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La Bella Vita Barge Cruise Review

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Continued from page 5

Chioggia fish market

ABOVE: Tour leader Paola Salvato (left) prepares to lead a walking tour in Chioggia, Italy.

Tours and shore excursions

Like most hotel barges, La Bella Vita offers shore excursions at no extra cost.

Ferrara signDuring our cruise, excursions included city walking tours, a boat ride, a visit to a wine estate, guided tours of an archaeological museum and Mantua's Ducal Palace, and dinner at a 17th Century country house. The tours never lasted more than a few hours, and because our group was small, we never felt that we were being herded like sheep.

Paola Salvato on pierOur tour leader--or cruise manager, as she would have been called on a larger ship--was Paola Salvato, a friendly, intelligent, and unflappable young woman who's also a multilingual licensed Venice tour guide. She led our shore excursions, aided in some cases by local guides.

LA BELLA VITA car and vanBecause our cruise had only 10 passengers, ground transportation was by car and an eight-passenger van. (When the barge has a larger number of passengers, a bus--driven by the captain--is used for shore trips.)

Other activities

Bicycles on LA BELLA VITALa Bella Vita has a fleet of bicycles for guided rides or do-it-yourself exploring. (Children's bikes and bicycle seats are available on request; you probably won't need these unless you're chartering the barge for a private multi-generation cruise.)

La Bella Vita Internet terminalIn the saloon, you'll find a piano, a CD player, binoculars, a small library, and games of cards, chess, and backgammon.

The barge also has a computer with Internet access via a cellular USB device. (Reception can be iffy in remote areas, so don't count on 24x7 connectivity.)

Next page: Crew, service

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