Margarita to mushroom and pepperoni; no pineapple here. The pizzas are excellent, freshly cooked to order, crispy, with generous filling. There’s a choice of three desserts, including a spectacular tiramisu.

**La Cantinetta (Mazzorbo Deck):** La Cantinetta is a private dining room with a small show kitchen, bookable for wine-paired dinners for up to 12. The five-course menu includes antipasti, minestrone soup, ravioli and linguine, and pan-fried sea bream, followed by a trio of desserts. A different wine is paired with each dish.

**Room Service:** A comfort food room service menu is available, including items like a club sandwich, pasta and cheese plate. Suite guests can order room service breakfast, too.

Cabins on this ship are undeniably compact; Classic, Deluxe and French Balcony accommodation is only 151 square feet, which provides enough space for an extremely comfortable bed, by Savior of London, a vanity, stool and two bedside tables. They are, however, beautifully decorated. All the cabins are upholstered in luxurious fabrics by legendary Spanish art deco designer, Mariano Fortuny, and the décor is the same throughout, apart from the suites. A pale beige-gold motif covers the fabric walls, the ceiling and the furniture, so there’s a sense of being in a luxurious cocoon. All cabins have a safe, vanity, flasks for fresh water, luxurious robes and slippers, TV with infotainment system, phone, individual climate control, and hairdryer. Only the suites have minibars.  Bathrooms, although compact, are beautifully appointed, done out in grey and white marble with walk-in shower, large mirrors and storage space under the sink. Toiletries are by Asprey of London, presented in refillable bottles and including body wash, shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser. S.S. La Venezia does not have any wheelchair-adapted cabins.

**Classic:** The seven entry-level Classic cabins, at 151 sq ft and located on Torcello Deck, the lowest, have exactly the same facilities as higher cabin grades. The only difference is that they have a small window, set high in the wall, just above water level.

**Deluxe:** The 36 Deluxe cabins, at 151 sq ft, are located on Burano and Mazzorbo Decks (one deck covering two levels) and have large picture windows. Two sets of two Deluxe cabins interconnect, ideal for families.

**French Balcony:** Located on Burano deck, the 14 French Balcony cabins have a wall of glass, the doors sliding back to let in river breezes. Their décor, size and facilities are the same as the two lower cabin grades.

**Suite:** The four suites are individually decorated in sumptuous Fortuny fabrics, with gilded accents and fine art on the walls. They’re larger than the standard cabins, at 214 sq ft, with sliding glass doors opening to a French balcony and space for a sofa and coffee table in addition to the bed and vanity. Bathrooms have walk-in shower and underfloor heating. These cabins have butler service, including in-room breakfast, daily fruit and cookie plate, evening canapés, Nespresso coffee machine, fully stocked mini bar, bottle of wine upon arrival, shoe shine and free laundry service.

**Grand Suite: **The two Grand Suites are the most luxurious accommodation on the ship, at 302 sq ft apiece, with a separate bedroom and living room, walk-in closet, two French balconies, potted orchids, sofa, coffee table, armchair and a glass drinks cabinet stocked with crystal decanters of vodka, whisky and brandy. A third bed can be accommodated on request. Décor is extravagant but tasteful, with touches including Murano glass bedside lights and mirrors with an ornate Murano glass surround. Colour schemes range from apricot to a rich gold. The bathrooms are extraordinarily beautiful, lined in luxurious marble with art deco touches and a walk-in shower, separate bathtub and twin basins. Suites come with butler service that includes packing and unpacking assistance, in-room breakfast, daily fruit and cookie plate, evening canapés, Nespresso coffee machine, fully stocked mini bar, bottle of wine upon arrival, shoe shine and free laundry service.

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