This was our third cruise with Uniworld and they continue to provide the level of service and quality that keeps us coming back. This is a very unique "river" cruise in that it is likely you won't be sailing a river at all. It is a River Cruise ship that sails in the Venice Lagoon. This trip included a precruise stay in Milan for 2 nights before transferring to Venice. I have written a very detailed day to day review and posted it on the Cruise Critic river cruising board but here is a summary of our trip:
The River Countess is one of Uniworld's older and smaller ships.(compared to their newer SS Ships). Both our other cruises were on the SS ships and we certainly felt the difference as far as size. But the quality was still wonderful. It has an elegant appearance but a casual feel about it. It is perfect as a floating hotel to experience all that Venice and the surrounding islands have to offer.
We stayed in a suite(#409) which includes butler service. The suite itself I believe is about 220 sq ft. Wonderful bed facing a ceiling to floor sliding door that they call a French balcony but it is a sliding door. There is a small sitting area with 2 chairs and table in front of a ceiling to floor window. The bathroom has double sinks with large walk in shower, heated floors and towel racks. Outside of the bathroom is a makeup table with mirror and a bar/mini fridge area. Suites come with a fully stocked mini bar and frig as well as daily fruit and afternoon snack such as brownie/cookies. As mentioned suites come with butler service. We found our butler very reactive but not extremely proactive but really enhances the service. Non suite cabins are much smaller at about 150 sq ft and have single sinks, no make up area/bar area and no sitting area.
Uniworld really excels as far as quality of food that ranges from good to great. Breakfast and Lunch are buffets are varied and often have a theme(i.e. Seafood) with dinners being 4-7 course meals. Dining room is truly open seating where you can come when you want and sit where you want(typically between 7:00-9:00). Waiters are friendly and efficient. Make sure if you want something served differently then offered or something else not on the menu to ask(i.e. My wife liked more vegetables then offered and was always accommodated)
As most river cruises, not a lot of night time entertainment other then a piano player/singer. They did bring an opera singer on board on night and a local singer another.
Service across all areas is fantastic and every member of the crew is a pleasure. From the captain who stopped by where I was sitting in the lounge one evening and had a casual discussion for 30 minutes to the room attendant who kept the room spotless.
Ports and Excursions:
As mentioned this trip starts with 2 days pre cruise in Milan at the Star Rosa Grande Hotel which was a wonderful location. Excursions in Milan included a private showing of "The Last Supper" as well as a walking tour the included the Duomo.
The transfer from Milan includes a stop for a few hours in Verona for a walking tour and a stop at a winery for a 3 course lunch and 4 different wines(not just a tasting).
Venice is the highlight of the trip with a night time private tour of St Marks Basilica. You have about 3 days in Venice. Other Venice Lagoon Highlights include Chioggia, Burano, and other smaller islands. There are day trip bus options to Bologna and Padua.
On average there are 2-3 choices of excursions offered each day from active(such as a bike tour in Chioggia) to easy walking tours. Uniworld even offers several Water taxi rides in Venice to get to certain excursions.
Conclusion: You have to have proper expectations with this cruise. If you are expecting leisurely scenic sailing down the river such as the Rhine or Danube then you will be terribly disappointed. If you want to have 5 star hotel service with 5 star food while visiting the areas of the Venice Lagoon without packing and unpacking then this trip is exceptional. Also if you have been on Uniworld's SS ships just be prepared it's not quite the level of these ships due to the different in size and amenities. But certainly worth doing for the experience!
Definitely worth having the extra room in a suite. Includes double sinks in bathroom, sitting area, included stocked mini bar/frig, make area, and full butler service. Bed extremely comfortable and perfect location on the top deck in the middle of ship.