Before we sailed, we knew that cruise ships (unless they are lower than a certain tonnage) are no longer allowed to sail into the cruise ship terminal. The gross tonnage requirement means that about 90% of the cruise ships in the world (including Viking Sky) can no longer dock there. While I am sad we didn’t get to sail into Venice on our ship; I realize the damage the ships were doing to the environment in Venice and also, having been there as a land-based visitor, how much their being there basically destroyed the Venetian experience for those who lived there or visited by any other form of transportation. When you are walking through San Marco and a 16-story behemoth sails by with speakers blaring Italian arias, it really destroys the mood.
The larger ships have been forced to move even further away than we were on Viking Sky. For instance, most of those owned by the Carnival Corporation (Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Costa and a few more) are sailing into Trieste for the port of Venice. Trieste is about a 90-minute bus ride away to the east on the border with Croatia. The other major cruise corporation, Royal Caribbean (RCL, Celebrity), has decided to go southwest and dock at Ravenna, which is a good two hours by bus from Venice. If you are ending or starting your cruise there, this is not a problem as you can just come in early or stay late and still see Venice in a decent time frame.
We were doing neither. Although some people on our cruise were ending here and we were picking others up, for us, Venice was just a port stop. Thankfully it was a two-and-a-half-day port stop. Originally we were told that we would be docking in Fusina, which is a small, industrial port just across the lagoon from Venice in the Maestre area of Venice. It would be a short hop over on a Vaporetto (water bus) from there to the city. But because it was an industrial port, we would not be able to come and go as we pleased. So we decided that we would get off the ship for two nights and check into a B&B. Yes, it was expensive, and yes, we did need Viking’s approval before we did it. To me, as a travel photographer, a chance to shoot a city in the blue and golden light of the dawn is the best thing ever. I hope you will agree once you see my photos that those two early morning photo walks were truly worth it.
About four days before we arrived in Venice, it was announced that we would not be docking in Fusina in the Maestre area but in Chioggia, which is not as far as Ravenna or Trieste but is still a lot further than Fusina. We had planned to get into Venice for our two-and-a-half days in the city by doing an included shore excursion that would drop us in the city. Once we were moved to Chioggia, Viking decided to create a new shore excursion called “Venice; On Your Own.” It gave us a way into the city. Sadly, it was only offered the first and second days we were in port, so we had to find our own way back. More about that on day three.
So we all canceled our “included” tour and signed up for the first “Venice On Your Own” tour that was available (which turned out to be as soon as we docked). We arrived in Chioggia around noon, and we had been packed (one small suitcase each) and ready to go since 11:00 am, so we were in the first group off and the first group on the excursion boat into the city. I should mention here that our best buddies and neighbors forever, Jayesh and Lisa, had told us good things about Chioggia. They come to Venice every summer, and they had explored Chioggia, which you can do by public transport. You take a short Vaporetto ride to Pellestrina (see the map), and then you switch to a bus. It can be an exhausting trip and not one we really wanted to do with luggage of any kind.
The boat Viking chartered was your typical excursion vessel, and it was fairly crowded on board, but you could still stand up and move around, so I was able to take some photos from the back as we went in. Here are a few shots of Chioggia and the trip. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
We got into the city after a 90+ minute boat ride and docked right near San Marco Square. We jumped off, and since we had luggage, we just decided to go directly to the B&B. Besides the fact that it was both extremely crowded and scorchingly hot. So we walked a very short distance to the San Zacharia Vaporetto station, and we purchased three-day passes that would let us have unlimited rides on the Venice water bus system for the entire time in Venice. Based on how many trips we took and the price of a single 75-minute ticket, we really feel like it was a great bargain.
After grabbing the passes, we walked down three bridges (that’s what the ticket guy said to do 😁) and jumped on Number 1 and headed up the Grand Canal. If you are not familiar with the Vaporetto system on the Grand Canal, #1 is a local bus. It stops at every single stop. It takes people on and lets people off. It is almost always very crowded, especially in the middle of the day, and this day was no exception. (In contrast, the #2 is an express bus that goes from San Marco to Piazza Roma without a stop.) We got off at the St. Stae stop and followed our B&B manager’s excellent map and directions to the Ca’ Bonvicini B&B which sits right on the border of the Santa Croce and San Polo districts. It is a very typical Italian bed and breakfast (although we didn’t do the breakfast part) with a steep staircase, small rooms with typical Venetian decorations (chandelier, large drapes above the bed, etc.) and is very well located.
After we collapsed, we decided to let the crowds thin down and the heat of the day pass before we ventured out for a really nice meal in a small trattoria a few streets away. We ate outdoors, and it was a great Venetian experience. My next post will give you some of the best photography I have ever been lucky enough to shoot. Here’s a sample.
Venice is incredible. Although you may have seen it in pictures, you can’t grasp how beautiful it is until you visit. —Gino D’Acampo