This past October a trusted charter-supplier invited Jan and I to study their idea of an 8-day Cycling Cruise itinerary that would embark in Venice to explore Italy’s Po River Valley.
In November we flew to Italy, rented a car and spent a week with Santana’s favorite Italian cyclisti. Pierre earned his Architect’s degree in Florence, where he also studied art history. A professional life of city planning and fine art eventually gave way to cuisine, wine and cycling. Pierre’s multi-faceted perspective has helped Santana develop our South of the Alps itineraries since 2016.
The Po River Valley is a vast nature & wildlife preserve that includes cultivated croplands. While most Italian cycling tours feature 3,000 feet of climbing per day, our newest itinerary embarks in Venice and climbs less than 1,000 feet in an entire week.
Our Po River Cycling Cruise begins in Venice, the world’s most fascinating and unusual city. Although savvy travelers will want to arrive at the earliest possible hour, on embark day we’ll meet flights arriving as late as Noon at Venice’s Marco Polo International Airport. After checking your luggage at the ship, we’ll start your day of exploration with a professionally guided walking tour.
That evening, during our onboard welcoming dinner, our petite river ship will relocate from the yacht terminal at the edge of Venice’s walking district to an exclusive location near Saint Mark’s Square. From this area, where a luxury hotel room sells for $500 a night, you’ll have a second full day to explore Venice.
We’ll start this bonus day in Venice with your choice of a second professionally guided tour. With this tour you can experience fabulous Venetian interiors, Murano’s famous glass blowers or learn to how to row a Gondola. Because our ship is tied up in the very center of Venice, after each of our onboard dinners you’ll be able to sample magical Venetian evenings.
During breakfast of our third morning our cruise ship will untie and move across the lagoon to Chioggia, a smaller and slightly more modern version of Venice where we’ll assemble our bikes. Our warmup ride links the lagoon with pristine wildlife preserves at the edge of the Po River Delta, where the residents of Veneto and Emilia-Romagna teamed up to preserve 132,000 acres of natural wetlands.
The adjacent lower-Po flood plains stretch through miles of vineyards and croplands. You’ll never forget our lunch at a country winemaker’s villa. This unique dining experience includes hand rolled-pasta and farm-to-fork produce. If you arrive early enough you’ll be able to wash up and help with the preparation of the fresh ravioli.
The first stop on our “Walled Villages” day of cycling is Monselice. From there a choice of routes reach Este, where the castle is famous for its captivating fountains and beautiful gardens.
Our cycle route around Montagnana traces one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval city walls. This amazing day of sights and cycling ends with Villa Fratta Polesine, where Andrea Palladio’s distinguished architecture was the inspiration for America’s White House.
The following day we’ll ride away from the Po River to reach Ferrara, where 2,600 years of architectural history links the Bronze, Middle, Medieval and Renaissance eras. Our professionally-guided tour of the city center includes Castello Estense and the Gothic Cathedral of Saint George.
A choice of post-lunch routes return to the ship via the fortress of Stellata, the commune of Bondeno, and Palazzo Diamantina.
The next day’s route takes us through San Benedetto Po and stops for espresso at the fortified city of Sabbioneta. Our group will discover the elegant Polirone Abbey before journeying through the lush countryside and nearby villages.
One of Pierre’s favorite features of this itinerary is a unique ride across Torre D’Oglio—a 1926 bridge that floats on a foundation of pontoons, barges, and boats. At lunch we’ll sample some of the region’s best wines at a local vineyard where Pierre will translate the virtues of regional viniculture.
Our final day of idyllic cycling explores the 40,000 acres of natural parks surrounding Mantua, the Mincio River, and the remarkable Palazzo Te.
A student of Raphael, Giulio Romano made the creation of Palazzo Te his life’s work, the most famous of which is the Fall of Giants (pictured above), a fresco creating the beguiling illusion of a massive dome overhead.
We’ll fit in a walking tour of Mantua’s best sights before our easy return to the ship, where we’ll repack bikes (or return rental bikes) before our farewell banquet.
On the morning of disembarkation, a choice of shuttles will take participants to one of Italy’s largest and most agreeable airports. The first shuttle will reach Bologna’s BLQ International Airport in time to check bikes and luggage for a 9AM departure. If you care to spend more time in Italy, Bologna is a fascinating university city with plenty of sights. Its airport, a short taxi ride from the center, has a checked luggage facility that accommodates the largest built or boxed bikes. Bologna is on the main line of Italy’s super-fast bullet train. From the downtown terminal you can reach Florence in less than forty minutes, and Milan in just over 70 minutes, which makes Bologna a convenient base for day-trips to both.
Venice and the Po River 2021
We’ve chartered the 110-meter (yacht-dimension) MS Michelangelo for our all new Po River Cycling Cruise.
Launched by CroisiEurope in 2000 and renovated in 2017, this unique cruiser has 78 soundproofed staterooms in six categories.
All six categories have a private bath, spacious floor plan, king-width bedding that can covert into separate full-width twins*, individually-controlled A/C, and large view windows. (*The two Single Staterooms have a fixed twin bed)
During Santana’s earlier charters of Croisi cruises the culinary staff appreciated our appetites as much as we appreciated their multi-course gourmet meals. Croisi’s 5-star chef will curate a new menu for each meal, and will always include a surprising selection of local fruits and produce, regional specialties, the freshest-possible seafood, vegetarian options, and grilled-to-order meats.
A changing assortment of desserts and pastries are produced aboard each day. Breakfast and Lunch are served buffet style, perfect for active cyclists. Dinner is a plated multi-course menu with plenty of gourmet options for all of our participants.
The Lounge has seating for all our guests and is a great place to relax and mingle with your fellow cyclists, catch up on emails, or read a nice book.
The Sun Deck enjoys breathtaking 360-degree views.
Wi-fi is available onboard, as is expert wash-and-fold laundering of your valuable cycling wear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Venice and the Po River 2021
Q: What are the exact dates?
A: September 25 to October 2, 2021. An 8-Day/7-Night Cycling Cruise.
Q: Why September?
A: The dates for Santana’s Po River Cycling Cruise were hand selected for the best cycling weather possible in the regions we’ll be exploring. Jan and I decided to opt for dates in September, when the weather is still dry, temperatures are in the low 70’s, and the beautiful countrysides are still vibrant and sunny.
Q: What’s the cost?
A: Due to the current strength of the dollar and the wonderful offer Croisi gave us for our premier Po River cruise, our pricing for this 8-day cycling cruise starts at $3,199 per-person. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE. Our reservations page shows pricing of available staterooms.
Q: What’s “Early-In” Pricing?
A: To manage the risk of chartering entire cruise ships, couples who commit early are rewarded with discounts of up to $1,000 per stateroom. Lowest pricing in every category is limited to the first few rooms. Booking early is easy and RISK FREE.
Q: What about tipping?
A: Jan and I don’t accept tips. A comprehensive “cruise extras” fee of $700 per-person includes a long list of off-ship activities, admissions, interpretive guides, sight fees, and ride support (gps route files, morning shuttles to give casual riders a head start, and an SOS van driven by a pro mechanic). Mandatory shipboard gratuities of $140 per-person includes valet bike handling.
Q: Are there differences between the staterooms?
A: Certainly. The MS Michelangelo features deluxe bedding and spacious floor plans. All of the staterooms have a private bathroom, air-conditioning with adjustable thermostat, and are soundproofed. All MS Michelangelo staterooms are located on the exterior, and offer exquisite views. Top Deck Rooms have larger windows and superior views over levees.
Q: How are staterooms assigned?
A: In any sub-category all rooms are identical. Using the PayPal timestamp, those who reserve earliest get the conveniently located staterooms closest to the front of the ship. If friends desire a pair of adjacent staterooms the timestamp of the first reservation determines the location of both rooms. Out of fairness to all our guests, we will not take requests for specific room numbers. Those who book early obtain prime positioning.
Q: Are rental bikes available?
A: Yes. If you own a nice bike that fits, however, bringing it with you is relatively easy and inexpensive. More info on this in Bill’s Travel Tips. Single bike rental rates are about $450 per person for this event, includes delivery to embark and retrieval at disembark. We will update you on rental bike pricing about 45 days prior to embark.
Q: How do we get to and from the tour?
A: Detailed info by October ’20. Those who arrive and leave on the embark and debark days will receive FREE Airport transfers.
Q: How many miles each day?
A: In addition to our daily pair of zero-mile options (cruising on the ship or grabbing a seat on our Panoramic-Window coach), every day has multiple cycling routes. Anyone who can ride 30 flat miles will be able to enjoy all five days of cycling. If you prefer to ride 60 (or more) miles a day, we’ve got you covered. At each morning’s breakfast you’ll get a map charting the day’s cycling routes and recommended stops. During a brief route talk you’ll hear about each route’s grades and difficulty. Santana’s vets have learned to love and rely on their handlebar-mounted gps unit. Costing as little as $160, these touch-screen marvels prevent the age-old problem of getting lost or riding unplanned miles. Santana supplies free electronic mapping and route files. Simply select the route and follow the highlighted map.
Q: What’s the next step?
A: A near-immediate sell-out of this event is anticipated. Early-in pricing is limited to the first few rooms in each category. Pricing listed on the Stateroom Reservations section is the current pricing. Refresh your browser to see any changes that may have occurred if you delay booking after loading this page. To lock-in availability and the lowest pricing on a RISK-FREE basis, reserve your space through our PayPal portal. PayPal’s secure website is open 24 hours per day, accepts all major credit cards, and automatically adjusts for remaining stateroom availability. Reserving your spot is RISK-FREE. In each category the prime location staterooms will be assigned in the same order as the time stamp of your booking.
Q: What do you mean by RISK-FREE?
A: When you use your credit card and book through PayPal, we’ll give you 14 risk-free days to think it over and clear your schedule. If you change your mind, send an email to Matt@SantanaAdventures.com within two weeks to cancel the PayPal transaction and obtain a full refund. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
Q: What if we change our minds after 14 days?
A: Because full-boat charters are binding, non-cancelable contracts, Jan and I will only enter into this charter based on your confirmed-through-PayPal commitment. In effect, we undertake a huge risk by guaranteeing full payment on your behalf. After entering into this obligation, we cannot afford for you to back out—for any reason. This is no different than the clear written policy that existed for all except one of Santana’s prior chartered-ship cruises (this charter will be our 69th!). While preparing for our 2009 Danube event I neglected to include the following proviso. That’s the year a group of friends, after verbally agreeing to pay in full and then stringing Jan along for many months, decided to cancel their plans. Lesson learned! Here it is (again) in writing:
Santana’s acceptance of your registration and non-refundable deposit for this event is subsequent to your agreement to pay the remaining balance in full. While Santana allows limited refunds on rallies and tours, Santana’s cruises are non-cancelable and non-transferable. When the possibility of paying yet not attending is unacceptable, Jan and I recommend Travel Guard trip insurance. For the past 20 years hundreds of our clients have relied on Travel Guard coverage without complaint. An informative application will be mailed with your invoice; and further information is available online. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
Q: Have you ever relaxed your refund policy?
A: Jan and I have willingly resold a number of fully prepaid staterooms for a fee of $1000 per room—which was waived when a vacating couple found someone to take their place. When there has been more than one pending resell request, those who paid-in-full earliest had their space resold next. Using this non-guaranteed method (which is grossly inferior to trip insurance) Jan and I have cheerfully refunded over $500,000 in otherwise non-refundable and non-transferable cruise fares. Here is a full listing of Santana Adventures’ Terms & Conditions.
Q: What’s the difference between a SAG-wagon and Santana’s SOS/treasure vans?
A: Most tour companies use SAG-wagons that haul luggage and “sweep” the route between overnight stops. The drivers refill water-bottles, fix flat tires, and retrieve riders who can’t manage the easiest route between the widely spaced hotels. The problem, of course, is that the roving vans tend to be annoying until you actually need help. At that point it’s common to wait for two or more hours until one shows up. Although SAG drivers can fix a flat, they don’t have the tools or know-how to handle serious mechanical problems. Instead, they drive you to a bike shop (which explains why SAG-wagons disappear for hours at a time). This tour’s SOS van is driven by a pro bike mechanic who brings tools and spares. When you phone him with the coordinates from your GPS, he’ll arrive in a flash to get you back in the saddle. Because Santana expects participants to fill their own bottles, fix their own flats, and choose a ride they can finish, our SOS drivers are underworked, and have time to retrieve your shopping treasures.
Q: Does the MS Michelangelo have WiFi?
Q: Will there be menu selections for vegetarians, vegans and picky eaters?
A: Yes to all of the above.
Q: Are beverages included on the MS Michelangelo?
A: Beer & Wine are complimentary at Dinner. Soft Drinks, Coffee, Espresso Drinks, and Juice are all complimentary at meal times.
Q: What if we have more questions?
A: The easiest way to get help is by phoning or emailing Matt, who is happy to help answer your questions.
+1 (949) 677-7896 Matt@SantanaAdventures.com
Q: What if I run into problems with Reservations or PayPal?
A: The easiest way to get help is by phoning or emailing Matt, who is happy to help guide you.
+1 (949) 677-7896 Matt@SantanaAdventures.com