MS Michelangelo

Star Travel Rating

5/5

Review type

Cruise

Location

Date of travel

October, 2021

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with

Husband

Reasons for trip

Regular holiday

A long, long time ago – or so it seems – I was lucky enough to win (in a Silver Travel Advisor competition) a CroisiEurope river cruise in the Netherlands but was later offered a voucher to the same value to put towards any of their cruises in 2020 so because of Covid I chose one to Venice as I know October is a good time to visit and I thought the pandemic would be over by then! Obviously the cruise in October last year didn’t happen but was transferred to this year and we have just returned from a wonderful holiday. I apologise for the length of this review but although this was our 8th visit to Venice it was the most enjoyable. On boarding the MS Michelangelo we learned that we were the only English people on this particular cruise, all the others were French, which was rather daunting. Our standard of French is long forgotten O’ Level standard – we can read it quite well and understand much of what is spoken but nobody seems to understand us when we attempt to speak it! However, we needn’t have worried as two of the excellent members of the crew spoke good English – Maria(?) the Purser and Clementine, who was in charge of entertainment – and they ensured we didn’t miss out on any of the information given to the rest of the passengers by translating as they went along or visiting our table during the evening meal to explain the programme for the following day. We also had our own English speaking tour guide to show us the main sites of Padua.

We joined the Michelangelo at the Statzione Maritime Cruise Terminal which in the past has been used by large cruise ships, now banned from entering Venice, so it had an eerie, abandoned feel. Fortunately we weren’t there for long as once everyone was on board we left for our next mooring at the Seven Martyrs Quay. Here we berthed, close to the Giardini vaporetto stop and about a 20 minute walk to St Mark’s Square, for three nights, although on two of those days our boat cruised round the lagoon. I was glad we’d paid extra for a cabin on the upper deck that had a larger window and we were lucky that it was facing the lagoon as the view from the boat must be one of the best in Venice, a vista that includes San Marco Campanile, Santa Maria della Salute and San Giorgio Maggiore, with boats of all kinds criss-crossing the lagoon from early morning until late at night; our table in the dining room was also by the window on the lagoon side giving us an ever changing picture as we ate our meals. The only places with comparable views are hotels along the Riva Schiavoni which cost from £250 – £350 upwards a night. The sky was blue, the sun shone and I took far too many photos of sunsets. Basically we used Michelangelo as a floating hotel, hopping on and off when berthed to visit our favourite places in Venice or ticking off a few new ones from our list. One afternoon I just sat enjoying the sun on the deck trying to sketch the skyline and I was the only person up there. I got the impression that some of the less mobile passengers never left the boat and it would certainly be possible to experience the beauty of Venice and the lagoon from the comfort of Michelangelo, preferably in an upper deck cabin, on the same level as the dining room and lounge.

There were various optional excursions including the Doges Palace, mask making and visits to Murano and Padua. Although we didn’t book for the optional tour of Burano/Murano we stayed on board Michelangelo as it cruised to the berth on Mazzorbo, the small island linked to Burano by a bridge. We disembarked to spend time exploring independently while the group for the Murano glass works visit set off for their conducted tour on a smaller boat, later returning on it to rejoin Michelangelo back at Seven Martyrs Quay. We would probably have had time to go to my favourite island, Torcello, by vaporetto from Burano but instead we just wandered around the vineyard on Mazzorbo and revisited some of the quieter areas of Burano; we also looked inside San Martino church with its leaning campanile. During the slow cruise to and from Mazzorbo through the deeper channels marked by the wooden bricole we had a wonderful time sitting on the sundeck looking through our binoculars at cormorants atop bricole drying their wings and herons, curlews and other wading birds on the mudflats and marshes. We’d booked for the conducted tour of Padua on the final day (for which I will do a separate review) but the long cruise through the outer reaches of the southern part of the Venetian Lagoon to Chioggia, where we picked up the coaches to Padua, was the highlight of the holiday for me as we cruised slowly past Lido, then the fishing port of Pellestrina, had views of the Mose (flood protection for Venice) and rows of the picturesque fishing huts on stilts with their nets hanging from poles. While we were having our tour of Padua our boat went back to Venice to its last berth at Basilio, which is opposite the Fortuny factory and Molino Stucky Hotel on Giudecca. Those on the conducted tour of Padua returned to Venice by coach but everyone else had a return cruise on the boat. The next morning we disembarked after breakfast, so although the cruise covers 4 nights/5 days cabins are not available until 6.00 pm on the first day and one has to disembark by 9.00 am on the final day.

The food was good quality and well cooked and although my husband thought the cuisine was a little old fashioned I preferred to call it retro. Breakfast was an extensive continental buffet. The only hot choices were scrambled egg, bacon bits and small pale sausages; eggs were also available to cook as you liked them in an egg boiler. Insulated jugs of coffee and hot milk were on each table along with crusty rolls, croissants, jam and butter. Lunch was three courses with fish of some sort as the main course and dinner was a minimum of four courses, each meal being based on the food of a different Italian region. There was no choice although I suspect vegetarians and vegans could have pre-warned the chef when booking the holiday. I have an intolerance to cream so usually just avoid ordering anything that I know or suspect contains cream so when I discovered that there would be no choice I did tell the purser and she informed the chef so on the occasions when cream was used in a sauce my dish was served without the sauce and I was given fruit instead of cream laden desserts; I was very impressed with the way this worked and how one of the waiters looked after me. It was quite liberating not to have to decide what to order – we just sat back and ate whatever was served. A bottle or two of good wine and a bottle of water was waiting on the table although at lunchtime all we really wanted was a glass of wine each. Drinks were also available from the bar in the lounge whenever we wanted one and I usually ordered a cappuccino there as I found the French black coffee served at table too strong for me. Only certain high priced alcoholic drinks had to be paid for.

There was entertainment each evening – a quiz based on Italian food, bingo and on the last night a Venetian lady musician/singer followed by a disco. We took part in the bingo and last night music and dancing and would have taken part in the quiz but were worried some of the French passengers would get annoyed when all the questions were translated for our benefit so we went for a late evening walk to St Mark’s Square instead and enjoyed the atmosphere and the music being played outside the Florian.

As we have not been on any sort of cruise before we cannot make comparisons but it was a brilliant short holiday that I enjoyed immensely: my husband had been apprehensive about a river cruise but he loved it too and had nothing but praise for the standard of accommodation, food and wine and the brilliant service. Several British travel firms use Michelangelo for holidays in Venice, otherwise reservations can be made direct with the excellent CroisiEurope UK reservations office. I think CroisiEurope undersells this holiday in the brochures and online – possibly things are lost in translation – as it wasn’t clear just how long and good the included cruises round the lagoon would be.

“To see details of all CroisiEurope cruises”:https://www.croisieurope.co.uk

hardyplant

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