When you think of Venice several words probably come to mind: Gondolas and canals. Romance and architecture. Venice is a magical place to visit, and sailing in or out on a cruise ship gives you a birds eye view over the top of the buildings and through the canals.
First things first - we recommend that you plan to spend some time in Venice either before or after your cruise. Venice is a magical city with lots to explore, and it would be a shame to miss it! There are lots of great tours available, or you can buy a guidebook and while some hours away visiting the attractions and dining on delicious regional Italian specialties.
Once you’ve arrived - either at the airport or the cruise terminal - there are water taxis waiting to take you to your downtown hotel. Never heard of a water taxi? As an island city, Venice has no streets and therefore no cars. To compensate, they have a fairly robust system of public water buses, public water taxis or private water taxis. Since you’ll likely be traveling with luggage, and most of your travel will be on foot, it’s best to prepare in advance to save yourself from any stress.
Pack Light(er Than Usual)
When you arrive to the cruise terminal, either via a private water taxi or a public vaporetto (water bus) there is a long walk to the checkin counter and then onto the cruise ship. Some cruise lines offer dockside checkin for your larger bags which you will want to take advantage of. However there is still your carry on luggage to consider. So try to pack as lightly as possible! It can be very hot in Venice in the summer, and dragging a suitcase around for extensive time outside can feel like torture.
If you are arriving with your luggage to St. Mark’s Square, there are typically land porters with giant carts available for hire. It may only seem like your hotel is a few blocks away, but with all the bridges and steps and tourists to walk around, we definitely recommend that you take advantage of this service. Just make sure to negotiate the rates before you set off. And when you are getting ready to leave your hotel, have the concierge call a land porter for you. It’s traveling in style, as the Venetians do.
When you arrive back to Venice on your cruise ship, and want to go to a hotel in downtown Venice, you will have the choice of a private water taxi or the public vaporetto again. The private water taxi is definitely more convenient, but expensive. You can expect to pay 70 euro or more for the service. And keep in mind that each person is allowed to bring one suitcase, with additional suitcases charged extra by the driver.
The public vaporetto is pretty convenient to use, but you will need to wait for it. The #1 runs on a loop between the cruise terminal, the train station, and St. Mark’s Square - a drop off point for many hotels. Per adult, each ride costs approximately 7 euro, and can be purchased on the day of the ride at the ticket counter. Each ticket is valid for 1 hour once its been stamped. To ride the vaporetto, get the ticket stamped in one of the automated machines before you get onto the water bus. Italian police frequently ride the water buses and will check to make sure your tickets are valid. If you are going to be traveling around for a day or two, you might want to consider getting a multi use travel card for the appropriate amount of time - you can save a lot of money this way.
See & Do
There are many beautiful areas to explore in Venice. Make sure you pack good walking shoes - heels are less than ideal - as most of the streets and walkways are on cobblestones and there are literally hundreds of bridges to cross up and down. St. Mark’s Square, Piazza San Marco, is a tourist hub where most people start their exploration. You can visit the famous Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, with their incredible architecture and gold decoration. Check out the Bridge of Sighs, a favorite for lovers the world over near St. Mark’s Square. Hire a private gondola, complete with a singing captain, to ferry you around the Grand Canal or through some of the smaller waterways. Sail over to the Murano Island and learn how the famous Venetian glass is made - don’t forget to pick up a souvenir. Or visit the famous Venetian casino at night where you can act out your favorite James Bond fantasy. Just make sure you are dressed to the nines.
There is an ongoing dialogue about the future of the cruise industry in Venice. The locals claim that the cruise ships are polluting the delicate environment, and they don’t like that most of the time the ships are taller than the the buildings. There is an ongoing effort by various conservation groups to try to ban them. So if this is on your bucket list, make your plans now and enjoy this amazing experience.