Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 14 - Sailing into Venice

Saturday morning I awoke with mixed feelings. It was our last day on the ship, but it was our first of four days in Venice!
After grabbing some breakfast and getting most of my packing out of the way, I headed up to the bridge where I found Sara and Carolina staked out by the rail. We were expected to reach Venice around 11:30am and a good number of cruisers wanted to be front and centre as that magical city came into view. 
Approaching Venice
The atmosphere on deck was festive and contagious – it was like lining up for a parade. Cruise staff offered champagne for those who wanted to toast the occasion in style. 

The cruise director pointed out landmarks as the ship slowly navigated from the Gulf of Venice, to the south of Venice and then through the canal network into the centre of Venice to our berth.

The view from the ship's bridge was fabulous. I snapped dozens of photos but here are a few to give an idea of Venice from the water.

La Pieta


The view from the ship as we passed by Piazza San Marco, Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale.
Holy steeples -- Venice has over 100 churches.
Santa Maria della Salute



Our ship was one of 10 cruise ships in Venice that day. Captain Tony recommended we eat lunch on board and wait to make our way into the city in the early afternoon to let some of the ships ahead of us finish disembarking first.  We took the Captain’s advice and had a lovely lunch in the International Café and then made our way off ship. We took a bus through the port to the water shuttle launch and, after a bit of a wait in line, finally boarded the shuttle that would take us into Venice.
View from the water shuttle
 
You’d think after three weeks of visiting some of the most amazing places in the Mediterranean, we’d be nonchalant about one more stop but, no, we were positively giddy over being in Venice, looking everywhere and snapping pics through the window of the water shuttle. 


We disembarked from the shuttle not far from the Piazza San Marco, at the heart of so many famous sights.  We decided to use this afternoon to get the lay of the land in Venice, and save our serious sightseeing for the next few days.


View from the Ponte de la Pieta 

Bridge of Sighs -- takes its name from the sighs of prisoners getting their last glimpse of outside on their way to prison.


We hung out in San Marco Square  (Piazza San Marco) for a bit, and marvelled over the exquisite detail of the exterior of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. 




Then we ducked into an alley and set out to get lost in the narrow, winding streets, browse through the shops and wander over countless bridges for the next few hours. 


Roisin, Sara & Carolina


Shop window full of some of Venice's famous masks.

Gondola traffic jam
They say that if you find something in a shop in Venice that you want, buy it then, because you'll probably never find your way back to that shop again.  I believe it -- Venice is a maze of winding and interconnected canals and streets.  We had a great time wandering through them, taking in the views from the bridges and the charming buildings lining the canals.
Caught sight of a very cool ceiling through an open window.









Before long we wound up at the bustling Ponte di Rialto, which dates from 1590.  The bridge crosses the Grande Canal and is surrounded by shops.
Ponte di Rialto

View from the Ponte di Rialto



By this time we needed refreshments so we stopped for lunch at a tiny osteria and shared a very tasty pizza margherita and a plate of grilled veggies. 


More tasty gelato
We soon hit the streets again, doing a little shopping and browsing in the windows as we made our way back toward Piazza San Marco.  A shop with limited editions of classic books caught our attention but the 1,300 price tag on an edition of Alice in Wonderland was a little out of my reach. 



An image etched into the ceiling of a covered walkway on the Rio Tera de le Colonne also caught my attention -- a symbol of dice and the date 1691.



We  soon found ourselves back in Piazza San Marco and took a few minutes to enjoy the sight of the Basilica and Piazza in the late afternoon sun before we headed back to the ship. Napoleon called this square the “drawing room” of Europe. Surrounded by many of Venice’s major attractions, the Piazza seemed to be full of people (and pigeons) at all times.


The Basilica

The Campanile



Back on board on the ship, we enjoyed our last dinner and a final chat with the Maitre d', Feliciano. I have to say that he and our waiters were very attentive throughout the cruise and had our preferences down pat from the start.  Tonight I chose a grilled vegetable salad, mussel et frites, and a cheese plate. 


To mark our last night, the waiters entertained the dining room with a procession of Baked Alaskas.



On our way back to our room, I detoured onto the upper deck for a bit of air and to take in the view of Venice and was surprised to see a stunning fireworks display off in the distance.  What a great way to mark the end of our cruise.

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