Senior Cruise Director John Heald took to the PA system on the outer decks to act as tour guide for the sail in and my fellow passengers and I lined the decks with cameras at the ready to snap pictures of the sites he was describing.
I, for one, was glad that we had a balcony so I could enjoy the wonder of Venice from the comfort of my own cabin!
St. Marks Square glistened in the morning sun and I was glad that Michelle and I had planned to spend the morning relaxing onboard to avoid the heat of the day when we got “lost in Venice” that afternoon.
News had come in the evening before that the Italian public workers had confirmed strike action and Carnival had been working overtime to ensure that all passengers had an affordable and viable way to head into the city.
There was always the option to walk, but the thirty minute or so wandering over more bridges than I can count on both hands and feet wasn’t an option for many in the Venetian summer heat.
Luckily the Carnival team came up trumps and had arranged private vaporettos to transport passengers from where the ship was docked, right into the heart of Venice, by St. Mark’s Square.
For only USD$12 return, we would ride in the comfort of a vaporetto to experience Venice more intimately by water rather than in shuttle buses from the port…I knew which option I was happier with!
From our deck we watched the queue of people eager to experience Venice as early as possible line the port to board their new mode of transport. From all accounts, it was beyond hot and several passengers fainted in line because of the somewhat extensive wait.
Disembarking over 4,000 passengers is never an easy task but in this case, everyone seemed to get off the ship at the same time and, with only limited vaporettos, the wait was sometimes over an hour by all reports.
It surprised me that they wouldn’t wait until a little later to disembark given that we weren’t sailing out until 11pm at night and I felt bad for the complaints that I knew John and the Carnival team were most likely receiving because of the queues.
Michelle and I lay by the pool enjoying our books until mid afternoon when everyone started returning praising the beauty of Venice but complaining about the heat…our decision to stay aboard was further reaffirmed!
Changing out of bikinis and into cool clothes and comfortable shoes we excitedly step right onto the vaparetto at 4:30pm. There were no lines and only two other passengers joining us for the smooth private ride into Venice.
We alight just outside a gelato restaurant (I figured it was a sign) and we venture through the alleyways, navigating dead ends and perusing store after store filled with Murano glass curios and Venetian masks.
One such store was an absolute delight. Run by the talented Yvonne, the store was filled with a myriad of styles most designed and created by the vivacious woman who would take us on a journey through the process.
A beautiful black lattice mask called my name and seemed made just for me when I tried it on…methinks a masquerade ball will be the theme of a birthday party very soon!
One could spend hours…days even…perusing stores, weaving through narrow alleys, indulging in Italian delicacies and truly just losing yourself in a city you can’t help but be captivated by.
We may have only had a few hours but, gelato in hand, we make our way to St. Mark’s Square where we bump into more than one fellow passenger, including Khanya and Eric whom we had enjoyed many a boogie with in Liquid Nightclub.
Now, given that a gondola ride is a tad pricey (80 euros for 20 minutes) bumping into our dancing buddies when we did was definitely kismet as we were able to book a half-hour ride taking in the Bridge of Sighs for 100 euros and split the journey between the four of us!
Our gondolier may have refused to sing (“that is only in Hollywood movies”), but he did turn our journey into one akin to a rollercoaster ride in a theme park!
Sharply taking corners, we all clung on for dear life at some points, certain that we would end up experiencing the canals of Venice a tad more intimately than expected!
The variety of restaurants all offering the “best pasta” was endless, so we let our wallets decide and headed to a casual eatery near our vaporetto dock which offered freshly made pasta starting from eight euros.
Our waiter, Coco, regaled us with stories of his wife and daughter and his time living in the northern beaches of Sydney. His Italian/Australian accent got a work out during dinner and we all decided that perhaps the spritz wine cocktail was best left to the Italians.
We joined our weary but happy fellow passengers at the vaporetto dock, relishing the sunset and cool that had settled over Venice before our short ride back to the ship.
Everyone shared stories of getting lost, eating gelato, drinking a tad too much wine and compared gondolier jokes as we all made promises to return to the city that had well and truly sunk into our hearts.