La Bella Vita Barge Cruise Review
An in-depth account of a
cruise between Venice and Mantua on a hotel barge
of European Waterways, with a day-by-day cruise photo diary.
ABOVE: La Bella Vita in Venice, Italy. INSET
BELOW: The barge's logo on a crew polo shirt, and departure from Venice's Riva
di San Biagio.
cruising has long attracted connoisseurs of low-key luxury cruising in France, Belgium, the Netherlands,
Germany, and the
British Isles, where converted industrial barges (some nearly a hundred years
old) offer a relaxing, slow-motion experience on canals and rivers. Still, even
the most loyal barge aficionados can be tempted by new experiences, and La
Bella Vita--a hotel barge based in Venice, Italy--brings a fresh Italian
flavor to inland cruising.
La Bella Vita was built in 1960 as the sand barge
Mery, and it hauled bulk cargo up and down the rivers and canals of
Italy's Po Delta for 50 years. In 2010, the barge was acquired and refitted as a
cruise vessel by European Waterways, a company that operates luxury hotel barges
in nine European countries. Today, the 20-passenger barge offers six-night cruises from Venice to Mantua (or vice versa), with stops along the
Venetian Lagoon and Po River.
We cruised on La Bella Vita
in May, 2013 at the
invitation of European Waterways, with whom we'd cruised on the luxury hotel barge
Renaissance in Burgundy
several years earlier. In this illustrated article, we discuss the barge, our
itinerary, the overall cruising experience, and how traveling by barge compares
to cruising on a larger river vessel or an oceangoing ship.
We've also provided a
day-by-day cruise photo diary with nearly 150 images and detailed captions
to help you decide whether a six-night cruise on
La Bella Vita (or even a whole-boat charter) is right for you.
La Bella Vita: The ship