Style : River cruise
Gems of Northern Italy tour
Bologna Milan Gems of Northern Italy Trip

Gems of Northern Italy

Uniworld
4.9 . Excellent
96%
Travel Style: Array Relaxed
Physical Level: Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment. 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*)
10 days
From: $ 3,399 $ 340 / day
Checking price

Overview

Short Description

Encounter unforgettable sights on this odyssey through Northern Italy that begins in Milan, home to Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, and ends in legendary Venice, the “Queen of the Adriatic.” These two iconic cities bookend an exploration of Northern Italy that rewards the curious traveler with amazing experiences in Verona, Padua, Bologna and Ferrara.

Style River cruise
See all the highlights and popular spots on a classic tour.
Itinerary Focus Classic Highlights
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 Milan
End City Venice

Destinations

Italy

Attractions & Cities Visited

Bologna Milan Venice Verona

Activities & Interests

Culture Historic sightseeing River cruise

N/A
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Itinerary

2019 version

Milan to Venice


Day 1 - Milan

Port - Milan

Arrive at Milan Malpensa Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the hotel.


Day 2 - Milan

Port - Milan

Milan is a mecca for Italian fashionistas, famous for its innovative design and stylish flair. Venture inside the city’s hulking Gothic cathedral, as well as its cathedral to capitalism, Europe’s oldest shopping arcade. The highlight today for both our Featured Excursion and our Generations Excursion is pure genius—Da Vinci’s revolutionary The Last Supper mural, the most famous religious painting in history. Fashion and finance, opera and furniture design, telecom companies and trade fairs—bustling Milan, Italy’s financial and industrial center, is a modern global city whose roots sink deep into the history of Italy. Founded 2,500 years ago, Milan retains traces of every epoch, from Roman, medieval and Renaissance up to the current moment, and it boasts a dazzling bounty of artistic and cultural landmarks, which are yours to experience today.

Excursion(s) - Milan highlights city tour
Excursion Price - $70

Your hotel is in the heart of the city, so it’s easy to see the highlights of the neighborhood on a short walk with your guide. Il Duomo, the magnificent cathedral begun in the 14th century and finished 500 years later (the last part to be finished, one of its five great doors, wasn’t installed until 1965), offers one of the most spectacular Gothic façades in the world. Step inside with a local expert for a tour of the ravishing interior, then walk across the square and under the splendid triumphal arch that welcomes visitors and shoppers into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Learn a bit about the history of this area as you stroll through the beautiful 19th-century glass-covered arcade; it’s the oldest shopping mall in Europe and is still wildly popular, housing the flagships of leading fashion designers and trendy restaurants.

You’ll emerge in Piazza della Scala, home to the internationally celebrated opera house whose name comes from the square, Teatro alla Scala. Directly opposite it is Milan’s city hall—which happens to be a stunning Renaissance palace. It’s just one of the palaces and fortresses that were the heart of medieval civic power, where the Viscontis and then the Sforzas reigned, each ruler adding to the city’s splendor and tumultuous history.

It’s hard to pinpoint a highlight among so many, but Santa Maria delle Grazie, a beautiful Gothic and Renaissance church, offers you a sight you will never forget. The Last Supper is not in the church itself; it adorns the walls of a modest adjoining building that was the Dominican refectory. Your tour ends after you’ve had an opportunity to admire Da Vinci’s revolutionary work or spend some free time exploring the area on your own.

Note: The order of sightseeing varies according to the availability of time slots at Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Excursion(s) - Milano per Bambini
Excursion Price - $70

Discover the monsters and gargoyles of the Gothic cathedral, the hidden secrets of Merchant’s Square and the wide-open spaces of Sforza castle. Milan is full of hidden treasures—like “The Last Supper” by da Vinci, which is displayed in a bit of an unlikely place: the refectory!


Day 3 - Milan, Verona (Valpolicella), Transfer to Venice (Embark)

Port - Verona

You’ll check out of your hotel this morning and head toward the Adriatic coast and magical Venice, but the day includes two delightful stops along the way. En route to Venice, you’ll stop in the literary hometown of Shakespeare’s famously star-crossed teen lovers, Romeo and Juliet, to see the sights and the famous balcony—yes, that balcony. Later, enjoy lunch at the historic Valpolicella wine estate owned by descendants of Dante, the great Italian poet who penned The Inferno.

This evening you’ll arrive in Venice and embark. Unpack, relax and enjoy your first evening on the Venetian Lagoon.

Excursion(s) - Verona, “City of Romeo and Juliet”
Excursion Price - $70

Discover the real roots of Shakespeare’s tragic tale with a visit to fair Verona. The Scaligeri family ruled the city for two centuries, routinely murdering one another to gain power; an echo of these savage family feuds found their way into the Bard’s tragedy. Your walking tour passes the house where Romeo purportedly lived, as well as the pretty 14th-century stone house where legend says Juliet listened to her Romeo’s vows. (It’s certainly a destination for lovers now: They leave love notes on the walls). Stop by the imposing Scaligeri tombs, ramble along Via Mazzini and through Piazza delle Erbe, the bustling city square laid out where the ancient Roman forum once stood. You’ll have a little free time to explore on your own after your tour. You might step into one of the beautiful and historic churches nearby or take an elevator up to the top of Torre dei Lamberti for a great view of the old city and its surroundings.

Excursion(s) - Valpolicella wine estate lunch
Excursion Price - $70

Your journey continues from Verona through the lovely vine-clad hills of the Valpolicella wine country. These vineyards grow Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes—and even Garganega, the grape used for Soave wines. While the everyday Valpolicella red wine is popular and easy-drinking, the region also produces Amarone, a lush and unmistakable red that is the result of a unique wine-making process: Grapes are air-dried on bamboo racks for several months before being crushed for fermentation, giving the wine a luscious depth of flavor. Modest farmhouses and great estates alike produce delightful wines, but the Serego Alighieri estate, which belongs to descendants of Dante Alighieri, is one of the oldest and loveliest. The stately villa stands amid gracious gardens and fertile vineyards, welcoming you in for a tour of the grounds and cellars. You’ll see the drying racks and learn about the process before savoring a delectable three-course lunch carefully paired with Serego Alighieri wines.

Excursion(s) - Romeo, Juliet & Roman Gladiators
Excursion Price - $70

Get to know the historic town that provided the backdrop for one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet. Visit Juliet’s balcony in the historic city center and the Arena of Verona, where gladiators once competed with beasts.


Day 4 - Venice

Port - Venice

Hoping to escape marauding Huns, Goths and Vandals as the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century, refugees built a little settlement they called Venice on tiny islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. By the 12th century, Venice was the wealthiest and most powerful city-state in Europe, controlling the Mediterranean and all European trade with the East. Its merchant-aristocrats lavished their wealth on palaces and churches, art and music, creating a city that is truly like no other. Now, seawater laps at the foot of thousand-year-old houses— and sometimes rises above the doorsteps—but the glorious palaces and romantic canals enchant visitors just as they have for centuries. Today you will embark on your own personal voyage of discovery through this entrancing city. An expert guide will show you iconic sites as well as quiet lanes and secret spots known only to locals (shhhh….). Also on deck today: a scenic cruise around the Venetian Lagoon.

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

Excursion(s) - A morning walk in Venice
Excursion Price - $70

Venice has no need to designate a pedestrians-only historic district: No cars are permitted within the island city; all transportation is by foot or water. Begin your exploration—on foot, of course—by strolling through the historic Castello district. It’s the largest of Venice’s six districts; back in the 13th century it was home to the Arsenal, where Venice’s ships were built (Venetians boasted that they could build a complete ship in a single day) and 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. You will soon arrive at the most famous plaza in Italy, St. Mark’s Square, and the Doge’s Palace. 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. Justice—and sometimes injustice, for Venice was a supremely political city—was meted out in the palace, and 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. Your tour ends at the Rialto (the oldest part of the city) and the famous 16th-century stone bridge spanning the Grand Canal.

After a scenic cruise around the Venetian Lagoon, you can spend the afternoon exploring on your own. 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), who taught music to the daughters of Venetian noblemen; and 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) - Private after-hours visit to Saint Mark's Basilica
Excursion Price - $70

The doors of this icon open especially for you tonight, so you can see the glorious church in the evening light— 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 you should not 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; gold glass-tile mosaics line the interior walls and cupolas, giving the church its nickname, Church of Gold. It houses treasures collected—one way or another—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 visit during regular hours.

Excursion(s) - Parading through Doge’s Palace
Excursion Price - $70

A visit to Doge’s Palace is sure to delight and surprise even the youngest of the crew. With mystery at every turn, artistic majesty cloaking the walls, and a dusty dungeon straight from a fairy tale—Doge’s Palace is, in a word, spectacular. Don’t forget to meet Venice’s guardian lions on your way to the Bridge of Sighs and Saint Mark’s Square.


Day 5 - Chioggia

Port - Chioggia

The River Countess sails from Venice, cruising through the lagoon, past the Lido, the colorful fishermen’s houses of Pellestrina and the huge ongoing flood-control project called MOSE (which is designed to protect Venice from rising seawater), before docking in Chioggia, sometimes called “Little Venice,” at the southern end of the lagoon. Join a local expert for a stroll around this picturesque fishing village, a popular place for artists, or “Let's Go” with a bike ride along the beaches lining the lagoon, or, for something really unique, hop aboard a small boat to go mussel harvesting with local fishermen out in the lagoon. The seaside air and sweeping views are simply spectacular. IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that the ship is only manned by crew 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) - Padua morning walk and market visit
Excursion Price - $70

As you stroll through town on a picturesque tour of Padua’s medieval highlights, you’ll learn that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Padua was at the peak of its glory days. In 1222, Italy’s second-oldest university was established here, where Galileo and Copernicus were among its students. The university sits outside the Palazzo del Bo, which is adjacent to Café Pedrocchi. Although the Café is not as old as the University itself, it is historically notable in its own way. Revolutionaries met there in 1848 and French writer Stendahl, called it the best club in Europe. Meander through the one of the largest public squares in Europe, Prato della Valle, originally constructed by the Romans and transformed into a lovely open space lined with canals and statues of historical figures. After gazing in awe at Padua’s splendor, your excursion ends with an unforgettable sight—the Byzantine-inspired domes and towers of St. Anthony’s Basilica.

Note: Lunch is not offered with this excursion.

Excursion(s) - “Let's Go” biking Chioggia
Excursion Price - $70

Meet your local bike guide dockside for a scenic ride along the lagoon. Your first stop is Piazza Vigo, with its famous—and beautiful—white marble bridge that links the square to San Domenico, a church standing on its own little island (you’re likely to see your ship cruise past right about now). Your guide will provide an insightful overview of the fishing village of Chioggia and its beaches. Pedal to Fondamenta San Francesco for a view of its stunning Chiesa, before embarking on your excursion around the lagoon. Enjoy a pleasantly tranquil trip around the Lusenzo lagoon, the placid body of water between Chioggia and Sottomarina, which offers up stunning views of the city. Take a quick breather with a pit stop in Sottmorina to see the collection of model boats. After a long day working up an appetite, enjoy a well-deserved Italian lunch at Restaurant Il Ristoro and an enlightening mussel demonstration.

Excursion(s) - Bragozzo ride with typical Italian mussel lunch
Excursion Price - $70

Mussels have been a staple of Venetian cooking for many years, mainly because the waters of the lagoon produce a bounty of fish and shellfish. Climb aboard a small boat and head out to the mussel banks to take part in a harvest. Marvel at mussel ropes suspended from poles into shallow waters, and after a short introduction by the fishermen, help harvest the shellfish. Clamber up to a fisherman’s platform where you’ll steam your mussels in prosecco for a delicious lunch. Shellfish don’t get any fresher or tastier than this.

Excursion(s) - Bike the Beach
Excursion Price - $70

Explore the lively fishing town of Chioggia by bicycle! From views of the lagoon to the sea—stop at the Adriatic beaches for some fun in the sun before cooling down with a gelato.


Day 6 - Polesella (Bologna or Ferrara)

Port - Polesella

Today you face a tough decision: Do you spend a full day in Bologna, the culinary capital of Northern Italy, or visit UNESCO-designated Ferrara, a beautifully preserved Renaissance city? Let your passions be your guide today. If you have an appetite for pasta, head to Bologna—the heart of Italian culinary traditions—and learn how to make (and eat!) your own lunch. Or indulge your appetite for art with an excursion to Ferrara, an ancient center for the arts that once rivaled Medici Florence.

Excursion(s) - Private pasta-making and Italian lunch in Bologna
Excursion Price - $70

Does Bologna have the best food in Northern Italy? 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. There are those who believe that the best tortellini in the world is made in Bologna. 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. Participate in a workshop on making pasta, enjoy lunch at a celebrated restaurant and then 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.

Excursion(s) - Ferrara: Renaissance, elegance and Italian lifestyle town discovery 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.

Excursion(s) - Bolognese Pasta Workshop
Excursion Price - $70

You’re never too young to become a food connoisseur. First, you'll be taken on a food-focused tour through Bologna and its historic central markets which boast a variety of culinary delicacies like artisanal chocolates, cheese, ham and handmade pasta. Next, you become the chef at a workshop where an expert will guide you through the process of making your own pasta. It's messy but wholesome fun. Afterward, your delicious creations will be incorporated into an authentic Bolognese meal for you and your family. And you get to take home the best souvenir you could ask for—a new (and tasty!) skill.


Day 7 - Porto Viro, Chioggia

Port - Chioggia

Chioggia is such a delight that we’ll return there today to experience something completely different. You can visit the village’s bustling once-a-week market—a colorful and boisterous scene, and quintessentially Italian. IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that the ship is only manned by crew during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions. We thank you for your cooperation.

You’ll sail back to Venice this evening.

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 a huge outdoor market along its main thoroughfare, Corso del Popolo, where stands sell everything from locally grown melons and beets (pretty candy-striped Chioggia beets are treasured by U.S. chefs) to colorful straw handbags.

Excursion(s) - Keys to Chioggia
Excursion Price - $70

It’s market day! See a different side of Chioggia with a tour through the city’s active and rich markets. Check out the catch of the day in the fish market, sample local delicacies and enjoy a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Climb to the top of the ancient clock tower to take in the view before climbing back down for a trip through the lagoon in a historic fishing boat.


Day 8 - Venice Islands (Burano, Mazzorbo, Torcello)

Port - Burano

Venice is an island surrounded by hundreds of smaller islands, three of which you’ll visit today—Burano, famous for its lace-makers and houses painted in eye-popping colors; Mazzorbo, where you’ll taste a historic golden-hued wine; and Torcello, home to beautiful Byzantine mosaics.

Excursion(s) - Magic Island Day: hidden treasures of the lagoon
Excursion Price - $70

The Venetian lagoon is dotted with islands, each with its own history, heritage and charm. Your first island of the day is an exceptionally colorful one. Hot pink, chartreuse, orange, lemon yellow—Burano’s brightly painted fishermen’s cottages are an artist’s dream. The sizzling colors may look random, but they are strictly regulated: An owner needs state permission to change the color of the house. Burano is even better known for its lace-making tradition than for its colors; the exquisite craft has been practiced here for 400 years, handed down from mother to daughter since the first workshop was set up at the end of the 16th century. Visit a historic lace-making atelier to see some of this delicate work and, if you like, purchase items to take home. 

Enjoy lunch on your own at one of Burano’s charming restaurants, then rejoin the group for a visit to the neighboring island, Mazzorbo. Here you’ll find a different craft practiced: wine-making. Visit an ambitious wine estate devoted to making wine with Dorona grapes, which tolerate the salt air—and the occasional saltwater bath during very high tides—and produce a luscious golden wine. These grapes grew here long ago in a walled vineyard that has been brought back into verdant production. Enjoy a tasting in lovely surroundings.

Then it’s on to Torcello, perhaps the most surprising of all these islands. It was settled before Venice was founded, and at one time it was 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.

Excursion(s) - Magic Islands
Excursion Price - $70

Explore the northern lagoon with a scavenger hunt through Torcello, Burano and Mazzorbo. Make sure you bring your camera to these picture-perfect islands to snap shots of their gorgeous landscapes, colorful houses, and historic bell-towers. And don’t miss sampling the Bussola Buranello cookies that put Burano on the culinary map.


Day 9 - Venice

Port - Venice

Lovers of food and wine flock to Italy to immerse themselves in a true farm-to-table epicurean experience. If that sounds like you, you’ll love today’s walking tour to the famous fish and produce market next to the Rialto Bridge. Prefer a more visual feast? Join an art historian for a highlights tour of the Accademia gallery.

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

Excursion(s) - "AVG Arti Veneziane alla Giudecca" glass factory visit with crafts demonstrations
Excursion Price - $70
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 leads 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, 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) - “Venetian Painters at the Accademia” tour with art historian guide
Excursion Price - $70

Join an art historian on an exclusive guided visit to the Academy. Probably the greatest collection of Venetian Renaissance paintings in the world, it includes works by Tiepolo, Veronese, Tintoretto, Bellini and Canaletto. There are more than 20 galleries, each one containing extraordinary masterpieces, with exhibits generally laid out in chronological order. There are far too many to see in a single visit; fortunately, your guide brings a specialist’s knowledge to the history of Venetian painting and will show you what was unique about Venetian art as it developed from the 14th through the 16th centuries.

Note: Photography is not permitted inside the Academy, and large bags, especially backpacks, must be left in lockers.

Excursion(s) - Venetian Playground
Excursion Price - $70

Venture out on a delightful, family-friendly discovery of Venice. Visit the historic Rialto Market where the ship’s chef will introduce you to local cuisine. Then board a water taxi for a ride down the Grand Canal. Your water taxi will drop you off at the little island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where you can make your way up to the island’s bell tower and enjoy a spectacular bird’s eye view over the lagoon below.


Day 10 - 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: $ 340 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

Gems of Northern Italy

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Company Reviews

better the second time around?

5.0
Details
Value4.0
Guide4.0
Activities4.0
Lodging4.0
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

River Countess

Deck & Cabin Plans

River Countess


Trip ID#:

Uniworld-227

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