A New Twist On Venice

You may initially question the logic of a luxury barge cruise around the Venice area that only spends about a half-day—gasp!—in the actual city itself. But that's exactly what Go Barging (www.gobarging.com) has done with its new "La Dolce Vita" program to the Venetian Lagoon. La Dolce Vita barge on Venice's Grand Canal, operated by Go Barging

Go Barging's new seven-day, six-night aquatic jaunt around the Venetian Lagoon (stopping at Murano, Lido, Burano, Torcello, Chioggia and Dolo) is a wonderful twist on a tried and true destination. Clients visit myriad islands that are integral to the culture and history of this popular tourism destination. If you view the trip with your selling cap on, it is a wonderful retail opportunity—a way to repackage and sell an old destination clients love, but have likely visited once, if not several times, before. The Go Barging itinerary could also make for a wonderful pre- or post-trip for clients heading to Venice.

The Wraysbury, England-based company's inaugural trip departs October 8, a special three-day kick-off journey for which they offered a 20 percent price reduction. It has scheduled 30 departure dates for the coming year from April 1 to October 21, with a price tag varying from $2,550 to $3,100 based on double occupancy, without air. Below is a rough itinerary of the cruise.

On Day 1, cruisers begin with a round of prosecco at the Villa Laguna Hotel in Lido (villalaguna.hotelinvenice.com) before boarding the barge, called La Dolce Vita. Once aboard, they work their way through the northern area of Venetian Lagoon, sailing past the fort of Sant'Andrea, the ancient Venetian artillery base, and the island of Sant'Erasmo, where Venetians traditionally go for a beach outing. Cruisers arrive in Burano, a fisherman's island in the northern lagoon, where they moor for a fish dinner. On Day 2, they tour Burano before heading on to the island of Torcello, the first island in the Venetian Lagoon to be colonized, 2,000 years ago. Cruisers lunch there, then sail to SanFrancescoIsland, where they visit a monastery. The barge then continues on to the island of Murano and drops anchor; dinner is served on board.

On Day 3, passengers visit the Murano Glass Works, then tour the Grand Canal aboard a water taxi. Once they're back on board, cruisers sail to the southern part of the Venetian Lagoon.

The cozy lounge, or "saloon," inside the cabin on board La Dolce Vita

On Day 4, guests visit a fishing market in Chioggia, a town just south of PellestrinaIsland, then head on to LidoIsland, where movie stars typically hang out during the Venice Film Festival. The barge moors in front of the Villa Laguna Hotel, where guests can check out the beach or take a water taxi to Venice at night to walk around the city itself.

On Day 5, cruisers visit Venice proper, touring St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace. There is an optional gondola cruise through the city's inner waterways, available for an extra fee.

Later, cruisers head to to Dolo, along the river Brenta. Dinner is in Dolo, where passengers can have a glass of wine in its historic water mill.

On Day 6, they cruise to Stra and tour the Villa Pisani. (It's possible to follow the barge by bicycle along the river Brenta.) Guests then take an afternoon cruise to Mira for the captain's farewell dinner, served on board.

On Day 7, Go Barging arranges for a transfer to a hotel in Venice or to the MarcoPoloAirport.

All cruises are seven days, six nights; three-night charters are available upon request. The majority of the departures are on a Sunday, with trips ending on a Saturday morning. There are a handful of departures remaining for 2006: Oct. 22 and 29 retails for $2,450 and Nov. 5 and 12 for $2,150. Check with the company for availability. A map of the Venetian Lagoon (Laguna Veneto)

Don't be confused by the fact that Go Barging also is known as European Waterways (www.europeanwaterways.com); that they have separate web sites.

From Cargo to Luxury

It may come as a surprise that all of Go Barging's vessels previously sailed as working cargo barges. The company's first, a barge called Anjodi, actually hauled grain. The boats have been completely overhauled and retrofitted to become what the company refers to as "floating country hotels." Built by Dutch shipbuilders nearly a century ago, La Dolce Vita houses six passengers in three cabins, along with a crew of three: the captain, a chef and a housekeeper. The barge is air-conditioned and features a sundeck. The captain, Massimiliano, is a tall Venetian who hails from a family of sailors.

For more information and the complete 2007 Go Barging cruise offerings throughout Europe, visit www.gobarging.com/european-waterways-2007-US-prices.pdf.

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