CRUISE NEWS

The bottom line: A cruise to Venice needs to be on your bucket list

Arrived's writer boards the SS Venezia for a trip decades in the making.

WORDS COLLEEN SULLIVAN

CRUISE NEWS

The bottom line: A cruise to Venice needs to be on your bucket list

Arrived's writer boards the SS Venezia for a trip decades in the making.

WORDS COLLEEN SULLIVAN

'La Serenissima' in summer.

There’s a story behind the story of why I needed to visit northern Italy.

When I was 7-years-old, my cat Simon ran away. A nun at the Catholic school I attended suggested I pray to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. The next morning, Simon strolled nonchalantly up the street as I headed towards the bus stop.

Fast forward twenty years to my first date with my future husband Marc. We spoke kid names on the first date – things were going well, clearly – and for both of us, it was Anthony. We spoke about visiting Padua, in Italy’s far north where St. Anthony had lived and where a basilica is named in his honor.

Fast forward some more, and there we were on Uniworld’s S.S. La Venezia, taking in Padua’s stunning arcaded streets and byzantine-era architecture that includes the basilica.

The SS Venezia passing through a typically gorgeous stretch of Northern Italian coastline. The ship accommodates 126 guests.

Arrived's writer getting some fresh air.

The town is not far from the stunning canals of Venice – as the name suggests, another stop on the Venezia - alongside a number of little islands in the Venetian lagoon.

In August 2021, Venice banned large cruise ships entering the Giudecca Canal. Now, only allow a limited number of cruise companies are allowed to enter – and Uniworld is one of them, taking cruise lovers on a boutique luxury cruise where others can’t.

It is critical to note, that you don’t need a story involving a cat, a nun and a future husband to get on a cruise. There’s a number of other reasons that it makes total sense, be it from a practical standpoint, or more luxurious reasons.

Money, for one. Given Venice’s status as a desired travel hotspot, accommodation in and around it can be expensive. It is extremely comforting when wandering the irresistible charm of the canaled laneways knowing your bed is waiting for you, made and docked on the water.

Bottom line: A budget is anywhere but your thoughts, whether on or off the Venezia.

The domed roof of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, looming over one of Venice's waterways.

Up early exploring the 16th century Doge’s Palace we note that Doges shares my husband’s surname, Trevisan, so legend (or wishful family thinking) had it my husband was somehow related. A private tour of the palace with an esteemed art historian preceded a stroll through St. Mark’s Square and Castello district.

Touring St. Mark's Basilica (pictured), Doge's Palace and more is a lot more satisfying away from the sometimes maddening crowds.

One of many stunning roof murals in Doge's Palace.

An exclusive after-hours tour of St. Mark’s Basilica followed that night, where music drifted out melodically from the famous Florian’s restaurant. In Bologna we checked out the Asinelli Tower (the country’s tallest leaning tower…and no, it’s not that one) and shopping the Quadrilatero market, we had another private moment when we attended a pasta making class at a local restaurant, where we learned never to add salt to pasta water until it boils.

Bottom line: With private tours, you’ll avoid the “the moving mess of sweaty bodies” as Susan the Art Historian so aptly describes.

Florian has been around since 1720, making it one of the oldest restaurants/cafes in the world.

JOURNEY THROUGH ENCHANTED BEAUTY

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Plush interiors are a feature of the Venezia, and many of Venice's famed bridges can be seen woven into the intricately designed furnishings.

With a staff of 44 and only 74 guests on board (our ship holds 126 but was not full), the staff quickly learned our names along with our favorite drinks, desserts and coffee. Having forgotten to pack a hairbrush, and with no salon on the ship, I was desperate for a wash and blowout midway through the sailing. Leave it to Louisa the ever-helpful cruise manager to find me a hair salon in the town of Chioggia after a bike ride in the rain.

Bottom line: You’ll spend the first few nights home wishing you could have taken the staff home with you.

Rialto is the restaurant on board, and there’s a plethora of options, both carb loaded and not; from “panini of the day” to a healthy salad bar for lunch. Dinner consisted of multiple starter soups (including the founder, Bea Tollman’s, famous chicken soup), and four main courses (from spaghetti ai Frutti di mare to ossobuco) and quite a few desserts (panna cotta to a colourful array of gelato flavors).

Bottom line: Like the rest of the country, food is no issue on the SS Venezia.

Rialto Restaraunt.

Knowing your bed is waiting for you, made and docked, is a godsend in a place as popular as Venice.

With its bespoke Savoir of England beds, Murano glass fixtures, heated floors and marble walls in the bathroom, the staterooms are comparable to a top Venetian hotel room. I was happy to discover one of the staterooms had been converted to a spa room and there was a small but nicely appointed gym, outfitted with an exercise bike, treadmill, and weights. Milenko the masseuse was able to relieve the pinched nerve in my shoulder from a long flight. On board you’ll also find bikes, which we hopped on one afternoon, peacefully riding through quaint neighborhoods and stumbling upon a cemetery where we found many headstones marked with my husband’s family’s last name.

Bottom line: There are ways to exercise on a river cruise if you’re looking to sneak in a workout.

Burano's colourful houses, indicating the start and finish of each family's quarters.

We were completely won over by the beauty of the islands; take Burano for example – an island town of rainbow-colored homes, where families paint their abodes in bright colors to designate where their quarters end and a neighbors begin, as well as to make their homes more visible from the sea. We stayed in town for dinner, where we enjoyed bowls of spaghetti and vongole along with a large shared plate of fritto mista. We returned for lunch the next day and had the same meal in another enchanting restaurant whose walls were covered in local nautical photographs and sketches.

Bottom line: You’ll leave wishing you could retire here.

We were completely won over by the beauty of the islands.

The nights on our river cruise were low-key, save for a few singers and a roaring 20s party. The rests are well earned but if you’re looking for a party, because you’re often docked in port, you have the opportunity to leave the ship and join the local fun.

Bottom line: Save your energy for daytime adventures.

The city is often referred to as 'Serenissima ' - the most serene. Who is arguing?

After the farewell dinner, and for our final foray, we did the Venice thing: taking a romantic late-night gondola ride with the ever-so-charming gondolier Giacomo, who shared how empty Venice had been for the last two years due to the pandemic and how thrilled he was to see the visitors coming back.

Bottom line: Note to Giacomo—we will be as well!

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