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La Bella Vita Barge Cruise Review

Page 7
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Paola Salvato, Captain Rudy Toninato, and Ivana Veic

ABOVE: Tour guide Paola Salvato and hostess Ivana Veic pose with Captain Rudy Toninato, who was at the helm of La Bella Vita during our cruise.

Crew and service

La Bella Vita normally has a crew of six to nine, including the tour leader. Because the crew live on board and get little if any free time during a cruise, they typically work for a week and take the next week off.

During our cruise, the crew consisted of:

Captain: Rudy Toninato

Engineer: Roger Pagnin

Deckhand: Mattia Toninato (the captain's nephew)

Tour leader: Paola Salvato

Hostess (also head waitress and sommelier): Ivana Veic

Hostesses/housekeepers: Irene Gionta and Claudia De Gaspari

Chef: Andrea Chin

Sous-chef: Mario Sartori

In the photo below (taken at the captain's farewell dinner), the crew members are engineer Roger Pagnin, hostesses Claudia De Gaspari and Irene Gionta, sous-chef Mario Sartori, and chef Andrea Chin:


As on most barges and river ships, every crew member on La Bella Vita--from the captain on down--pitches in when work needs to be done. For example, when we arrived at La Bella Vita on departure day, the captain and engineer came dashing from the barge to take our suitcases. And during shore excursions, the deckhand or sous-chef often drove the car while Paola, our tour leader, piloted the van.

  • Trivia note: When you're on La Bella Vita, you'll see references to "Delta Tour," a company that is best known for its day cruises in the Riviera del Brenta. Although European Waterways Ltd. owns La Bella Vita, it's required to have an Italian company--in this case, Delta Tour--crew and navigate the ship. (Delta Tour has been in business since 1986, and the alternating captains of La Bella Vita--Rudy and Diego Toninato--are co-owners of the firm.)


On nearly all barges, much of the crew's compensation is earned from tips. European Waterways suggests tipping 5 to 10 percent of the fare.

Place your cash tip in an envelope and give it to the captain on the final morning of the voyage. The captain will distribute the money to the crew.

  • ATM or BancomatSuggestion: Pay the tip in euros, which you can withdraw from ATMs or "bancomats" in Venice, Mantua, and other cities or towns along the route. Local banks in smaller cities--including Mantua and Ferrara--sometimes put a cap of €250 on cash withdrawals, so it's wise to plan ahead instead of waiting until the last minute to get cash.

Next page: Is La Bella Vita right for you?

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