Venice is always on the wish list and having the opportunity to visit with CroisiEurope was an opportunity not to be missed. On arrival at Venice Marco Polo Airport we were instantly hit by beautiful sunshine and greeted by Frederica who had arranged the Water Taxi to the MV Micheangelo, our cruise ship.
Our first view of Venice as we sped towards the cruise terminal was as breath taking as we had always hoped. The skyline and sights of La Serenissima (the Most Serene) city were stunning and almost too much to take in. There before us was the remarkable architecture of Venice, including the Campanile, the domed Basilica di San Marco and glorious Doge’s Palace, also you pass many of the palazzos, canals and bridges. Pulling into the docking area it was a short walk to the MV Micheangelo for our Gems of Venice Cruise experience with CroisiEurope.
We boarded the ship very near the main cruise port. At 295 feet long the MV Michelangelo is a smaller version of CroisiEurope’s other three-deck European ships. We were greeted by Marie and Anise in the reception area who directed us to the panoramic bar and lounge where refreshing drinks were available. Sitting comfortably, we got drawn into the ambiance of the ship which is decorated with Venetian masks and a beautiful Murano glass chandelier. The seats were extremely comfortable and here we got to witness the attentive staff who were later formally introduced to the all passengers.
Onboard the MV Michelangelo there are 78 cabins, which are situated on the main and upper decks. They all have picture windows and include wide-screen TVs, hair dryers, safe and air-conditioning. The cabin was functional and spotlessly clean, which are the most important things to us. Time spent in the cabin was minimal at best, as Venice sightseeing filled most hours of the day. The beds were much more comfortable than we expected and the Wet Room bathroom was stocked with products, which was a nice surprise for a small ship. After settling in our room we unpacked our clothes – the wardrobes and drawers were sufficient for two people. All safely stowed we went walk about.
We came across the sun deck with sun loungers and tables and chairs, on the main deck was the bar, entertainment area and dance floor plus reception and the gift shop! At the bow there is a table and chairs to sit at and enjoy the views; we found this a great place to sit in the evening or on the upper deck with a Gin and Tonic!
After our walk about we were informed to return to the lounge bar, here we were given our safety demonstration plus a meet and greet with the crew including Captain Thomas, Navigator Peter and again we met Marie, who we were informed was the Manager. During this talk we were told about Channel 91 on our TV which transpired to be really useful as it gave you the itinerancy for the day, including information about times of excursions, times of the meals and also the menu of the day.
The ship set sail in the twilight hours, going past the main sights of Venice, which was breathtakingly beautiful living up to the romantic persona of Venice. We sat at the Sun Deck to witness the departure of the ship from the port of Venice being mooring at Riva Dei Sette Martiri.
CroisiEurope places a lot of emphasis on its French heritage and meals onboard are inspired by France’s culinary tradition. Three-course lunches and dinners feature many of the country’s classic dishes. The Restaurant has an intimate feel and encourages socialisation with a variety of table sizes, we were seated with another couple who were lovey to talk to and nice to interact after excursions and talk about the beauty of Venice.
Our chef on the MV Michelangelo was Julian who created menus such as our first meal which started with a Minestrone soup with a pie crust which was paraded around in great ceremony by the staff to celebrate our first dish on board this lovely ship. This was a nice touch to welcome us all to the CroisiEurope Gems of Venice Cruise, which we all applauded. The soup was followed by melon and Parma Ham, lamb with broccoli, pureed carrots and a jus. Finished off with panna cotta with a nice fruit topping and coffee served at your table or in the lounge. Special requests can be catered for in advance including food allergies and special dietary requirements. The wines available are a plentiful selection and good taste and an all-inclusive “open bar” is available. Your fare includes complimentary drinks from the bar in addition mineral water, fruit juice and coffee during the day and house wine, beer and drinks with meals. A small menu of purchasable items is available such as sparkling wine, some spirits and champagne.
After our first night in our cabin we arose to a buffet style breakfast – this included fruit, cold meats and cheeses, yoghurts and croissants etc. Hot options are available such as scrambled egg and bacon. Coffee and tea are served by the crew to your table.
Our first day saw a trip to the Doge Palace in a thunderstorm! The Doge’s Palace trip was a walking tour from the MV Michelangelo. We were greeted by a tour guide who escorted us over bridges and through the quiet part of Venice to San Marco Square to see the magnificent Doge Palace. Being on the tour allowed us to bypass the huge queues so highly recommend you do this! We spent a sufficient amount of time to take in the wonder of this masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the building and its sculptural decoration date from various periods. The interior, with works by artists such as Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, Vittoria and Tiepolo, includes vast council chambers, superbly decorated residential apartments, and austere prison cells. Walking over The Bridge of Sighs you could feel how the poor prisoners would have felt taking in their last view of beautiful Venice.
After seeing the Doge Palace, we had free time to walk around San Marco Square by this time the weather was kind to us and the sun shone on The Campanile and the amazing Basilica di San Marco – opulent with gold and marble facades. We enjoyed the ambiance of San Marco Square by relaxing in one of the local coffee shops while listening to a piano being played. This was the first of our trips and you can organise excursions beforehand or onboard, we settled on the package option which allows you to experience all the highlights of Venice.
We also had trips to Murano and Burano and a tour of Venetian icons, which is the gondolas and masks. On these trips we learned interesting facts about the making of the famous Murano glass, and that eight different types of wood are used to build a gondola and the prow is known as the ‘ferro’ (iron) which is a counterweight for the gondolier. All of these trips were led by a well-informed guide who are willing to answer questions. You also have time before returning to the MV Michelangelo to explore on your own.
On the morning of day four we set sail down the Venice Lagoon to Chioggia to moor there for our excursion after lunch to Padua by coach. Padua is a walled city situated along the Bachiglione River between Verona and Venice. The Basilica and Botanical gardens are found on the southern edge of town. Either the Corso del Popolo or the Viale Codalunga heading south will take you into the old centre of town. The celebrated Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio di Padova, sometimes called La Basilica del Santo is not Padova’s main church – an honour that falls to the Duomo, also called the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Mary of Padua. But Sant’Antonio is the one you need to visit. Construction began around 1232, a year after the death of Sant’Antonio; his relics are found in the baroque Treasury Chapel. There is a museum inside; the Anthonian Museum. There is another exhibit where you can learn about the life of Saint Anthony and the continuation of his work today. We recommend this trip but make sure you wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of ground to cover!
The evening of day four was the Diner De Gala where everyone makes an effort to add some sparkle to celebrate our time on the MV Michelangelo. The Gala evening started with a champagne drink in the bar lounge with live music and the crew all appearing to say “Thank You” for choosing CroisiEurope. The food for the evening consisted of Amuse Bouche, Foie Gras with Bayonne ham, spiced caramel sauce and brioche rolls, rack of veal with mushrooms, Flaky Taleggio and bacon tart with side salad and balsamic dressing, all of these dishes were of a Michelin star style standard. The evening finished with a spectacular entrance of Baked Alaska flamed in Grand Marnier with sparklers and was a nice way to say Goodbye to all the lovely food, wine, and the cruise we had really enjoyed.
We awoke to sunshine on our final day and after breakfast our luggage was collected and we left with the helpful Laura taking us to the Water Taxi for our journey home. The five-day cruise was over far too soon and Venice will always be a happy memory.
As an overall experience this is a floating hotel that allows you to see the real Gems of Venice. The staff of the MV Michelangelo are superb and made the trip that extra bit special by being there when anything was needed and the Tour Guides were knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions. This is not a cruise like those you experience on the large cruise liners but a boutique homely way to explore Venice by water, that is certainly a gem of a cruise.
For more information on The Gems of Venice Cruise see online at CroisiEurope.
For their trip to Venice, The Lord and Lady flew via British Airways with a smooth and comfortable experience. A great mention to the helpful crew and especially Captain Charlotte who was kind enough to help carry their hand luggage as they departed the plane.