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Cruise & Rail: Venice & Istanbul (2022) tour
Belgrade Istanbul Cruise & Rail: Venice & Istanbul (2022) Trip

Cruise & Rail: Venice & Istanbul (2022)

Uniworld
4.9 . Excellent
96%
Travel Style: N/A
Physical Level: Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment. 2- Easy
Lodging Level: 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Comfort (4*)
16 days
From: $ 19,199 $ 1,200 / day
Checking price

Overview

Short Description

Travel between northern Italy and the diverse nations of the Balkan Peninsula, and discover a unique blend of eastern and western cultures on a one-of-a-kind journey by land, cruise and train.

Style River cruise
Array
Itinerary Focus N/A
3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Lodging Level Comfort (4*)
Flight & Transport Inclusions N/A
Start City Venice
End City Istanbul

Destinations

Italy Turkey

Attractions & Cities Visited

Belgrade Istanbul Mosta Sarajevo Sofia Venice

Activities & Interests

Culture Historic sightseeing River cruise

N/A
See more

Itinerary

2019 version

Venice to Istanbul


Day 1 - Venice (Embark)

Port - Venice

Arrive at Venice Marco Polo International Airport, where you will be transferred to the ship. Unpack, relax and enjoy your first evening on the Venetian Lagoon.


Day 2 - Venice

Port - Venice

With your early morning arrival at Doge’s Palace, you’ll be able to marvel at the estate in total peace. Wander through a Venetian neighborhood and experience daily life in an authentic Venetian residential quarter. Later in the evening, cap the day off with a private once-in-a-lifetime experience at an after-hours lighting ceremony inside St. Mark’s Basilica without the crowds.

Excursion(s) - A Morning Walk in Venice with Doge’s Palace Visit
Excursion Price - $70

Please note that the amount of walking during this excursion is extensive.

Venice has no need to designate a pedestrians-only historic district because no cars are permitted within the island city - all transportation is by foot or water.

You first arrive at the Doge’s Palace and most famous plaza in Italy - St. Mark’s Square. Venetians elected their first doge, or duke, in AD 697 and began building the palace around AD 800.

The palace complex, as it exists now, mostly dates to the 14th and 15th centuries, and it brims with jaw-dropping artistic gems, including Tintoretto’s wall-sized Paradise and works by Veronese, Tiepolo and Titian. Throughout its history, Venice has been a supremely political city. Those convicted of crimes were led across the Bridge of Sighs to prison. Follow their footsteps to the prison and gaze into the cells. Casanova escaped from one of these cells. Other less-fortunate prisoners whiled away their time by inscribing graffiti on the walls, which you can still read.

You will continue this exploration by strolling through the historic Castello district. It’s the largest of Venice’s six districts. Back in the 13th century the Castello district was home to the Arsenal, where Venice’s ships were built. (Venetians boasted that they could build a complete ship in a single day.) This is also where the famous Biennale art exhibition now takes place. As you pass 800-year-old homes, you’ll hear the murmur of the soft local dialect through the open windows. Clothes flap from lines strung over tiny canals and kids kick soccer balls along cobbled alleys. It’s a real, living, breathing neighborhood, not just a historic site.

In addition to its well-known museums, Venice is also home to some highly specialized ones: Displays at the Correr are devoted to the history of Venice; the Museo della Musica contains 17th and 18th-century musical instruments and exhibits about composer Antonio Vivaldi. Known as the Red Priest for his hair color, Vivaldi taught music to the daughters of Venetian noblemen. The Museo Ebraico examines the history of the Jewish community that was confined to an island known as Ghetto Nuovo. The latter was one of Europe’s wealthiest and most cultured Jewish communities, made up in part with refugees from the Spanish Inquisition.

Excursion(s) - Night Out: Private After-Hours Visit to Saint Mark's Basilica
Excursion Price - $70

Welcome to Saint Mark’s Basilica. The doors of this icon are specially opened for you tonight. You will see the glorious church in the evening light and without the crowds. You’ll find it almost impossible not to gaze heavenward as you enter St. Mark’s. High overhead, magnificent domes are sheathed in mosaics telling the story of the New Testament, but don’t miss the intricate pattern of marble and mosaic tile under your feet. Ahead of you is the famous altarpiece made by 10th-century Byzantine artisans who gilded it and decorated it with precious gems, some of which were subsequently stolen by Napoleon. The building, which exemplifies the city’s historic connection to Byzantium and the Eastern Mediterranean, was finished in the 11th century and incorporates the remnants of earlier churches. Golden glass-tiled mosaics line the interior walls and cupolas, giving the church its nickname, Church of Gold. It houses treasures collected by Venetians over the centuries. The relics of St. Mark, patron saint of the city, were stolen from Alexandria, and the Tetrarch, a group of four crowned figures, was looted from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Every successful Venetian voyager returned with something to decorate the basilica—a frieze, a statue—and the result is one of the most stunning works of art and architecture in this amazing city.

Note: It is not always possible to arrange an after-hours visit to St. Mark’s Basilica if religious functions or festivities are taking place in the evening. We will try to organize an earlier tour, but if cancelled, an alternative option, like a visit to San Rocco, will be organized.


Day 3 - Venice, Chioggia

Port - Chioggia

Begin your morning with a walk through Venice to meet a local gondola artisan, then head back onboard for a lunchtime sailing across the lagoon. Upon arrival in the fishing town of Chioggia, you'll be able to choose between a ride in a traditional bragozzo with a visit to a countryside estate, some Italian villa wine tasting or a walking tour through Padua.

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening. IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that only crew may be on the ship during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions.

Excursion(s) - Venice Morning Walk with Gondola Artisans Visit
Excursion Price - $70

Get an early morning start to see a side of Venice most of the tourists miss—The Dorsoduro. One of Venice’s six main sestieri, or districts, The Dorsoduro is quieter than some of the more popular districts and thus has an authentic, easygoing atmosphere. Enjoy a walking tour around this picturesque side of town before moving on to visit a gondola artisan. See the craftwork that goes into Venice’s iconic sailing vessels and meet some local masters at work.

Excursion(s) - Padua Walking Tour
Excursion Price - $70

Join your local guide on a walking tour of medieval Padua. Discover the city’s great squares, churches and palaces.

Padua flourished as a hub of learning and discovery in the 13th and 14th centuries. The second-oldest university in Italy was founded here in 1222, hosting such students as Copernicus and faculty as Galileo. Immediately outside the Palazzo del Bo, the university’s first home, you’ll see a cafe where revolutionaries met to plot an uprising against Austrian invaders in 1848.

Stroll past the largest public square in Italy, Prato della Valle, originally laid out by the Romans and transformed in the 18th century into a graceful, elliptical open space with a serene canal and statues of local nobles. Gaze upon the Byzantine-influenced domes and towers of the vast Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, where you’ll often find a crowd waiting to offer thanks or prayers.

Excursion(s) - Noble Country Villas and Their Wines
Excursion Price - $70

With a sommelier as your guide today, you'll learn all about Italian wines from the Veneto region. We start off with a visit of the Villa Foscari di Malcontenta. This remarkably elegant property was built by two brothers from Venice’s influential Foscari dynasty, which boasted multiple Doges. The story that captures the hearts of visitors the most, however, is that of La Malcontenta, the beautiful socialite wife of the Foscari brothers, who was exiled to the estate.

Next, enjoy a wine tasting at the Dominio di Bagnoli, one of the oldest wine producing properties in Europe.

Excursion(s) - Bragozzo Ride with Tastings at Ca’ Zen
Excursion Price - $70

Head to one of the most enticing islands of the Venice lagoon, Chioggia. A small fishing port often referred to as a Venice in miniature, with a well-preserved tradition due to its relative lack of crowds, Chioggia is a wonderfully authentic and picturesque island. Board a genuine Adriatic wooden sailing boat, a bragozzo, to take in the island from the clear blue waters of the lagoon.

After your sailing, return to shore for a visit to Tenuta Ca’ Zen, a beautiful Venetian villa with a fascinating story. Here, you can explore the expansive grounds, antique stable, family chapel and more before rejoining the group for a tasting of local products, which include organic olive oil, wines, honey and cheeses.


Day 4 - Polesella (Bologna or Ferrara)

Port - Polesella

Explore Italy’s culinary capital Bologna on a full-day tour packed with an exclusive pasta-making workshop and lunch or explore Ferrara on a half-day tour.

Excursion(s) - Private Pasta-Making and Italian Lunch in Bologna
Excursion Price - $70

There are those who believe that the best tortellini in the world is made in Bologna. Taste and decide for yourself today. Of course, there’s Bolognese sauce, but that’s just one possible topping for the exceptional pasta available here. Locals also claim to have invented the first chocolate bars, and even if others dispute that claim, there’s no denying that the chocolate shops offer some very special treats. Bologna’s green market brims with local produce, and its specialty food stores and food halls are unmatched; locally made mortadella, luscious balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, ham from Parma and, of course, great rounds of Parmesan cheese all contribute to the lavish displays. Stroll with your guide under the famous arcades to see some of the lovely, historic buildings in the city center. The huge basilica dates to the 14th century, and the two leaning towers that loom above Piazza di Porta Ravegnana were built in the 12th century, as were the structures that housed Europe’s first university. Participate in a workshop on making pasta and enjoy an exquisite Bolognese lunch at a celebrated restaurant. Sated with food and culture, it will then be time to head back to the ship.

Excursion(s) - Ferrara: Renaissance, Elegance and Italian Lifestyle Town Walk
Excursion Price - $70

Square towers rise sternly above the moat that still surrounds Castle Estense, the huge fortress the Este family built in the center of Ferrara in the 14th century. It was a demonstration of both power and caution, since the Estes had just put down an uprising, but it is just one of the family palaces to grace the city they developed. They turned Ferrara into a center for the arts and artists—particularly for musicians and composers—that rivaled Medici Florence. Here the Renaissance concept of the ideal city took shape—it was the first planned city in Italy that did not follow a Roman model—and as you take a brief walking tour through the historic center, you will see the Estes’ vision throughout it, from the street layout that parallels the river to the many family palaces. But not all of Ferrara is Renaissance: The medieval walls still surround the old city (providing a popular walking and biking route for locals and visitors alike), the Gothic cathedral dates to the 12th century, and tiny cobbled lanes might make you think you were visiting the Middle Ages—were it not for the bicycles that Ferrara’s citizens ride everywhere. Your local expert will introduce you to the highlights of Ferrara, and you’ll have some time to explore on your own before returning to the ship for lunch.


Day 5 - Porto Viro, Chioggia, Burano

Port - Chioggia

Today, you’ll admire the greatest sites of charming and coastal Chioggia, including a stop at the local and lively market. Your ship will move to dock overnight in Burano, where you’ll enjoy a lovely evening stroll through this multicolored island.

IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that only crew may be on the ship during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions. We thank you for your cooperation.

Excursion(s) - Chioggia Market Visit
Excursion Price - $70

Chioggia is the quintessential Venetian Lagoon fishing village. Founded in the fifth century, it was known as the pantry of Venice because of its many small truck farms, which supplied Venetian households with produce until just a few decades ago. It is still a thriving fishing port; its wholesale fish market is one of the largest in Italy. On Thursdays, Chioggia also hosts Corso del Popolo—a dynamic outdoor market along its main thoroughfare where stands sell everything from clothes, shoes, purses, gadgets and “every-day” domestic items. Locals usually do their shopping here as prices are more affordable than retail shopping.

Excursion(s) - Evening Stroll in Burano
Excursion Price - $70
Excursion(s) - Castello del Catajo Visit
Excursion Price - $70

Set off for the Euganean hills to discover one of Europe’s most majestic castles. Enjoy a guided tour of a palace so beautiful that it became a resort for the Habsburg Dynasty before being returned to Italy following the first world war. After marveling at its frescoed walls, continue on for a guided walk around its beautiful gardens or take some free time for yourself to explore as you please before returning to the ship.

Excursion(s) - "Let's Go" Biking Chioggia
Excursion Price - $70

Set off on a light bicycle ride along the beaches of Chioggia, an island often described as a second Venice in miniature. Head to Lusenzo Lagoon, break to see the fishing boats, and then continue on to Isola dell’Unione.


Day 6 - Burano (Torcello, Mazzorbo, and Burano), Venice

Port - Burano

Spend the day exploring the northern lagoon of Venice and its captivating islands. Start with a visit to Torcello's famous basilica with an art historian, then stroll through the agricultural island of Mazzorbo and the rainbow-hued island of Burano during your free time after lunch. Alternatively, you can take the afternoon to see the renowned glassblowing artisans of Murano at work.

Excursion(s) - Torcello: Hidden Treasure of the Lagoon
Excursion Price - $70

Settled before Venice was founded, Torcello was once the greatest, most populous city in the lagoon. Now, however, only a handful of people live there. Its centerpiece is the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest church in the lagoon and a monument to Torcello's lost might. The doors open early for you, so you can see the stunning 11th-century mosaic of the Last Judgment without the crowds—and with expert commentary from your art historian guide.

Before we head back to the ship, relax with a cup of coffee at a serene little Osteria on the island.

Excursion(s) - Murano Glass Blowing Demonstration
Excursion Price - $70

Murano’s glassblowers are renowned for being amongst the best in the world—and how could they not be, with a tradition of craftsmanship dating back eight centuries? Watch a glass-master shape beautiful works of art in their Murano workshop. Before you leave, take some time to roam around the factory’s gallery to view works in a wide variety of styles—from tableware to sculptural, traditional to modern. You can even purchase some for yourself to bring a piece of Murano to your home.


Day 7 - Venice

Port - Venice

As your water taxi glides past narrow side canals and the Canal Grande, you’ll arrive in style at the Rialto Bridge. The iconic stone arch bridge sits at the narrowest point of the Canal Grande and holds numerous shops and restaurants.

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Excursion(s) - “Do as the Locals Do” Venice Walking Tour
Excursion Price - $70

Back when Venice was at the height of its power, only the Rialto Bridge spanned the Grand Canal—and the city’s famous Rialto markets for fish and produce have sprawled at its feet as long as the bridge has arched over the water. Here you’ll find violet artichokes from the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo, honey from the salt marshes, white asparagus from Giare—and Venetians shopping for their dinners in the historic heart of the city. Join them as you explore the colorful, noisy and fun arcades with your guide (the ship’s chef often accompanies this expedition), who knows Venice’s culinary arts intimately. Freshly caught local fish is sold to knowledgeable customers under the Gothic arches of the covered fish market, which was probably originally built in the 11th century. At the end of the tour (and after some free time where you should have plenty of time to enjoy a gondola ride), join your guide at a bacaro (a casual wine bar) for the Venetian version of happy hour, called ombra e cicchetti—a drink (often a glass of prosecco) with a bite of something delicious—perhaps crostini with salt cod spread or another Venetian fish specialty.

Excursion(s) - Rialto Walking Tour with Casanova
Excursion Price - $70

Giacomo Casanova, born in 1725, is one of the most notorious names to ever come out of Venice. Though a Renaissance man on all counts as a philosopher, Freemason, alchemist, spy and adventurer, his many romantic affairs are what he is best known for. Your tour of the city will take you through various spots in town that were significant to his life as you learn about his singular history.

You’ll begin in the San Samuele district, where Casanova was born to two actors playing at a theater near the Palazzo Malipiero. You will then reach Campo San Maurizio, with its leaning bell tower. Giorgio Baffo, Casanova’s mentor and Venetian judge known for his erotic poetry, lived here in the palace on the right side. Baffo introduced Casanova to the seduction rites.

A few steps further and you will be in San Moisè Square, the former site of a casino where Casanova used to meet his lovers. The next stop will be the Ridotto in Calle Vallaresso. Now a hotel, it was once a place where Giacomo Casanova and his contemporaries used to gamble—it is said that Casanova lost a fortune here.

Crossing into St. Mark’s Square, you will pass by the prisons of the Doge’s Palace, in which Casanova was imprisoned until 1756 when he escaped to France. He was permitted to return in 1774, but was exiled again within a decade for publishing a novel considered outrageously offensive by the Venetian authorities. Our last stop for the day will be the Palazzo Grimani of Santa Maria Formosa, where Casanova was hosted until this novel was published.

Excursion(s) - Ca' Macana Mask Atelier
Excursion Price - $70

An integral feature of the Carnival of Venice, masks are known for their intricate beauty and wide variety of styles. See for yourself how these masks are created at one of the top handmade mask ateliers in town.


Day 8 - Venice (Disembark), Transfer to Train (Embark), Trieste

Port - Trieste

Join the Golden Eagle Balkan Explorer in Venice Santa Lucia Station in time for lunch. Your cabin attendants will be waiting on the platform to welcome and escort you to your cabins. As you take your seats for lunch, the train will thread its way out of the station and onto the causeway across the lagoon that links Venice to the mainland. Your first stop is the ancient port of Trieste for a tour of the city.


Day 9 - Lake Bled, Ljubljana, Zagreb

Port - Zagreb

Have an early breakfast onboard as the train heads for Lake Bled, one of the most picturesque and photographed lakes in Eastern Europe. Next, travel down to the Capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, to tour the lovely, compact city by foot and by a cruise on the Ljubljanica River. Return to the train for lunch as the train follows the scenic River Sava to Croatia’s Capital, Zagreb, then spend the afternoon touring the city. Later, enjoy dinner on the train on the way towards Bosnia.


Day 10 - Sarajevo, Mostar

Port - Sarajevo

Early in the morning, you’ll arrive in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, which has an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western culture. It has mosques and minarets, an ancient bazaar and an atmospheric old Turkish quarter. Discover the city’s poignant history through a truly absorbing tour detailing the horrors of the Balkan War. Sarajevo suffered from the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The scars of war are still evident in the war-torn buildings you’ll pass before making a special visit to the Tunnel Museum under Sarajevo Airport. Your guide, who lived through the 1992–1996 conflict, powerfully brings to life the struggles that the citizens of Sarajevo faced during the siege of the city. Over lunch, you’ll travel along a very scenic line to the historic city of Mostar, the crossroads of many civilizations, cultures and religions. Mostar was one of the most important cities of the Ottoman Empire. The town’s renowned stone arch bridge linking the Christian and Muslim areas was re-built in the summer of 2004. Visit the Turkish House and the mosque before walking through the narrow bazaar streets, where you can shop for traditional souvenirs and handicrafts. Depart Mostar as dinner is served and your train heads towards Serbia.


Day 11 - Belgrade

Port - Belgrade

Arrive this morning in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, the former Yugoslavian capital. Located at the strategic meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers, this truly cosmopolitan city has fortifications from Celtic times, medieval tombs and Turkish baths. Spend a full day here and set out on a city tour that includes the ‘House of Flowers’—the mausoleum of Josip Tito. On the tour, you’ll also see the Town Hall, Republic Square, Knez Mihailova Street, ‘Varoš’ and the mighty Kalemegdan Fortress. Lunch today will be in the spectacular Salon 1905. You’ll leave Belgrade late in the afternoon and head towards North Macedonia and Greece.


Day 12 - Skopje, Thessaloniki

Port - Skopje

This morning, you’ll arrive in the little-visited Skopje and discover a city where the Ottoman influences are still strong. Explore the narrow streets of the Old Town with tiny shops and mosques with ceramic-tiled interiors. Meander through the Old Bazaar area, brimming with things to buy, and cross the 15th-century stone bridge that links the bazaar to the modern town. Return to the train for lunch and continue on to Greece for a late afternoon arrival into Thessaloniki. Soak up the evening atmosphere of this vibrant city by heading to Aristotelous Square and the seafront before returning to the train for dinner.


Day 13 - Sofia, Plovdiv

Port - Sofia

After breakfast, your train arrives in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital at the foot of Vitosha Mountain. On your morning tour, you will visit sections of the Roman wall and admire the ancient Church of St. George, the golden domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Turkish Banya Bashi Mosque. Enjoy lunch on the train as you travel from Sofia to Plovdiv. The second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, ‘The City of Seven Hills’ is one of the oldest cities in Europe with more than 200 known archaeological sites. Spend the afternoon here exploring the Roman Forum and Amphitheatre. You’ll also visit the charming Old Town including its medieval walls and Ottoman baths. Enjoy the final night’s dinner onboard this evening as you head for Türkiye.


Day 14 - Istanbul (Disembark)

Port - Istanbul

As breakfast is served, the train winds its way along the Sea of Marmara towards Istanbul’s historic Sirkeci station. Mid-morning, your journey from Venice comes to an end and you will say goodbye to the Golden Eagle train that has been home for the past six nights. Leave the station to a view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, then check into the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul (or similar) for the final two nights of your journey.


Day 15 - Istanbul

Port - Istanbul

Continue your adventure in the spectacular and bustling 3,000-year-old city of Istanbul. As the only city in the world built on two continents, Istanbul has a unique mix of Eastern and Western culture. Experience it all during your free time here by browsing the thousands of vendors of the Grand Bazaar and sampling Turkish delights amongst colorful piles of seasonings at the Spice Bazaar. Cross from Europe to Asia on a Bosphorus strait ferry—if you’re lucky, you might even spot a pod of dolphins along the way! You’ll also want to explore some of the city’s famous architectural masterpieces, such as the brilliantly tiled Blue Mosque and the ancient Hagia Sophia, plus the beautiful gardens stretched between them.


Day 16 - Istanbul

Port - Istanbul

Check out of your hotel and head to Istanbul Airport for your flight home.

Istanbul to Venice


Day 1 - Istanbul

Port - Istanbul

Arrive at Istanbul Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, a Uniworld representative will be on hand to greet you and escort you to the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul (or similar).


Day 2 - Istanbul

Port - Istanbul

Your adventure begins in the spectacular and bustling 3,000-year-old city of Istanbul. As the only city in the world built on two continents, Istanbul has a unique mix of Eastern and Western culture. Experience it all during your free time here by browsing the thousands of vendors of the Grand Bazaar and sampling Turkish delights amongst colorful piles of seasonings at the Spice Bazaar. Cross from Europe to Asia on a Bosphorus strait ferry—if you’re lucky, you might even spot a pod of dolphins along the way! You’ll also want to explore some of the city’s famous architectural masterpieces, such as the brilliantly tiled Blue Mosque and the ancient Hagia Sophia, plus the beautiful gardens stretched between them.


Day 3 - Istanbul (Embark)

Port - Istanbul

In the afternoon you will be taken to Istanbul’s historic Sirkeci railway station, starting point of the world famous Orient Express. The station is currently only used by the Venice Simplon Orient Express and the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Your cabin attendants will be waiting on the platform to welcome you and escort you to your cabin. Enjoy a spectacular view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus as the train leaves the station and slowly threads its way along the Sea of Marmara. After settling into your cabin, you will head to one of the restaurant cars for a Welcome Dinner. During the night your train will cross the border into Bulgaria.


Day 4 - Plovdiv, Sofia

Port - Sofia

After breakfast, your train arrives in Plovdiv. The second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, ‘The City of Seven Hills’ is one of the oldest cities in Europe with more than 200 known archaeological sites. Spend the morning here exploring the Roman Forum and Amphitheatre. You’ll also visit the charming Old Town including its medieval walls and Ottoman baths. After lunch, your train arrives in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital at the foot of Vitosha Mountain. On your afternoon tour, you will visit sections of the Roman wall and admire the ancient Church of St. George, the golden domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Turkish Banya Bashi Mosque.


Day 5 - Thessaloniki, Skopje

Port - Skopje

This morning, you'll cross into Greece and after breakfast arrive in the vibrant city of Thessaloniki. Soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant city by heading to Aristotelous Square and the seafront before returning to the train for lunch. In the afternoon, you’ll arrive in the little-visited Skopje and discover a city where the Ottoman influences are still strong. Explore the narrow streets of the Old Town with tiny shops and mosques with ceramic-tiled interiors. Meander through the Old Bazaar area, brimming with things to buy, and cross the 15th-century stone bridge that links the bazaar to the modern town.


Day 6 - Belgrade

Port - Belgrade

Arrive this morning in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, the former Yugoslavian capital. Located at the strategic meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers, this truly cosmopolitan city has fortifications from Celtic times, medieval tombs and Turkish baths. Spend a full day here and set out on a city tour that includes the ‘House of Flowers’—the mausoleum of Josip Tito. On the tour, you’ll also see the Town Hall, Republic Square, Knez Mihailova Street, ‘Varoš’ and the mighty Kalemegdan Fortress. Lunch today will be in the spectacular Salon 1905. You’ll leave Belgrade late in the afternoon and head towards Bosnia.


Day 7 - Mostar, Sarajevo

Port - Sarajevo

Over breakfast, you’ll travel along a very scenic line to the historic city of Mostar, the crossroads of many civilizations, cultures and religions. Mostar was one of the most important cities of the Ottoman Empire. The town’s renowned stone arch bridge linking the Christian and Muslim areas was re-built in the summer of 2004. Visit the Turkish House and the mosque before walking through the narrow bazaar streets, where you can shop for traditional souvenirs and handicrafts. Depart Mostar, and after lunch you’ll arrive in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, which has an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western culture. It has mosques and minarets, an ancient bazaar and an atmospheric old Turkish quarter. Discover the city’s poignant history through a truly absorbing tour detailing the horrors of the Balkan War. Sarajevo suffered from the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The scars of war are still evident in the war-torn buildings you’ll pass before making a special visit to the Tunnel Museum under Sarajevo Airport. Your guide, who lived through the 1992–1996 conflict, powerfully brings to life the struggles that the citizens of Sarajevo faced during the siege of the city. Return to the train for dinner onboard as your journey continues on to Croatia and Slovenia.


Day 8 - Zagreb, Ljubljana, Lake Bled

Port - Zagreb

Have breakfast onboard as the train heads to Croatia’s Capital, Zagreb, then spend the morning touring the city. Return to the train for lunch as the train follows the scenic River Sava to the Capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. Tour this lovely, compact city by foot and by a cruise on the Ljubljanica River. Later, you'll head to Lake Bled, one of the most picturesque and photographed lakes in Eastern Europe. Then, return to the train for a Farewell Dinner onboard as you travel overnight toward Italy.


Day 9 - Trieste and Venice (Disembark), Transfer to ship (Embark)

Port - Trieste

After an early breakfast, you’ll stop in the medieval port city of Trieste, once amongst the oldest and largest cities in the Habsburg Empire. Then return to the train and prepare to disembark at the Venice Santa Lucia Station on the Canal Grande, where you will be transferred to the ship. Unpack, relax and enjoy your first evening on the Venetian Lagoon.


Day 10 - Venice

Port - Venice

With your early morning arrival at Doge’s Palace, you’ll be able to marvel at the estate in total peace. Wander through a Venetian neighborhood and experience daily life in an authentic Venetian residential quarter. Later in the evening, cap the day off with a private once-in-a-lifetime experience at an after-hours lighting ceremony inside St. Mark’s Basilica without the crowds.

Excursion(s) - A Morning Walk in Venice with Doge’s Palace Visit
Excursion Price - $70

Please note that the amount of walking during this excursion is extensive.

Venice has no need to designate a pedestrians-only historic district because no cars are permitted within the island city - all transportation is by foot or water.

You first arrive at the Doge’s Palace and most famous plaza in Italy - St. Mark’s Square. Venetians elected their first doge, or duke, in AD 697 and began building the palace around AD 800.

The palace complex, as it exists now, mostly dates to the 14th and 15th centuries, and it brims with jaw-dropping artistic gems, including Tintoretto’s wall-sized Paradise and works by Veronese, Tiepolo and Titian. Throughout its history, Venice has been a supremely political city. Those convicted of crimes were led across the Bridge of Sighs to prison. Follow their footsteps to the prison and gaze into the cells. Casanova escaped from one of these cells. Other less-fortunate prisoners whiled away their time by inscribing graffiti on the walls, which you can still read.

You will continue this exploration by strolling through the historic Castello district. It’s the largest of Venice’s six districts. Back in the 13th century the Castello district was home to the Arsenal, where Venice’s ships were built. (Venetians boasted that they could build a complete ship in a single day.) This is also where the famous Biennale art exhibition now takes place. As you pass 800-year-old homes, you’ll hear the murmur of the soft local dialect through the open windows. Clothes flap from lines strung over tiny canals and kids kick soccer balls along cobbled alleys. It’s a real, living, breathing neighborhood, not just a historic site.

In addition to its well-known museums, Venice is also home to some highly specialized ones: Displays at the Correr are devoted to the history of Venice; the Museo della Musica contains 17th and 18th-century musical instruments and exhibits about composer Antonio Vivaldi. Known as the Red Priest for his hair color, Vivaldi taught music to the daughters of Venetian noblemen. The Museo Ebraico examines the history of the Jewish community that was confined to an island known as Ghetto Nuovo. The latter was one of Europe’s wealthiest and most cultured Jewish communities, made up in part with refugees from the Spanish Inquisition.

Excursion(s) - Night Out: Private After-Hours Visit to Saint Mark's Basilica
Excursion Price - $70

Welcome to Saint Mark’s Basilica. The doors of this icon are specially opened for you tonight. You will see the glorious church in the evening light and without the crowds. You’ll find it almost impossible not to gaze heavenward as you enter St. Mark’s. High overhead, magnificent domes are sheathed in mosaics telling the story of the New Testament, but don’t miss the intricate pattern of marble and mosaic tile under your feet. Ahead of you is the famous altarpiece made by 10th-century Byzantine artisans who gilded it and decorated it with precious gems, some of which were subsequently stolen by Napoleon. The building, which exemplifies the city’s historic connection to Byzantium and the Eastern Mediterranean, was finished in the 11th century and incorporates the remnants of earlier churches. Golden glass-tiled mosaics line the interior walls and cupolas, giving the church its nickname, Church of Gold. It houses treasures collected by Venetians over the centuries. The relics of St. Mark, patron saint of the city, were stolen from Alexandria, and the Tetrarch, a group of four crowned figures, was looted from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Every successful Venetian voyager returned with something to decorate the basilica—a frieze, a statue—and the result is one of the most stunning works of art and architecture in this amazing city.

Note: It is not always possible to arrange an after-hours visit to St. Mark’s Basilica if religious functions or festivities are taking place in the evening. We will try to organize an earlier tour, but if cancelled, an alternative option, like a visit to San Rocco, will be organized.


Day 11 - Venice, Chioggia

Port - Chioggia

Begin your morning with a walk through Venice to meet a local gondola artisan, then head back onboard for a lunchtime sailing across the lagoon. Upon arrival in the fishing town of Chioggia, you'll be able to choose between a ride in a traditional bragozzo with a visit to a countryside estate, some Italian villa wine tasting or a walking tour through Padua.

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening. IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that only crew may be on the ship during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions.

Excursion(s) - Venice Morning Walk with Gondola Artisans Visit
Excursion Price - $70

Get an early morning start to see a side of Venice most of the tourists miss—The Dorsoduro. One of Venice’s six main sestieri, or districts, The Dorsoduro is quieter than some of the more popular districts and thus has an authentic, easygoing atmosphere. Enjoy a walking tour around this picturesque side of town before moving on to visit a gondola artisan. See the craftwork that goes into Venice’s iconic sailing vessels and meet some local masters at work.

Excursion(s) - Padua Walking Tour
Excursion Price - $70

Join your local guide on a walking tour of medieval Padua. Discover the city’s great squares, churches and palaces.

Padua flourished as a hub of learning and discovery in the 13th and 14th centuries. The second-oldest university in Italy was founded here in 1222, hosting such students as Copernicus and faculty as Galileo. Immediately outside the Palazzo del Bo, the university’s first home, you’ll see a cafe where revolutionaries met to plot an uprising against Austrian invaders in 1848.

Stroll past the largest public square in Italy, Prato della Valle, originally laid out by the Romans and transformed in the 18th century into a graceful, elliptical open space with a serene canal and statues of local nobles. Gaze upon the Byzantine-influenced domes and towers of the vast Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, where you’ll often find a crowd waiting to offer thanks or prayers.

Excursion(s) - Noble Country Villas and Their Wines
Excursion Price - $70

With a sommelier as your guide today, you'll learn all about Italian wines from the Veneto region. We start off with a visit of the Villa Foscari di Malcontenta. This remarkably elegant property was built by two brothers from Venice’s influential Foscari dynasty, which boasted multiple Doges. The story that captures the hearts of visitors the most, however, is that of La Malcontenta, the beautiful socialite wife of the Foscari brothers, who was exiled to the estate.

Next, enjoy a wine tasting at the Dominio di Bagnoli, one of the oldest wine producing properties in Europe.

Excursion(s) - Bragozzo Ride with Tastings at Ca’ Zen
Excursion Price - $70

Head to one of the most enticing islands of the Venice lagoon, Chioggia. A small fishing port often referred to as a Venice in miniature, with a well-preserved tradition due to its relative lack of crowds, Chioggia is a wonderfully authentic and picturesque island. Board a genuine Adriatic wooden sailing boat, a bragozzo, to take in the island from the clear blue waters of the lagoon.

After your sailing, return to shore for a visit to Tenuta Ca’ Zen, a beautiful Venetian villa with a fascinating story. Here, you can explore the expansive grounds, antique stable, family chapel and more before rejoining the group for a tasting of local products, which include organic olive oil, wines, honey and cheeses.


Day 12 - Polesella (Bologna or Ferrara)

Port - Polesella

Explore Italy’s culinary capital Bologna on a full-day tour packed with an exclusive pasta-making workshop and lunch or explore Ferrara on a half-day tour.

Excursion(s) - Private Pasta-Making and Italian Lunch in Bologna
Excursion Price - $70

There are those who believe that the best tortellini in the world is made in Bologna. Taste and decide for yourself today. Of course, there’s Bolognese sauce, but that’s just one possible topping for the exceptional pasta available here. Locals also claim to have invented the first chocolate bars, and even if others dispute that claim, there’s no denying that the chocolate shops offer some very special treats. Bologna’s green market brims with local produce, and its specialty food stores and food halls are unmatched; locally made mortadella, luscious balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, ham from Parma and, of course, great rounds of Parmesan cheese all contribute to the lavish displays. Stroll with your guide under the famous arcades to see some of the lovely, historic buildings in the city center. The huge basilica dates to the 14th century, and the two leaning towers that loom above Piazza di Porta Ravegnana were built in the 12th century, as were the structures that housed Europe’s first university. Participate in a workshop on making pasta and enjoy an exquisite Bolognese lunch at a celebrated restaurant. Sated with food and culture, it will then be time to head back to the ship.

Excursion(s) - Ferrara: Renaissance, Elegance and Italian Lifestyle Town Walk
Excursion Price - $70

Square towers rise sternly above the moat that still surrounds Castle Estense, the huge fortress the Este family built in the center of Ferrara in the 14th century. It was a demonstration of both power and caution, since the Estes had just put down an uprising, but it is just one of the family palaces to grace the city they developed. They turned Ferrara into a center for the arts and artists—particularly for musicians and composers—that rivaled Medici Florence. Here the Renaissance concept of the ideal city took shape—it was the first planned city in Italy that did not follow a Roman model—and as you take a brief walking tour through the historic center, you will see the Estes’ vision throughout it, from the street layout that parallels the river to the many family palaces. But not all of Ferrara is Renaissance: The medieval walls still surround the old city (providing a popular walking and biking route for locals and visitors alike), the Gothic cathedral dates to the 12th century, and tiny cobbled lanes might make you think you were visiting the Middle Ages—were it not for the bicycles that Ferrara’s citizens ride everywhere. Your local expert will introduce you to the highlights of Ferrara, and you’ll have some time to explore on your own before returning to the ship for lunch.


Day 13 - Porto Viro, Chioggia, Burano

Port - Chioggia

Today, you’ll admire the greatest sites of charming and coastal Chioggia, including a stop at the local and lively market. Your ship will move to dock overnight in Burano, where you’ll enjoy a lovely evening stroll through this multicolored island.

IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that only crew may be on the ship during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions. We thank you for your cooperation.

Excursion(s) - Chioggia Market Visit
Excursion Price - $70

Chioggia is the quintessential Venetian Lagoon fishing village. Founded in the fifth century, it was known as the pantry of Venice because of its many small truck farms, which supplied Venetian households with produce until just a few decades ago. It is still a thriving fishing port; its wholesale fish market is one of the largest in Italy. On Thursdays, Chioggia also hosts Corso del Popolo—a dynamic outdoor market along its main thoroughfare where stands sell everything from clothes, shoes, purses, gadgets and “every-day” domestic items. Locals usually do their shopping here as prices are more affordable than retail shopping.

Excursion(s) - Evening Stroll in Burano
Excursion Price - $70
Excursion(s) - Castello del Catajo Visit
Excursion Price - $70

Set off for the Euganean hills to discover one of Europe’s most majestic castles. Enjoy a guided tour of a palace so beautiful that it became a resort for the Habsburg Dynasty before being returned to Italy following the first world war. After marveling at its frescoed walls, continue on for a guided walk around its beautiful gardens or take some free time for yourself to explore as you please before returning to the ship.

Excursion(s) - "Let's Go" Biking Chioggia
Excursion Price - $70

Set off on a light bicycle ride along the beaches of Chioggia, an island often described as a second Venice in miniature. Head to Lusenzo Lagoon, break to see the fishing boats, and then continue on to Isola dell’Unione.


Day 14 - Burano (Torcello, Mazzorbo, and Burano), Venice

Port - Burano

Spend the day exploring the northern lagoon of Venice and its captivating islands. Start with a visit to Torcello's famous basilica with an art historian, then stroll through the agricultural island of Mazzorbo and the rainbow-hued island of Burano during your free time after lunch. Alternatively, you can take the afternoon to see the renowned glassblowing artisans of Murano at work.

Excursion(s) - Torcello: Hidden Treasure of the Lagoon
Excursion Price - $70

Settled before Venice was founded, Torcello was once the greatest, most populous city in the lagoon. Now, however, only a handful of people live there. Its centerpiece is the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest church in the lagoon and a monument to Torcello's lost might. The doors open early for you, so you can see the stunning 11th-century mosaic of the Last Judgment without the crowds—and with expert commentary from your art historian guide.

Before we head back to the ship, relax with a cup of coffee at a serene little Osteria on the island.

Excursion(s) - Murano Glass Blowing Demonstration
Excursion Price - $70

Murano’s glassblowers are renowned for being amongst the best in the world—and how could they not be, with a tradition of craftsmanship dating back eight centuries? Watch a glass-master shape beautiful works of art in their Murano workshop. Before you leave, take some time to roam around the factory’s gallery to view works in a wide variety of styles—from tableware to sculptural, traditional to modern. You can even purchase some for yourself to bring a piece of Murano to your home.


Day 15 - Venice

Port - Venice

As your water taxi glides past narrow side canals and the Canal Grande, you’ll arrive in style at the Rialto Bridge. The iconic stone arch bridge sits at the narrowest point of the Canal Grande and holds numerous shops and restaurants.

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Excursion(s) - “Do as the Locals Do” Venice Walking Tour
Excursion Price - $70

Back when Venice was at the height of its power, only the Rialto Bridge spanned the Grand Canal—and the city’s famous Rialto markets for fish and produce have sprawled at its feet as long as the bridge has arched over the water. Here you’ll find violet artichokes from the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo, honey from the salt marshes, white asparagus from Giare—and Venetians shopping for their dinners in the historic heart of the city. Join them as you explore the colorful, noisy and fun arcades with your guide (the ship’s chef often accompanies this expedition), who knows Venice’s culinary arts intimately. Freshly caught local fish is sold to knowledgeable customers under the Gothic arches of the covered fish market, which was probably originally built in the 11th century. At the end of the tour (and after some free time where you should have plenty of time to enjoy a gondola ride), join your guide at a bacaro (a casual wine bar) for the Venetian version of happy hour, called ombra e cicchetti—a drink (often a glass of prosecco) with a bite of something delicious—perhaps crostini with salt cod spread or another Venetian fish specialty.

Excursion(s) - Rialto Walking Tour with Casanova
Excursion Price - $70

Giacomo Casanova, born in 1725, is one of the most notorious names to ever come out of Venice. Though a Renaissance man on all counts as a philosopher, Freemason, alchemist, spy and adventurer, his many romantic affairs are what he is best known for. Your tour of the city will take you through various spots in town that were significant to his life as you learn about his singular history.

You’ll begin in the San Samuele district, where Casanova was born to two actors playing at a theater near the Palazzo Malipiero. You will then reach Campo San Maurizio, with its leaning bell tower. Giorgio Baffo, Casanova’s mentor and Venetian judge known for his erotic poetry, lived here in the palace on the right side. Baffo introduced Casanova to the seduction rites.

A few steps further and you will be in San Moisè Square, the former site of a casino where Casanova used to meet his lovers. The next stop will be the Ridotto in Calle Vallaresso. Now a hotel, it was once a place where Giacomo Casanova and his contemporaries used to gamble—it is said that Casanova lost a fortune here.

Crossing into St. Mark’s Square, you will pass by the prisons of the Doge’s Palace, in which Casanova was imprisoned until 1756 when he escaped to France. He was permitted to return in 1774, but was exiled again within a decade for publishing a novel considered outrageously offensive by the Venetian authorities. Our last stop for the day will be the Palazzo Grimani of Santa Maria Formosa, where Casanova was hosted until this novel was published.

Excursion(s) - Ca' Macana Mask Atelier
Excursion Price - $70

An integral feature of the Carnival of Venice, masks are known for their intricate beauty and wide variety of styles. See for yourself how these masks are created at one of the top handmade mask ateliers in town.


Day 16 - Venice (Disembark)

Port - Venice

Disembark the ship. If your cruise/tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Venice Marco Polo International Airport for your flight home.

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Price Per Day: $ 1,200 per day
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26 Uniworld Travel Reviews & Ratings

96%
4.9 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 24
Great 2
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0
Value
4.8
Guide
4.8
Activities
4.8
Lodging
4.9
Transportation
4.8
Meals
4.9

Cruise & Rail: Venice & Istanbul (2022)

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Company Reviews

better the second time around?

5.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide4.0
Activities4.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation4.0
Meals5.0
This was our 6th Uniworld and 2nd time down part of the Danube.

local guides very good; better than last time. food remains excellent; lunch food choices in particular are better than before. service, in particular Dining room, remains excellent. servers really attempt to learn food and drink preferences. front desk service is excellent. small improvements in room (chocolate jar; audio box chargers in closet; closet hanger rods more like home than ship) appreciated.

the ship is starting to need updating; our shower stall needed to be re-grouted; deck might need to be refinished in areas. elevator never worked during cruise; 24 hr. coffee machine malfunctioned for 3 days. the itinerary itself isn't full of "must-sees" but has has sights and experiences that might be hard for you to do on your own with just a guidebook.

While cruise wasn't perfect, we would travel with Uniworld again; possibly even down the Danube a 3rd time, but on a newer ship.
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Pros, cons and tips

4.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide3.0
Activities3.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation3.0
Meals4.0
This is a review of the Uniworld China + Tibet + Yangtze tour in June, 2019, taken by my wife (80) and me (77). Since knowledge of a reviewer helps readers to judge the applicability to themselves: we are both former academics, normally spry and immersed in cultural, political, and healthful life activities, but we sometimes found the trip daunting, as discussed below. We resist aging, but not always with full success.

The tour had pluses and minuses.

The biggest minuses:
• My wife’s breathing difficulty in our 3-night stay in Lhasa, Tibet (she spent the whole time breathing oxygen and couldn't go on any outings)
• The (inevitable) problem of touring a totalitarian country where citizens are intimidated from talking honestly about the full scope of their lives

The biggest pluses:
• Our guide, Kevin, who was outstandingly attentive, helpful, supportive and patient. He went out of his way to help in difficult situations (like my wife’s breathing problems in Lhasa).
• We were also quite appreciative of Tiger’s brief stint with us.
• With a few exceptions, our baggage was always handled by others. And the exceptions weren’t overwhelming. Apparently for a group, the weight of any individual bag just gets averaged in with all the other group bags being checked. (Some travelers handled their own carry-ons.)

Most of the other people on the tour were quite amiable and unassuming—not always the case when you travel with people whose financial position has to be pretty good to afford this kind of trip (that financial position too often drives unwarranted expectations of privilege and reverence [if that’s not redundant…]).

The accommodations and included breakfasts (and many other meals) were luxurious, though we ourselves didn’t need them to be THAT nice (in this we’re probably exceptions from other travelers—and in this case, a number of our co-tourists had taken multiple Uniworld tours, so they knew and liked what they'd be getting); indeed, we had to learn to stop tanking up at breakfast just because so many goodies were offered, buffet-style. Had we realized those luxuries were part of what we were paying for (and in retrospect we SHOULD have realized), we might have taken a different, cheaper tour. Ironically, what most drew us to the Uniworld trip were the chance to visit Tibet and the expectation that at such a high cost we’d always be getting outstanding, highly informed guides (which wasn’t always the case; as retired academics, we’re unusually demanding in the critical analysis of what we want to hear).

GENERAL NOTES:

We spent several days on our own before the tour (in Beijing) and at its end (in Shanghai). These were quite valuable to us. Perhaps because of time, the Uniworld tour took us to few museums. We are museum junkies, and visited several during our non-tour times. Among other things, Beijing has a terrific national museum, an interesting (partly because of its political subtext) museum about women and children, and an extensive arts district. Shanghai has its own major museum and a tour of the city’s past relationship with Judaism that gives you a more general sense of the troubling antithesis of glitzy life highlighted elsewhere.

I’ve traveled to many parts of the world, and I’ve always been able to learn at least local alphabets and some minimal language skills. China is the first place I’ve gone where I could do none of the first and only a few words (probably wrongly intoned) of the latter. This was extremely frustrating, especially when we toured on our own. Few people outside the major international emporia (I never quite got used to how many upscale stores were in all places we visited) speak English (why should they?). The one ameliorating factor was that many people (especially store employees) had phone apps that did good to excellent translations between spoken English and spoken Chinese. You should have one for your own use.

In major cities, signs quite often include English, so that you can at least know where to shop and what you're looking at. Prices (which you can often negotiate) are typically typed into a calculator.

Perhaps even more than in the West, people are glued to smart phones. Pretty much everyone, it seems, uses an app that includes texts, phone use, and a payment facility, so that people seem to may carry little or no cash or credit cards. No one seems to care—or maybe everyone is just resigned to—that the government can monitor this app and know a ton of stuff about you. As a foreigner, however, you are unlikely to be able to use this app because you need to have a compatible bank account (probably meaning from a Chinese bank).

No matter how you travel in China, you'll see the amazing efforts to accommodate the expansion cities, so that a “town” of which you've never heard might have a million or more people. On the tour, you'll see almost only architectural and shop glitz that the government and cities bask in. You might get very brief glimpses of poverty.

While on the one hand the Chinese government talks a good game and takes some important steps vis-à-vis the climate crisis, on the other hand they still use an enormous amount of fossil fuel for electricity generation. I was also struck—dismayed—by the fact that from all appearances, people only drink bottled water (Westerners are warned against tap water, but I don’t know if local people build up an immuinity to its problems). Especially in warm weather, I can only guess at the billions of single-use plastic bottles that are used every day by the population of 1.4 billion (plus large numbers of visitors). On rare occasions, like at an airport, you might see a place to refill a water bottle (I assume that water is safe).

Please note that in criticisms like the previous paragraph, I do not intend a holier-than-thou American attitude. I am even more critical of what our government does—or more importantly, doesn’t—do vis-à-vis the climate crisis.

THE PEOPLE

Almost everyone was pleasant and upbeat. We mostly moved among middle- (and presumably upper-)class people; we encountered many others, but they were kind of in the background (just as in capitalist countries), and while we made it a point to notice their existence, we had no meaningful interactions with them.

The westernization of outward behavior was almost palpable. My wife had visited 10 years ago and regularly commented on the difference. My impression is that the young (teen-agers, young adults) are especially into western fashion and culture—and to what to me was a surprising extent, seemed to be able to afford indulging that taste.

For what it’s worth, my observation was that people are quite materialistic, focus their lives on that, and increasingly able to afford to indulge themselves. Outwardly, at least, they have little concern with the strictures of their government. Tiananmen Square seems to be in the distant past. Treatment of Moslems and Uighurs (not unlike our current treatment of immigrants and Moslems or our like history of racial and ethnic conflicts) was far away. So far as I could tell, people like Americans (though we’re also bizarre outsiders—there are occasional instances of Chinese people, especially ones who live far from the cities we visited, walking up to a foreigner and asking to take a photo together (this happened to me on the Great Wall, with some pretty young guys).

SECURITY

This abounds. You need to carry your passport everywhere. You'll encounter frequent security checks where you have to put whatever you're carrying through a scanner and show official IDs. In Lhasa, these checks were even present as you wove your way through street markets.

At every airport check-in, you not only go through a security scanner, but you then step up on s short stool so that someone with a hand scanner can go over every inch of your body. (I have sometimes wondered whether proliferation of security folk, including regular police, in nations like this is a clever device for combining meaningful security with full employment.)

The government must have an incredible volume of disk space and incredibly fast computer programs to be able quickly to access information about any given citizen or visitor. Check-in at airports always includes a live photo of you. I’m sure if anyone in the security services had wanted to track me down at any time, it wouldn't have taken more than a few seconds. (For each accommodation where you stay, you have to register with the police. Hotels typically do that for you.)

IN-COUNTRY TRAVEL

We had 4 in-country flights (part of the reason for what Uniworld charges), and much as we wanted to visit the places to which we flew, the time and effort involved in getting from to shuttle bus (then sometimes a long walk) to hotel to airport to check-in to security to boarding to flying to disembarking to shuttle bus to the next hotel became overwhelming.

The tour included 3 nights in a luxury boat on the Yangtze River. This was quite pleasant and included a night’s visit to a show (I don’t remember exactly which one, but when on our own my wife and I went to a couple of shows in Beijing—well worth it even if they're not something to your normal taste). Here, we had some down time. At our ages, we needed more of that. I got sick while on the boat and got what seemed like pretty good medical care.

(By American standards, medicals for my wife in Lhasa and for me on the Yangtze boat were low but not miniscule.)

By American standards, taxis are cheap. They were pretty easy to find in Beijing. (The “universal” app includes signups with services like Uber.) But in Shanghai, they were extremely rare, and we had to get help from strangers to order one. As you would expect, this is especially hard when it’s raining and you're a very long walk from your hotel. Among maybe a dozen or two cab rides during our entire stay, we had two bad experiences with cabbies; I advise photographing the driver’s information and the meter area. I found that this significantly mitigated the problems.

We took the metro in Beijing. After brief adjustment, it was very easy to use. The main difficulty is that stations are far apart, so on (say) a rainy night, you will still need an umbrella and endurance. Shanghai seems to have an equivalent subway system, but we never used it there.

LHASA

Part of the altitude problem my wife (and a few of our fellow travellers) had appears to be the flight’s forcing a lack of transition from sea level to an altitude over 2 miles. (On the other hand, a slower, staged transfer probably would have added cost to an already expensive trip—and maybe loss of a day’s touring.) Especially for older folk, however, I think this is a relevant concern.

I don’t know why, but although I could feel very mild pressure in my breathing, I was fine for the entire Lhasa visit. I had a different disappointment (perhaps idiosyncratic to myself, an academic and non-religious person): if I remember correctly, our entire stay involved visiting Tibetan religious locations. I quite support SOME such visits—religious history is central to human existence—but I would have liked to see aspects of other Tibetan cultural history.

Because of Beijing political issues with Tibet, filing out your Chinese visa involves the charade of not mentioning you're going there (if you do mention it, your visa apparently will be denied).

And a warning re Lhasa (and at least the Great Wall): there can invite lots of climbing, and a number of us, especially some of the older people (even when altitude wasn’t an issue), chose to climb minimally (just enough to get a sense of where steps were going and what the resulting view would be). Kevin and other guides were totally understanding—indeed, we were offered climbing options.
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Highly recommend

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Me and Nena are in cruise business more than 38 years and booked so many river cruises in Europe and charter ships in Russia, India, Egypt and Ukraine. Uniworld offer excellent cruise and we highly recommend this great company.
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Fantastic

4.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide4.0
Activities4.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation4.0
Meals4.0
Fantastic cruising the Nile on MS River Tosca, spacious rooms, super crew, delicious meals, fantastic service, awesome waiters, knowledgeable tour guide Marwa! Would love to go back!
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Professioal, friendly and unforgetable experience for the cruise

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
The facility on ship was good. Staff servicing us were very professionally good. For the meals it was indeed very nice especially the kitchen was able to provide some Asian dishes that is fantastically great.
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Amazing time, Amazing ship

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
I had never been on a river cruise before and did not know what to expect. After this cruise, I was ready to sail right back with Uniworld. Everything on the ship, from the food and amenities, to the excursions and especially the crew, made the week one of the best I've had.
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Details

Ship Name

S.S. La Venezia

Deck & Cabin Plans

S.S. La Venezia


Trip ID#:

Uniworld-270

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"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."
Martin Buber
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