Bari Italy was our first port of call. A port city on the Adriatic sea on the heal of Italy’s boot. Bari has a nice little old town within walking distance from where the ship docked. Cruise companies offer lots of shore excursions for each port. For some ports a shore excursion is a good idea. Shore excursions, as nice as they are, can blow your budget out of the water! Especially on a long cruise with lots of ports, like this one. When we cruise into a port that’s very walk-able, we like to save some money and see it on our own.
Our day started with another huge logjam of people. I’m really not sure what the problem was. The only thing I can think of is that most of the passengers had the same idea we did and were exploring on their own. Normally more people take shore excursions and disembark at different times through a different exit. We were late getting to Bari for two reasons. One because of the late departure from Venice due to the fog. Second the ship was undergoing some scheduled maintenance and was unable to travel at top speed. So our time in Bari was cut short! Due to the maintenance issue, all of our other ports were cut by about an hour. Bari’s old town takes you back in time. If you take away the scooters and cars, it’s not hard to imagine being back in time a thousand years ago. I find really old places like this interesting and I enjoy visiting them. This cruise was full of really old places. We stopped by the ruins of the church of Santa Maria del Buonconsiglio, a byzantine church. All that remains are the roman style columns that held the church up.
One of Bari’s best known points of interest is the Basilica San Nicola. Below the basilica is the tomb of Saint Nicholas. It was interesting to see the resting place of the inspiration for, in fact whose spirit may be, Santa Claus. Nicholas was a bishop in the Greek church. It was interesting how he kept popping up on our trip. He had visited a lot of the places we were visiting.
Bari has a really nice waterfront area. You can walk along the water for miles. I really liked the small brightly colored wooden boats. We walked along the water back to the ship.
Authors note: We took this trip in Oct./Nov. of 2019. I took a gazillion photos. It takes me a long time to sort and edit my photos. My plan was to write most of the posts about this trip before I started to post them. I am not the fastest writer by any means. It’s surprising how long it takes to write 500 or so words when you choose your words carefully. So I knew from the beginning that it was going to take me a while to start posting about this trip. Anyway, I’m ready to start posting and BAMM!! We find our self in the middle of a global pandemic! Cruise ships are stranded at sea and people are dying onboard! That sort of took the wind out of my sails. I didn’t think this was an appropriate time to start posting about a wonderful cruise. So I shelved my cruise posts. Time flies when you’re not having fun. It’s now been a year since we departed on our trip. What a year its been! I’m not sure what the future holds for the travel industry. I was hoping to be traveling again in the spring of 2021. Now it may be longer and even longer yet for the cruise industry. For now I hope that you will enjoy reading about our Italian, Aegean Sea cruise.
It’s boarding the ship day! We had our bags all packed and ready to go. We checked out of the Ca della Corte. We really enjoyed our stay there; we didn’t want to leave. The cruise port is very easy to get to, at least for now. There has been a big push to move the cruise port out of Venice. The B&B was a short walk from Piazzale Roma. For a small fee, we could have had someone take our bags on a cart. But we just rolled them to Piazzale Roma from there we took the people mover to the port. The people mover is an elevated tram that takes you from Piazzale Roma to the port. We purchased tickets from a kiosk for 1.50€ each. You swipe your ticket and the gate opens. Robbie swiped and went through. I was rolling our two large bags. I swiped and got the first bag through and the gate closed! So I needed to push the second bag under the gate and then crawl under the gate myself. Well that was fun! It was a short ride to the port. If you are interested in the boarding process keep reading. It was quite the adventure. Otherwise feel free to stop here.
We were sailing on the MSC Lirica. MSC had a shuttle bus to take us from the people mover to the terminal. At the terminal we waited in our first line, to check our bags, show our passports, boarding passes, and enter the terminal. Once inside of the terminal we were given a group number and directed to a large room with lots of chairs. We waited and waited. We were looking for our friends and didn’t see any of them. We started to think we were in the wrong place. We got a message from Sandy and Jerry. It seems that there were two large rooms. Everyone else was in the other room. We moved to the other room. We found out that there was heavy fog earlier and the ship was unable to enter the Port of Venice. It had just docked. I would have been nice if they would have told us that on the way in. We should have already boarded the ship. Now we needed to wait until the previous cruisers disembarked. We were way late and still waiting. Finally, they started to call the numbers for each group to board the ship. Robbie and I were in the last group for our room, the other room was still waiting. Here is where things really went down hill. I’m sure the fog played a big part, but everything was a bit disorganized. After they called our group number we got into a line to show our passport for the second time and go through security. After security we were in another line to get onto the gangway to board the ship. Once on the gangway we waited in another line to board the ship. We had to show our passports and boarding passes again for the third time to get on the deck of the ship. Once on the ship we were in a huge logjam of people on the promenade deck. The ship is very long and the line was half of the length of the ship! The line moved very slowly. We finally entered a restaurant at the back of the ship, it was closed, they were just using the space. There was another line through the restaurant. At the end of this line they were collecting everyone’s passports. This was a bit strange to us, but apparently not unheard of for a European cruise. This was our first European cruise, but we have been on many Caribbean cruises. This was the hardest time we have ever had boarding a ship! Like I said, I’m sure being late due to the fog was a big issue. Still I think it could have gone a bit more smoothly. I think for one thing they called the numbers for the groups too fast. They should have waited until one group was almost finished before calling the next group. We would have waited in the big room longer, but we wouldn’t have been standing in lines forever!
We found our cabin and were able to freshen up a bit. We were happy with our cabin. Going the cheaper route, we opted for an interior cabin. This one was much roomier than our cabin on the Cuba cruise where we also opted for an interior cabin. Next was the mandatory safety drill. You must gather at your assigned lifeboat and they explain the emergency procedures. By then we were starving! It was too early for the dining room and the buffet was between lunch and dinner……… Grrrrrrr! Luckily the pizza station and the burger and fries station were open, Yeah! We were exhausted but on the ship finally!
Oh no, it’s our last full day in Venice! Robbie and I are on our own today. Everyone in our group is doing their own thing. We took a walk to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. The basilica is the beautiful domed church that stands out as you look down the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge. Along the way we stumbled onto the Venice Photo Lab. A photography exhibit of photographers that were chosen from Instagram. There were quite a few interesting photos on display. We stopped by the Accademia Bridge and found it fascinating that there was actually a phone booth. There were also public toilets or WC (water closet). If you need to use them, and we did, you will need 1.50€ in coins. They were clean and very nice. The basilica is right along a busy Grand Canal. It’s interesting to watch all of the boats zipping up and down the canal. From the top of the basilica steps you get a nice view across the canal toward St. Marks Square. We were getting hungry and started to look for a restaurant. The problem is, Italians eat early and then late. So lots of restaurants close for the afternoon. Unfortunately, when you’re out and about seeing the sights the time you think about getting something to eat is the time most restaurants are closed for the afternoon. There are many restaurants that do not close in the afternoon. We seemed to be in an area where most of them were closed or pricey. We found the Bar dell Accademia close to the Accademia Bridge. We had a very relaxing and tasty lunch. Robbie and I had a great day exploring a new section of Venice.
After dinner we walked back to Piazza San Marco to see the lights. There are several cafes in Piazza San Marco that feature live music. We stopped to listen for a while. San Marco is really pretty at night. We started the walk back to Piazzale Roma via the Accademia bridge. Robbie and I said goodnight to the group near our B&B. Everyone else continued on to the bus stop.
We found out the next day that there was a horrible incident on the bus ride back to Mestre. One of our friends had her purse stolen. She lost money and her passport! The cruise line would not let her on the ship without a passport. Unfortunately, she needed to go to Florence to get a temp passport, then a flight home. It was a very sad situation; we all felt so bad for her. Buses all over Europe are notorious for pickpockets.
After our time in Murano, we boarded an even more jam packed vaporetto to Burano, our next stop. Burano is a small village on an island in the Venetian lagoon. Burano is known for beautiful items made of lace and its brightly colored buildings. Burano may not be the most colorful place in the world, but it’s probably close to it. The lace is gorgeous and painstakingly made by hand. We walked through the village taking in the sights to San Martino with its leaning tower. It has a 5° lean, the same lean as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Unfortunately, my camera is incapable of taking a bad photo, so it looks straight. It really was noticeably leaning. While the rest of the group was sightseeing, shopping, and drinking wine, I set out on my own to take some photos. I found an awesome residential area. I could not get enough of these brightly colored buildings. I loved the laundry hanging out to dry. When I was a kid we didn’t have a dryer and mom hung our laundry out in the yard to dry. I still remember the fresh smell of line dried laundry. Burano was great, I would like to spend a few days there. I’m sure there were some really great spots that I missed.
No trip to Venice would be complete without a visit to Murano, one of many small islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Murano is famous for making beautiful glass products of all kinds. There are many glass manufacturers and shops on the island. I’m not sure why Venetians started making glass but early on they recognized the danger of having glass furnaces on the main island. So the glass furnaces were moved to the island of Murano.
Murano is about a 40 minute vaporetto ride from Venice. Vaporettos are the public transportation for Venice and the islands in the lagoon. It is a large boat that is in effect a bus on the water. You can buy passes for one to seven days. During our four days in Venice this was the only day we used a vaporetto. We walked everywhere we wanted to go. In addition to visiting Murano we also stopped in Burano. So we purchased a one day pass for 20€. We used the 4.1 vaporetto from Piazzale Roma. The 4.1 also stops at the San Michele cemetery. Napoleon didn’t think it was a good idea to bury people on the main island so the cemetery was moved to another island. We didn’t visit the cemetery but it’s a nice stop. Murano is a popular place, the vaporetto was standing room only and jam packed full! There is a high probability that you may not get on the first vaporetto and need to wait for the next one.
We visited the Vetreria Murano Arte (Murano Art Glass) glass furnace and shop. We got to see a glass blowing demonstration and the beautiful glass items that they produce. It was a very interesting stop. We then took a walking tour of the beautiful island of Murano. We found a nice restaurant with outdoor seating for lunch. Oh by the way, the weather was awesome! For the end of October (2019) it was unseasonably warm. We made our way to the vaporetto stop on the far side of the island to continue on to Burano.
We had a great day in Murano and Burano. In Burano we boarded the #12 Vaporetto, there were a few seats this time. The sun was setting as we arrived in Piazza San Marco. I was able to get a few sunset photos. There was a woman posing in a wedding dress, I think it was a fashion shoot and not a wedding. We were getting pretty hungry by then, so we walked a few blocks away from the San Marco area. The San Marco restaurants can be a little pricey. We found a nice little out of the way restaurant and had a nice dinner.
Later on our first full day in Venice, we returned to our B&B. After we freshened up a bit, we decided we needed a few things at the store. We stopped at the Prix grocery the day before, so tonight we thought we would try Crai, another grocery store in a different direction. Both stores were nice but we liked the Prix better. Anyway, we took a few photos along the way.
Our friend Sandy found a great deal on this cruise and invited us as well as several others, there were 12 in all. On our first full day in Venice, we made plans to meet up with Sandy, Jerry and the rest of the group at the Campanile di San Marco. The large tower in St. Marks Square.
Robbie and I started our walking tour of Venice. First we needed to find our way to the Accademia Bridge. Venice is a maze of narrow walkways/streets. Some of them are very narrow and are covered. They look a bit dicey to say the least. Robbie was a little apprehensive about walking down some of them. I was able to convince her (sort of) that Venice has a lot of streets like this and we would be fine, and we were. We never had a problem in the streets of Venice, even at night. The buses, we later learned, were another story. We found our way to the Accademia without getting too lost. The best way to see Venice is to get lost! The Accademia Bridge is not only a Venice landmark but one of two bridges that cross the Grand Canal in order to get to St. Marks. You get a great view of Venice and the Grand Canal from the top of the Accademia. From there we continued on our way to St. Marks taking in the sights along the way.
We arrived in St. Marks and the Campanile to meet up with our fellow travelers. The time to meet had come and gone, but no sign of our group. We were only able to communicate with them when they had access to WiFi. We had international phone and data through Google Fi. It worked great everywhere; we always had service. No extra cost by the way, it’s the same as in the states. Anyway, we were unable to contact them. We took in the sights of the St. Marks area. We found the Bridge of Sighs, another famous Venice landmark. It’s quite a popular place and you need to wait your turn to get a good look at the bridge and a photo. The Bridge of Sighs is a small bridge, more of a covered walkway that crosses a canal between two buildings. One building was the courthouse and the other building was the prison. Convicted criminals would cross the Bridge of Sighs from the courthouse to the prison. They would look out of the window on the bridge, take one last look at Venice, and sigh.
We received a message from our lost friends. They stopped for lunch and were using the restaurant WiFi. Apparently public transportation had scheduled a one day strike, what?! So it took them a while to find a bus to get from Mestre to Venice. They were late but on their way. We found a nice restaurant and had out first pizza in Italy, it was great! After lunch we met up with our fellow travelers. Most of them we knew, a few of them we met for the first time. It was great seeing everyone and hearing about their travels. Some of the group wanted to do a tour, some wanted to do some shopping. Robbie, Jeanine, Barb and I made our way toward the Rialto Bridge, one of two bridges that cross the Grand Canal from St. Marks. We stopped for refreshments under the Rialto. A good way to have access to a restroom is to buy some drinks. After we were refreshed we continued on to Piazzale Roma where we all met up again with the rest of our group. We made some plans for the next day. Everyone else took the bus back to Mestre. They found out earlier that this was the only bus out of Venice due to the strike. So it was important to be on that bus. Robbie and I walked back to our B&B. We had an awesome first day in Venice.
Venice is on many travelers’ must see list. It was on mine for sure. So when we decided to book this cruise, I wanted to spend a few days in Venice before the Cruise. Our fellow travelers were planning to do the same. They opted to stay on the mainland in Mestre, a short bus ride away from Venice. Although you can save a few euros by staying in Mestre, I wanted the full Venice experience. I also wanted to be able to walk out of my door and start photographing Venice.
When you stay in Venice, you need to decide what area of Venice to stay in. Venice is a island, an island where the only vehicles are boats. When you come to Venice from the mainland by bus, train, taxi or any other form of transportation you will end up in Piazzale Roma. From Piazzale Roma you either hire a boat or walk to your destination. The most popular destination in Venice is Saint Marks Square. Everybody wants to be in Saint Marks Square. So the question becomes, do you want to stay close to St. Marks and hire a boat to take you and your luggage to St. Marks, or do you want to stay close to Piazzale Roma and walk with your luggage to your room. Venice is a very walk-able city you can walk to anywhere in Venice in about a half hour. I decided that rolling our luggage to our room close to Piazzale Roma was the better option. Although being close to St. Marks sounds convenient, the closer you are to St. Marks, the more expensive the rooms become. Also I thought that by walking to St. Marks from our B&B would give us an opportunity to see more of Venice. There is more to Venice than St. Marks.
I found several inexpensive B&Bs close to Piazzale Roma. They were all in classic older Venetian buildings adding to the Venetian experience. I chose the Ca’ della Corte, a very short walk from Piazzale Roma. The Ca’ della Corte was awesome! It was clean, comfortable, and the people were great. The breakfast was classic continental, with coffee, cappuccino, croissants, hard boiled eggs and other goodies, very tasty. Interesting to note, starting with our hotel in Miami, we ate hard boiled eggs every day of out trip. That was more hard boiled eggs than I have eaten in the past several years. We enjoyed our stay and would definitely stay there again. We were staying in the piano room. It was huge! The piano room features a baby grand piano. I wish I would have been able to play something on it.