Port and Travel Tips
We've looked through travel guides, talked to our friends, and consulted the experts at Holland America to give you the inside scoop on visiting our ports of call. See below for the highlights to look for in each city and the options you'll have for getting around. We hope this information helps you plan ahead for your cruise. In some of the cities, some advance planning can make your visits more efficient and enjoyable, such as arranging admission to some galleries and attractions in advance.
Holland America excursions take care of all arrangements for you and insure a good, timely experience. We know many of you prefer to explore on your own. If you make your own arrangements, remember that ship staff cannot assist you with changes or challenges. And we always leave port on timeómake sure you're back on board! Holland America excursions for our cruise will be available in the coming months. We'll be sure you know when you can look through the list. We will also schedule Holland America on-board experts to give their Port Talks before each arrival.
Doing this research has made us look forward to our cruise even more. We hope you share our excitement!
Barcelona is celebrated for its Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture. While Spanish is widely spoken, the native tongue in this region is Catalan. Barcelona is a relatively flat city with a large square called The Plaça de Catalunya located in its center. You can find the Metro and Tourist Bus located here.
The Plaça de Catalunya divides the newer and older parts of town. Most of the top attractions will be in four major areas of Barcelona: the Old City, the harbor/Barceloneta, the Eixample, and Montjuïc.
The Old City is a great area for shopping and people watching. The main sights here are the Ramblas, Catedral de Barcelona, the nearby Barri Gòtic Quarter, and the Picasso Museum.
The main pedestrian drag in the Old City is called Las Ramblas, known for its street entertainers, shops, and food vendors. The word rambla is derived from the Arabic rami, meaning "riverbed." It originally referred to the gullies running through most Catalan towns that filled after heavy rains. The total distance of Las Ramblas is a little over a mile, and is typically very crowded. Just as you would in any town heavily populated by tourists, beware of pick pocketing.
Catedral de Barcelona is located near La Rambla. It is free to enter daily 8:00-12:45 (until 1:45 on Sunday). Other times, the cost to enter is €5. Dress code is strictly enforced: Don't wear tank tops, short shorts, or short skirts.
The Picasso Museum is home to the best collection of Picasso's early works found anywhere. It is six blocks from the cathedral. Admission is €9; open Tues.-Sun. 10:00-8:00. The busiest time tends to be when the doors first open.
The nearby medieval Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter, has buildings that date back to Roman and medieval times. This area is known for its tapas, wine bars, and shopping. Calle Portal de l'Angel is a more commercial area, while you will find smaller boutiques on Calle Avinyo. A helpful tip to keep in mind: Almost all shops still observe the siesta and most are open from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and then from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday. On Saturdays, many small shops close for the day at 2 p.m. The exceptions to these hours are the major shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets that stay open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
The harbor/Barceloneta has a pedestrian bridge that links the Ramblas with Maremagnum, a modern shopping/aquarium complex. Barceloneta is a traditional fishing neighborhood known for its beaches and good seafood restaurants.
The Eixample district has many famous works by the architect Gaudí, including the sculptures in Parc Güell and his most well known work, Sagrada Familia, the unfinished landmark church. The ticket line at Sagrada Familia can be up to 45 minutes long. You can call ahead to purchase tickets with a credit card, and then pick them up when you arrive. Tickets cost €11. Hours: 9:00-8:00.
Montjuïc is the large hill overlooking the city to the southwest. Nicknamed "Magic Mountain," this area has two of the city's greatest art museums, one dedicated to Joan Miró, the other showing a world-renown collection of Catalan Romanesque frescoes. Ascend Montjuïc hill by cable car for stunning city views. The cable car costs €9.50 one-way, €12.20 round-trip, and operates daily 10:45-7:00.
Barcelona's Metro connects just about every place you'll visit. Rides cost €1.35. There are several color-coded lines, but most useful to tourists is the L3 (green) line, which will take you to any of the main sights and neighborhoods. Pick up a free Metro map at any TI (Tourist Information center).
The Tourist Bus (the hop-on, hop-off tourist sightseeing bus) offers three multi-stop circuits. The two-hour red route covers north Barcelona (most Gaudí sights); the two-hour blue route covers the south (Barri Gòtic, Montjuïc); and the shorter, 40-minute green route covers the beaches. All have headphone commentary (44 stops, daily 9:00-10:00 in summer). Buses run every 5-25 minutes. Tickets cost €21 for a one-day pass, which you can buy on the bus.
There is no Internet or wireless access at the cruise terminal in Barcelona, but there is free public Wi-Fi access in most public spaces. Find the Barcelona Wi-Fi network on your mobile device. The password is "Barcelona Wi-Fi."
The popular Las Ramblas district has cafés with Wi-Fi access all along the street, including Sports Bar Ramblas, located on La Rambla dels Caputxins 31, and Flaherty's Irish Bar, located on Pl. Joaquim Xirau.
McDonald's, Hard Rock Cafe and Starbucks outlets throughout the city offer free access. Nearby Starbucks can be found at Maremagnum Centre in the centre of Port Vell (the Old Port), opposite the WTC, near the Columbus Monument. There is also a Starbucks near the cathedral on Via Laietana. If you find a "free hot spot," it is polite to purchase something small or tip the staff if possible.
More than 2,500 years old, Marseille is the oldest city in France and one of its most multicultural and diverse regions. You are just as likely to hear Arabic as French here. The city is huge (820,000 people), so it is best to keep your plans simple. Most attractions are around the Old Port (Vieux Port) and along the main boulevard, called La Canebière (pronounced "can-eh-bee-air"). Located two blocks from the harbor, you'll find museums and a shopping district along this thoroughfare. La Canebière dead-ends at the Old Port's famous fish market, where you can find ingredients for bouillabaisse, or fish stew. A specialty dish of the region, its name is derived from its cooking method: when it boils (bouillir), lower the heat to a simmer (baisser). Be sure to explore the many African-style markets, French churches, and Mediterranean cuisine.
One of the top attractions of Marseille is Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. This huge Romanesque-Byzantine basilica is perched 500 feet above the harbor and is viewable from just about everywhere. While it is possible to walk to the basilica, most folks take one of the local tour buses to gain access. To reach the basilica, you can hike 30 minutes from the harbor or hop on bus #60 for just €1.80 round-trip. You can also take a cab for about €10. Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde offers panoramic views of the city and sea. Originally built in the 13th century, the current structure was completed in the late 19th century. Open daily: 7:00-8:00. Cafeteria and WCs just below the view terrace.
A Ferry Boat crosses the Old Harbor (Vieux Port) regularly. It is a tourist attraction in itself known as the shortest commercial boat ride in Europe. It ferries locals from the Old Port to the New Town (free, every 10 minutes, 7:00-7:20, lunch break from about 12:00-1:15). Directly in front of the ferry landing, you'll find popular bars and brasseries. Close by, you'll also find a pedestrian zone full of cafés and restaurants. (Many guidebooks claim this area has the best eating options.)
Château d'If: a fortress-turned-prison, featured in Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. Tourist boats leave from the Vieux Port, usually on the hour, 9:00-5:00. Boats take groups for €10 round-trip. It's a two-hour trip total, so plan accordingly.
Cathédrale de la Major, an impressive striped cathedral with elaborate floor and wall mosaics. Daily 10:00-12:00 and 2:00-6:00.
Explore the dramatic Les Calanques limestone cliffs along the coast or check out the many museums in town, such as the La Charité Museum (also known for having a nice lunch café), the Marine Museum, and the Marseille History Museum.
Marseille's Museum of Natural History (museum-marseille.org) hosts a collection of dinosaur remains among its artifacts, and displays fossilized skeletal remains and a clutch of eggs from Mont Sainte-Victoire. The exhibits feature items from more than 2,000 years of the city's habitation, from Phoenician maritime artifacts to objects used by the Roman occupants of Marseille. Archaeologists still excavate on the grounds around the museum, and guests can visit the digs in progress.
Beaches: Many of Marseille's beaches are in close proximity to the old port and are easily reached by bus.
Marseille is served by a transit system, the Régie des Transports de Marseille (RTM), comprising trams, metro, and buses with a single ticketing system. You can use the same ticket on bus, tram, and metro. M1, the blue line, runs roughly east to west and back in a broad loop. M2, the red line, runs roughly north to south.
The tickets for bus/metro can be bought on the bus and subway stations or in cafés. You must validate the ticket every time you transfer. On trams and trains, the machines for validating tickets are on the platforms; on metros, they are at the entrance to platforms; and on buses, they are by the front door.
Note: Almost every metro station has steps in it somewhere and some will have several flights of stairs. These may be a challenge for those who have mobility issues or strollers.
There are also tourist trains known as Le Petit Train's that make two routes through town. Both leave at least hourly from the port (across from TI). The Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde route (#1) saves you a 3-minute hike to the basilica's fantastic views, runs along the waterfront, and includes a 20-minute visit to the church. (€7 for a 60-minute round-trip.)
You can find the hop-on, hop-off Tourist Bus located next to Le Petit Train stop. It leaves once an hour (€18 for a day pass).
Safety tip: Some guidebooks suggest that it is best to avoid the upper part of La Canebière at night. Most of the northern neighborhoods, known as "quartiers nords," are sensitive areas and should be avoided by tourists.
The Vieux Port in Marseille has free Wi-Fi within an area along the Promenade, from the Maison des Éclusiers (West) to Shed 16 (East). Connect to the network called "Vieux-Port de Montréal," and open your Web browser. A connection page will open. After clicking "Connect," you should be able to surf the Web.
There is also a McDonald's near the corner of Rive Neuve and Quai des Belges, and several more cafés on this corner that also have free hot spots. Often, the best way to find free or cheap Internet is to ask your cabin steward or waiter.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Located east of Nice on the northeast coast of Monaco, Monte Carlo has long served as a major port for the area. In fact, there are accounts of Julius Caesar landing his fleet in the harbor in 43 BC. This is a very small city, making it an ideal place to explore by foot. There are also public lifts available for steep terrain, and if your feet are tired, hop on a bus anywhere within the city limits. Be sure to stop at the large tourist information terminal right next to the boat for excellent advice, walking maps, and assistance getting anywhere.
Old Monaco in particular is a superb area for a walking tour. You can start directly from the ship, about 20 minutes up the hill. There is a little open tram train that circulates throughout that is hop on/hop off and costs approximately €5. Avoid taxis due to the traffic and small streets. They must be called—you cannot hail them on the street. See below for more detailed bus information.
Attractions include the Monaco Cathedral, with Grace Kelly's lovely burial site inside (free admission); the Palais du Prince, with the changing of the guard daily at 11:55 (HAL offers an exclusive tour of the Palace's interiors); and an excellent Oceanographic Museum, with a rooftop terrace offering spectacular ocean views. A little farther out, but still walkable, is the Prince's Vintage Car Collection, which is not to be missed by anyone with an interest in luxury autos. Another good walk is around the port itself. You can do this directly from the ship. The Monte Carlo Harbor is one of the most popular ports in the world for luxury yachts and people watching. The harbor has many shops and local restaurants. Shops generally close from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., when the restaurants open.
Monaco's restaurants are noted for their superb wine cellars and variety of cuisines. Many of the finest restaurants are located in the major hotels, and serve food from all over the world, including traditional Monégasque dishes.
Monte-Carlo Casino and Opera House: Its stage has been the setting for international operatic creations, prestigious concerts, and exceptional ballets for more than a century. It was built in 1893 by Charles Garnier, the architect of the Paris Opera House. There is restricted access—you must be at least 18 years of age, and proof of identity is required on admittance. Entrance fee: €10.
Prince's Palace on the Rock of Monaco: This Palace was built on the site of a fortress erected by the Genoese in 1215. Open every day from April 2 to October 31, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last entry 5.30 p.m.). Adults: €7; Children (8-14 years old) and Students: €3.50.
Saint-Charles Church: Inaugurated in 1883, this Renaissance-style building boasts a bell tower rising 98 feet skyward. Free admission.
Chapel of Mercy: The chapel's inaugural stone was blessed here in 1639, during the reign of Prince Honoré II, Prior of the Brotherhood of Black Penitents. For four centuries on Easter Friday, this chapel was the starting point for the traditional procession. The custom was abolished in 1870 but has been resumed in the last few years. The building houses a wooden Christ sculpted by the Monégasque François-Joseph Bosio, sculptor to Emperor Napoleon I. Free admission.
The legendary Casino de Monte Carlo is worth a visit. It is located on top of the hill across the port. There is a shuttle boat that carries visitors across the mouth of the port, or you can reach it by walking around the docks. Once there, it is a 45-minute walk up the hill. You must be at least 18 years old to enter the Casino. It does not open until 2:00 p.m. Dress during the day is at least business casual, while at night, cocktail dresses and suits are appropriate. Shorts, sandals, and beachwear are not admitted. There are indeed "high roller" areas only accessible to those with the means.
For some relaxation time, head just outside the city center to Larvotto Beach. This is considered a very safe swimming area since there are almost no waves.
The Japanese Gardens, located on Avenue Princesse Grace just adjacent to Larvotto Beach, is a peaceful and serene garden in which to take a stroll. It is not a large garden but it's worthwhile to walk through it and enjoy the waterfall, pond full of koi fish and carp (young kids like this), and the Japanese teahouse located in the center of the Gardens. There is also a sign located near the teahouse that shows a photo of all the fish in the pond. There is no admission to the park so it is free to enjoy.
Outside Monte Carlo: HAL offers excursions to Nice and Eze. These are beautiful, interesting cities, and the drive there and back is stunning—they explore all three coastal routes. Trains can be used here but it's a long walk or a taxi ride to the station in Monaco. It would be up to you to figure out the schedule and be sure you are back on time.
Top attractions in Nice include the Promenade des Anglais, Cours Saleya Flower Market, the Matisse Museum, ancient Roman ruins, the Russian Cathedral. See below for bus and tram information.
Public Transportation in Monte Carlo:
There is a system of elevators that take locals and visitors between uptown and downtown Monte Carlo and its nearby neighborhoods. This is an excellent method of transportation around the city—and it's free.
Maps can be found in the Tourist Information terminal next to the boat or any Tourist Information Center on Boulevard des Moulins. The map clearly indicates where Monte Carlo's public elevators—"ascenseur public" in French—are located. Also called "lifts," they are easy to use from level to level, and you can still walk along the street or parks easily. Many guidebooks recommend organizing Monte Carlo sightseeing around the elevators as an easy and enjoyable way to see the town.
The public transportation system is comprised of five scheduled services: Line 1 goes to Monaco Ville, Casino, Saint Roman; Line 2, to Monaco Ville, Casino, Jardin Exotique; Line 4 to Gare, Larvotto; Line 5 to Gare, Fontvieille, Hôpital, Gare; and Line 6 to Fontvieille, Casino, Larvotto. They are all round-trip. The fare is €1.50 for one ride, but you can purchase a pass on the bus from the driver. There are different passes with four and eight rides. The best deal is the Daily tourist pass because it has no ride limits and it costs €6.25. Kids under 5 travel free.
Public Transportation in Nice
Nice (like Monte Carlo) is easy to get around on foot, and most of the main attractions are within walking distance of the city's center.
Bus: The public bus system of Nice ("Lignes d'Azur") connects most parts of the city, and a single bus fare will get you quickly around Nice and surrounding areas. Tickets are sold in various points within the city center as well as on buses, and you can purchase tickets for a single trip—currently a flat rate of €1.00, or a single-day pass for €4.00). Although the buses start at 6 a.m., be warned that many of them stop running at 7 p.m., and routes to the outer-lying areas of Nice may run only three or four trips a day.
Tram: The Trans Alpes Maritime (TAM) bus starts from the central bus station ("Gare Routière"), with a flat fare of €1.00. The frequent TAM 100 line runs between Nice and Menton, with popular destinations of Villefranche, Beaulieu, and Monaco.
Taxi: The main taxi locations are the Esplanade Masséna, Promenade des Anglais, Place Garibaldi, Rue Hôtel-des-Postes, Gare SNCF, and the Acropolis. The Central Taxi Riviera service offers a 24-hour switchboard and service seven days a week.
Language: French is the main language, but English and Italian are also widely spoken. The native Monégasque dialect is still taught in schools.
Tipping: Service at hotels and restaurants is already included; tipping for special services is at the visitor's discretion.
Many cafés near the port have both Internet and Wi-Fi access, so finding one shouldn't be a problem. The closest one is Stars 'N' Bars, located just outside the gates of the cruise ship dock at 6 Quai Antoine 1er.
Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy
Livorno is a small Renaissance-era port city on the Tuscan coast near Pisa. It is the official port for Florence. There is excellent train service from Livorno to Florence, Pisa, and Lucca, as well as highway access.
The cruise ship port of Livorno is about 2 miles away from the center of town. Most travelers skip the small port of Livorno to head for nearby Pisa or Florence, but there are several areas of interest in Livorno as well, such as the "Little Venice" district that is built around canals. An hourlong boat tour (€10) leaves from the port's tourist info center, right where the cruise shuttle buses drop off visitors.
Ships typically provide shuttles to Livorno's Piazza Grande (the main square of Livorno); the train station is then a 15-minute cab ride away.
Pisa, home of the infamous Leaning Tower, is the closest tourist spot to Livorno. The journey to Pisa only takes 15-20 minutes. Trains are frequent, and it is cheap—only €2.30 each way per person.
Leaning Tower: It costs €15 to go up. Limited numbers of visitors are allowed to climb the tower at allotted times. You can make a reservation online for an additional charge of €2.
Transportation to Florence
Getting to Florence by train is the cheapest option and takes about an hour and a half. There are several "early morning" departures. Trains return to Livorno from Florence's Santa Maria Novella Station—check the train schedule just prior to arrival for updates. One-way fares cost about €9.60 (first class) or €6.60 (second class). You would be on your own to get on the correct train and get back to the ship on time.
The walk is only about 15-20 minutes from the train station in Florence to the Uffizi.
A taxi from the Livorno docks direct to the train station will cost you about €20-€30, and takes about 10 minutes.
The Uffizi Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of mostly Italian paintings in the world, including Botticelli's famous Birth of Venus, as well as works by Rubens and Rembrandt. Because visitors are limited in number, it's a good idea to secure reservations in advance, a process that is easy to do online.
One of the world's best-known statues, Michelangelo's David, is worth the visit to the Accademia. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 8:15 a.m. to 6:50 p.m. A collection of paintings and murals by the early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico can be found at the museum (and former convent) next to the church of San Marco, a short walk away.
The city's Gothic-era Duomo, also known as the Santa Maria dei Fiori Cathedral, is one of the world's largest. Entrance to the church is free (expect a long line). Visitors with limited time can buy tickets at the Museo del Duomo, located behind the church, to ascend the dome's 463 steps for a fantastic view of the city and countryside.
The church of San Lorenzo, in the city's main market district, houses tombs of the Medici family, as well as tombs of Galileo and Donatello. The church is part of a complex that includes Michelangelo's Laurentian Library.
Shops around the Piazza del Duomo (center of Florence) are good for souvenirs and other collectibles. Depending on the time of year, shops tend to close from 1 to 3:30 p.m. for lunch.
Getting Around Florence
Public transportation in Florence is widely used. City buses (orange buses, the newer models are a deep purple and white color) are run by ATAF and LI-NEA. Ordinary (a single-use 90-minute ticket) and multiple-ride tickets (four 90-minute rides on one single ticket) can be purchased from authorized sales points (bars, tobacconists, newsstands: anyone with "ATAF" stickers on their shop windows) and from the ATAF booth in Piazza Stazione. Make sure you validate your ticket.
Elettrico minibuses go through the old center of town and along the river. They run every 10 minutes and cost only €1.20 for a 90-minute ride. You can buy tickets onboard, but you need exact change. Tickets are also sold at tobacco shops and newsstands.
If your credit card is declined in Europe, it may be because of chip and PIN, which requires cardholders to punch a PIN instead of signing a receipt. Make sure you know your card's PIN before you leave on your trip since banks are unlikely to give it to you over the phone. Know your PIN code in numbers; there are only numbers—no letters—on European keypads.
To save time and avoid long lines, visitors can buy a Florence Card or make reservations online. The Florence card is pricey (€50) but gives you admission to top attractions (including the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia), and it also gives you free access to Florence city buses. You bypass the long lines and show your card at the entrance. You can find more specific information about the Florence Card online (www.firenzecard.it).
Helpful tips: Beware of traffic, particularly motor scooters, which often are driven at high speeds.
Caffetteria Montenero has both Internet and Wi-Fi access. It is located right next to the cruise shuttle bus stop. Another option is Bar Duomo, located near the cathedral.
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
Civitavecchia is a province of Rome located about 59 miles northwest of Rome proper. There are several transportation options within walking distance of the port (discussed below); a local train ride is about 45 minutes to the city.
The name Civitavecchia means "ancient town" in Italian. The city has a history of deep-water ship docking that goes back to 106 A.D. There is an excellent Archaeological Museum here that dates back to the 18th century and features a wide display of ancient Roman and Etruscan artifacts.
Rome is nicknamed The Eternal City, a title well earned considering it has endured for more than 2,700 years. It is Italy's most populous region, with 2.8 million people living in this vibrant capital. Fashionable boutiques, brightly colored Vespa scooters, and cafés offering gelato and espresso co-exist alongside ancient Roman monuments and Renaissance splendor.
Although many guidebooks describe the city as "sprawling" and "overwhelming" on a first-time visit, it is also described as one of the most exciting and spectacular places in Europe. Planning ahead and having a good map is essential to tackling Rome on your own. This is the one place you want to be sure to buy tickets for main attractions in advance to avoid the long lines. It is also helpful to divide major areas into a diamond shape: Located at Rome's center is a major traffic hub called Piazza Venezia. Villa Borghese Gardens is located to the north, Termini train stain to the east, the Colosseum to the south, and the Vatican to the west. For some perspective, walking from the Termini train stain to the Vatican takes about an hour.
HAL offers a simple bus transfer to Rome, which we recommend. The cost is approximately $100 round-trip. The ride is about one and a half hours each way. You will be given a good walking map and a contact for the bus operator. You will be dropped off and picked up at a central location. You can stay as long as you wish, but check with the operator for their schedule. You may use this option overnight.
The train is an option as well: You can walk to the Civitavecchia train station from the ship. Your destination is "Termini" in Rome. Be sure to validate your ticket. You are on your own to be back on time. (See below for more detailed information on transportation.)
We are in this port overnight, arriving 8:00 a.m. Sunday and leaving 9:30 p.m. Monday.
HAL will offer an overnight hotel package, including bus transfer. You can do this with a full two-day itinerary of tours if you wish. If you stay overnight in Rome, please be sure to inform the ship's front desk. You should book your hotel in advance.
HAL tours take care of the trip to the city and afford privileges such as, for the Vatican, jumping long lines and gaining access to private areas.
The Colosseum: Built in the first century A.D., the Colosseum was the site of gladiator fights and other spectacles, and is one of the great works of Roman engineering. Also called the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum, is immense, reaching a height of more than 159 feet. Gladiators and wild animals were held in tunnels and cages underneath the main floor and hoisted up in elevators to the arena, which was surrounded by tiered seats that could hold 50,000 spectators.
The €12 ticket price for The Colosseum also includes tickets to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. There are often very long lines to buy tickets at the Colosseum. The lines at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are usually much shorter, so you can also save time by buying your ticket at one of those sites, since all three are included in a single ticket.
Pantheon: Built more than 1,800 years ago, the name Pantheon refers to the building's original function as a temple for all the gods. It is 140 feet high and wide with a large opening at the top called the oculus that lets in an abundance of natural light. The Pantheon is considered the best-preserved interior of antiquity in Rome. Free, Mon.-Sat. 8:30-7:30, Sun. 9:00-6:00, closed for Mass Sat. at 5:00 and Sun. at 10:30.
Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel: This immense museum has one of the finest collections of art in the world. There are 13 museums in about 14 Vatican palaces that are included on tours of the Vatican Museum complex. Displays range from Christian frescoes to modern paintings. One of the highlights is the famous Sistine Chapel, where visitors can enjoy Michelangelo's magnificent ceiling. Bring binoculars. €14, Mon.-Sat. 9:00-6:00, last entry at 4:00.
Dress code: No shorts or bare shoulders, and while not strictly enforced here, it is at St. Peter's Basilica. Keep this in mind if you plan to go directly there afterward.
Once you've purchased your tickets for admission to the Vatican Museums, you can choose to follow one of four color-coded itineraries that range from one and a half hours to more than five hours. All itineraries end in the Sistine Chapel. Even with a five-hour tour, it's impossible to see everything there is to admire, but you'll get a good overview and hit the most well-known highlights.
Be sure to research your visit to the Vatican in advance. It will be closed to the public on Sunday. Expect extraordinarily long lines unless you make arrangements in advance with HAL or an independent operator. (See below for information on the Roma Pass.)
St. Peter's Basilica: Built over a 100-year span, this grand church was the site where St. Peter, the chief apostle, died a martyr and was buried in 64 A.D. Be sure to see the most famous monument in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pietà, the only work of Michelangelo that bears his signature, as well as a famous bronze statue of St. Peter, said to bring visitors luck if they rub his toe.
Entrance to the church itself is free. If you wish to ascend the giant dome, however, you can buy a ticket to ride the elevator to the top, saving your legs considerable effort. It is free to climb the stairs to the top, but expect long lines.
Open every day from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. The Dome is open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:45 p.m. Masses and special assemblies may disrupt normal operating hours; be sure to check the basilica's official website before you go. Dress code strictly enforced: no shorts, bare shoulders, or short skirts.
Trevi Fountain: Rome's most famous fountain depicts Neptune's chariot being led by Tritons with sea horses. The water comes from the aqua virgo, a first-century-B.C. underground aqueduct, and the name Trevi refers to the tre vie (three roads) that converge at the fountain. It's the same fountain in which Anita Ekberg can be seen splashing around in the film La Dolce Vita. It's traditional to throw a coin into the fountain to ensure your return to the Eternal City.
Civitavecchia has a few transportation options that are within walking distance of the cruise port. The local train station offers hourly departures to Rome via the Eurostar City. Free shuttle buses also run often, transporting visitors to various city attractions. City buses travel to neighboring towns for sightseeing, or visitors can rent cars and drive themselves. Ferries are also available from specified harbor docks and travel to nearby Sicily and Sardinia.
There are two to three direct trains every hour between Civitavecchia and Rome's main rail station, Roma Termini. Most local trains take 60-80 minutes and cost €4.50 each way (in second class; always ride in second class). Hourly InterCity trains take 45 minutes and cost €12.50.
Rome's underground railway system will get travelers near most tourist destinations. Line "A" and Line "B" (plus a new Line called "B1" Conca d'Oro direction from Piazza Bologna) both cross at the Central Station called "Termini."
Rome is very walkable and various transportation alternatives are available and easy to use. English will be understood more here than elsewhere.
Tips: For €30, visitors can purchase a Roma Pass that includes two free admissions from a list of tourist sites, discounts to all other sites covered by the pass, and bus, tram, and subway transportation. You will also be allowed to skip the long line at the Colosseum entrance with this pass. For more information go to: romapass.it
Expect the city to be especially hot in August. Take advantage of the many public drinking fountains!
Probably the biggest safety risk in Rome is the traffic. Be careful crossing streets. If there is a pedestrian traffic light, you still need to look both ways to be sure it's safe to cross.
Civitavecchia has free Internet access in most public spaces. To access, find "CIVITAVECCHIA WIFI" and connect following the instructions shown on the street signs found alongside the covered area. Free Wi-Fi can also be found right next to the cruise terminal at Ristorante Angoletto and Pyrgo Café.
The capital of the Campania region in southern Italy, Naples has gotten a bad rap in recent decades for being dirty and corrupted by the mob. But with a change of leadership and a burgeoning contemporary art scene, this colorful city is in the midst of a cultural renaissance. Founded in the seventh and eighth centuries by the Greeks as Neopolis (new city) under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius on the Bay of Naples, it possesses one of the biggest historical city centers in the world, and counts more than 448 ancient churches. With incredible architecture (representing many epochs) on every corner, you'll find exploring by foot is a good option in the Centro Storico. Walk along the narrow Via San Biagio (otherwise known as Spaccanapoli becauseit cuts down the middle of the original Greco-Roman settlement) and you'll hit several notable historic monuments: the Church of Santa Chiara, one of the city's rare Gothic churches; the medieval Castel Nuovo; and the marble Roman statue dedicated to the Nile River in the Piazzetta del Nilo. You'll also stumble upon some of the best pizza joints — famous for their Neapolitan style (the classic is a brick-oven crust with fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil) — pastry shops, and narrow alleys with little shops bursting with unique wares.
Naples has plenty to offer on its own, but it's also conveniently close to the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the picturesque Isle of Capri. Or you can travel down to Sorrento and beyond to the Amalfi Coast, should you wish to venture out further. There are several HAL excursion packages that will take you to all of these places directly, or you can take the train.
To see some excellent contemporary art in Naples, you don't necessarily have to pay admission to a museum – not that you have a choice, because Two of Naples' most renowned museums – the Museo d'Arte contemporanea DonnaREgina (M.A.D.RE) and the National Archeology Museum – are unfortunately closed on Tuesdays. But you can still see some of the fantastic modern art that Naples has earned a reputation for, beginning on the street. The city has invested in several public art initiatives, including the Piazza del Plebiscito, the largest piazza in Italy, which in addition to being home to the magnificent structures of the Naples Royal Palace and the Church of San Francesco di Paola, doubles as a huge open-air public art gallery with rotating installations. They've also commissioned some of the best living contemporary artists to create several incredible "Art Stations" in the underground subway, transforming a traditionally unpleasant space into something of beauty and wonder, for just the cost of a subway fare (a 24-hour ticket for all metro public transport is about 3 euros). Wherever you stroll, look out for some impressive graffiti murals (and some not so).
Opposite the magnificent San Carlo Opera House (the longest continually active opera house in Europe) is the Galleria Umberto I, where under the cover of a stunning 184-foot-high arched-glass dome, you can shop in upscale boutiques or grab a cappuccino and people watch. Completed in 1891, the arcade is a rare example of industrial vernacular in Naples, designed as a passageway connecting the San Carlo to Via Roma.
In the Piazza del Plebiscito, the towering Palazzo Reale dates from the early 1600s.
It was renovated and redecorated by successive rulers, including Napoleon's sister Caroline and her husband Joachim Murat (1767 - 1815), who reigned briefly in Naples after the French emperor sent the Bourbons packing and before they returned to reclaim their kingdom. Don't miss seeing theroyal apartments,sumptuously furnished and full of precious paintings, tapestries, and porcelains. The monumental marble staircase gives you an idea of the scale on which Neapolitan rulers lived.
Be cautious of pickpockets in Naples, including thieves on mopeds and scooters.
The historic old center has recently reconfigured its streets to redirect traffic flow, but the streets are still quite busy and motorists drive fast. Be extra careful when crossing the road.
It's approximately 750 feet from the cruise ship passenger terminal to the road. You can buy tram and train tickets to Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Sorrento at the newsstand across the street from the terminal. The tram to the Napoli Centrale train station stops in front of the cruise terminal.
You can also buy tickets for hydrofoil boats to Capri and Sorrento, which cost around 28 euros round trip. To buy them, go to the Naples Molo Beverello dock, which is right next to the cruise terminal.
The hop-on bus stop is a short walk from the cruise terminal. There are three bus routes. It costs about 22 euros for a ticket that is valid for all three routes. Keep in mind that there will not be a guide on the bus; instead, you'll have headphones.
The bus route map with stops is available here: www.city-sightseeing.com
Only accept a ride from an official taxi — white cars with meters and the symbol of Naples on the sides. Don't bother trying to hail a cab because they will rarely stop. Instead, you can find taxi stands in most of the city's piazzas.
Internet cafés are located along the main boulevard facing the port
Beginning in the afternoon on August 24, A.D. 79, a series of eruptions buried this thriving commercial Roman port of 20,000 under 30 feet of hot volcanic ash. Pompeii was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader rediscovery almost 150 years later. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana.
While you can find transportation here on your own, a tour without a guide is not recommended. HAL offers an excellent guided excursion.
If you are not feeling up for a strenuous walk, look for alternatives to the walking tour of Pompeii, because the ancient ruins cover a vast area. There is little shade, and the cobblestones are uneven and can be difficult for those with limited mobility.
Herculaneum was engulfed by the same eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 that destroyed its more famous neighbor, Pompeii. But whereas Pompeii was afflicted by hot ash that burned all the wood structures in the town, Herculaneum was buried and sealed by hot mud, which in effect preserved whole buildings, carbonating wood structures and organic materials such as papyrus and food. Herculaneum's excavated area is more compact and thus not as overwhelming as Pompeii — many visitors find it less congested with tourists and easier to navigate on one's own. If visiting the site independently, take the Circumvesuviana train, a 25-minute ride from Naples. To get to the ruins, get off at the Ercolano Scavi station, from where you exit into a small square. Exit diagonally right (the only way out of the square) and walk eight blocks downhill to the big arch — the ticket office and baggage check are about a further two-minute walk thought the arch.
The Isle of Capri:
An idyllic island surrounded by aquamarine waters with gorgeous views of the shoreline and limestone rocks called Faraglioni. Check out the public gardens, numerous boutiques, and beaches, or take the Funicolare to Capri Town. Capri can be reached by hydrofoil boat.
A gorgeous town perched on a cliff overlooking the sea amid mountains, lemon and olive groves, and vineyards. Here you'll find great shopping and upscale dining. Sorrento is famous for traditional digestifs made from the fruits of the region (lemons, tangerines, and oranges) distilled into limoncello and other liqueurs. Get there by hydrofoil or tram from the Naples dock to the Naples train station to board the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento.
Kotor is situated on the northern Montenegran coast on the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska), a fjord-like ria — submerged river canyon — of the Adriatic Sea. With a landscape of towering mountains, red-tile-roofed houses rising up on the limestone cliffs, the setting is perfectly Mediterranean. The fortified Venetian village is developed around the old town, or Stari Grad, once an ancient trading center and now a UNESCO world heritage site. The medieval walls of the fortification stretch up the vertical rock faces of St. John's Mountain for three miles (and 1,350 steps) to St. John's fortress, where the ambitious climber is afforded stunning views of the bay and beyond. The old city's sea gate, built in 1555, is directly across the street from the cruise dock.
Kotor's official language is Montenegrin, evolved from the ancient Slavic and sharing the same origin as languages of the nearby Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians. Montenegrins will proudly point out that their language contains 33 letters, while the Serbs and Croats only have 30. English is well-understood and spoken by the locals.
Churches from the 12th and 13th centuries dominate the squares of the old town. Among them are the Romanesque Cathedral of St. Tryphon (Sveti Tripun), considered the most beautiful edifice in the city; the Roman-Byzantine St. Luke (Sveti Luka), notable for having two altars, one Catholic and one Orthodox; and the Church of St. Ozana, which houses relics of its namesake.
Formerly the Grgurin Palace, the Maritime Museum illustrates the historical significance of the sea to the area through naval artifacts and developments. Small enough for a quick visit, tickets cost 4 euros. It's located on Museum Square near the Karampana Fountain, a Baroque metal structure where townspeople once gathered for water and news.
In the middle of Boka Bay there are two gorgeous islets, the natural Sveti Djordje (St. George), home to the 12th-century St. George Benedictine monastery, and the manmade islet of Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks), upon which stands a beautiful Baroque church and museum with paintings by the famous Montenegrin artist Tripo Kokolja. The islets can be reached via a quick boat ride from the town of Perast, about five miles from Kotor. The views of the Bay from the water are spectacular.
The coastal resort town of Budva is about 30 miles up the coast from Kotor. It's the tourist center of the country, attracting visitors for its nightlife and gorgeous beaches. Similar to Kotor, it contains a historic "old town" with medieval ramparts, narrow streets, and squares. HAL offers a tour of the city, or you can get there by hiring a car or taking the bus. The main bus station is a five-minute walk from the old town, on the road toward Budva — look for the old tall chimney. Routes and schedules can be found there.
Walking is the best and only way to move around the old town. Choose your own adventure as you wander the narrow cobblestone roads — you'll find all kinds of delights in the labyrinth of plazas, cafés, and local shops.
Montenegro accepts the euro, but make sure you have them or travelers cheques in hand because Kotor's ATMs and banks may not work with American or Canadian credit or ATM cards.
Local drivers will meet you at the ship and try to sell you tours of the countryside, at a cost of about 60 euros an hour for the car. If you decide to go with one, make sure you know where you want to go and where they will take you. And do a little English test with the driver so you know you will be able to understand each other. Know that HAL offers a few excursions that explore other nearby villages and towns for a good sense of the local culture and scenery.
Many places in old town offer free Wi-Fi.
Ravenna (San Marino), Italy
Ravenna is a lovely town in the Emilia-Romagna region of northeastern Italy, not far from the Adriatic coast. It is most famous for its well-preserved early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, which date back to the time when Ravenna was the capital of the Western Empire. Dante, who lived the final 20 years of his life in Ravenna after being exiled from Florence, wrote about them in his literary masterpiece, The Divine Comedy.
The Porto Corsini waterfront is about a 20-minute drive from Ravenna. Shuttle buses run between the port and city center, while taxis can be hired for around 20 euro each way. Once you arrive, it's very easily navigable by foot. Pick up a map in the tourist office near the main square where you'll get dropped off.
If you want to do any shopping, be aware that the shops in Ravenna observe a siesta from about 12:30 p.m. to around 4 p.m., when the only things open are small bookshops and cafés.
You'll notice that Ravenna locals ride bikes. The port has purchased 20 new bicycles that are available to cruise guests, and you can ride the paths along the coast and across the plain to the hills. The pick-up location is approximately a five-minute walk from the shuttle drop-off location, and you'll need to show your cruise card to start your exploration of one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in Italy.
The most important tourist attractions in Ravenna are the mosaics, and the churches housing them, which are on UNESCO's World Heritage listing. Many of them can be visited on a combined ticket (around 9 euros), which can be purchased at San Vitale.
Basilica di San Vitale — One of the finest churches in Ravenna, built between 526 and 547, the building has a simple brick exterior but the interior is rich with marbles and mosaics. Byzantine mosaics illustrate scenes from the Old Testament and also stunning representations of the Emperor Justinian, the Empress Theodora, and their elegant retinues.
Battistero Neoniano — Highly decorated with marbles, carvings, and mosaics, this octagonal baptistery was built at the beginning of the fifth century and was renovated by a bishop called Neone 50 years later. The mosaic in the domed ceiling portrays the story of the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist.
Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo — This basilica houses some of the most reproduced of Ravenna's mosaics.
Mausoleo di Teodorico (Mausoleum of Theodoric) can be visited on a combined ticket with the Museo Nazionale and the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare in Classe. The mausoleum, a striking white cylindrical building, was built outside the city walls so is some way from the other tourist sights of Ravenna. Theodoric, known as "the Great," was the king of the Ostrogoths and became ruler of Italy, with his capital here in Ravenna. His tomb, constructed around 520, is topped with a massive block of stone.
Mausoleo di Galla Placidia (Mausoleum of Galla Placidia) — Alongside San Vitale and visited at the same time, the mausoleum is a surprisingly plain building, but inside it holds one of the oldest and best preserved mosaics in the world. Galla Placidia was an important woman: born in around 390 A.D., she was the daughter, sister, wife, and mother of Roman emperors. Entry to Galla Placidia is not included on the combined ticket, but only costs about 2 euros and is worth the visit.
In the center of town is the much-rebuilt church of San Francesco, which has a visible crypt flooded with goldfish swimming over a mosaic below. Alongside is the Tomba di Dante, the tomb of Italy's great writer Dante Alighieri who died in Ravenna in 1321.
Stop at a piadineria for piadina (thin, Italian flatbread) served with cold cuts, jam, Nutella or regional cheeses. Try tortellini and cappelletti, the Bolognese sauce, and local wines.
There are quite a few beaches and resorts near the pier, some walking distance. About 15 miles from the pier are Cervia and Milano Marittima, some of the most posh beach resorts on the Adriatic. There's also a ferry that goes across the canal to Marina di Ravenna, where the beaches are nicer than on the port side, along with several beachside restaurants and shops. It costs 1 euro round trip.
Car lovers may want to visit the Ferrari Museum, which is located in Maranello, two hours from the port. There is no direct way of getting here by public transportation, so you'll have to rent a car if you decide to visit it independently. Otherwise, HAL offers a full-day excursion.
The train station in town has direct service to both Bologna and Rimini.
Venture to Bologna, one of Italy's oldest cities, which is about 60 minutes away. See the Leaning Towers, Palazzo del Podesta, Palazzo Comunale, Piazza del Nettuno and Palace of King Enzo. The most impressive building in the square is Basilica di San Petronio.
Our final destination is the majestic floating city of Venice, or La Serenissima, "the most serene." Built upon a marshy lagoon in a series of islands, the autonomous republic began as a refuge from mainland Italian politics and warfare, eventually creating its own identity as a maritime trading center between Western Europe and the East. As the Venetian empire's power and wealth expanded through the Middle Ages, so too did the city's grandeur; built during this time were the iconic St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, and countless opulent basilicas, squares, and mansions along the Grand Canal where prosperous merchant families lived.
Venice's Golden Age — the Venice of our imaginations — was during the Renaissance, with thousands of gondolas floating the canals and courtesans attending masked balls. Artists, poets, and free thinkers flocked here to capitalize on the romantic beauty and patronage from wealthy merchants. Among the most notable painters to emerge from the period were Giorgione, Bellini, Tintoretto, and Titian, whose distinct coloring technique influenced the rest of Western art. It was also a highly productive time for artisans, who made great advances in glasswork, ceramic, and textiles. Craftmaking traditions from the Golden Age are still alive today — you will find exquisite handmade Murano glass, Burano lace, and carnival masks in many shops. And even though there are only 350 gondolas left — and all for tourists — there are also precious few working squeri (boatyards) left in the city.
Time, tourism, and fluctuating water levels have contributed to the once-opulent city's gradual decay. However cliché, the grandeur and magic of the place is still more than you could ever imagine, and seeing it all in person will be an unforgettable experience — an exceptional way to cap off a memorable vacation.
Venice is sprawling and made up of a convoluted layout of canals big and small, twisting streets that run in circles, narrow alleys that can end at a blank wall, and stairways that disappear into canals. Street names are often repeated through different neighborhoods, and buildings are numbered not by location but in the order they were built. Getting lost is inevitable, so you may as well enjoy it because it's the best way to absorb the essence of Venice.
The Grand Canal is Venice's main water artery and primary boulevard, a two-mile ribbon of water plied by hundreds of ferries, gondolas, garbage scows, speedboats, and small commercial craft daily.
This inverted S-curve of a canal is lined with more than 200 of the most gorgeous Venetian palazzi (palaces), called home at times by a legion of ex-pats like Wagner, Byron, Robert Browning, Hemingway, Proust, Henry James, Ruskin, and James Fenimore Cooper.
The main area of Venice is divided into six districts collectively called sestieri and they are:
San Marco (St. Mark's), is the center of Venice, where you'll find the iconic Cathedral of St. Mark and Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) amid the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), with pigeons, cafés, street performers, souvenir shops, and throngs of tourists.
Venice's most iconic site is St. Mark's Basilica. Built to enshrine St. Mark's body in the ninth century, it was rebuilt in the 11th century with a new, spectacular edifice. The interior is clad in wonderful mosaics and holds statues, icons, and its famous horses, brought to St. Mark's after the Fourth Crusade in 1204.
The Doge's Palace, or Palazzo Ducale, the Venice Republic's seat of power for more than a millennium, is a masterpiece of Gothic art decorated by well-known Venetian painters including Titian, Veronese, Tiepolo, and Tintoretto.
San Polo is home to the Rialto Bridge (see more below) and fills up much of the area on the west side of the Grand Canal, a commercial district with lots of moderately priced hotels, shops, and trattorie, as well as some churches like the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
The Rialto Bridge, or Ponte di Rialto, crosses over the narrowest point of the Grand Canal in the heart of Venice. Built at the end of the 16th century and renowned as an architectural and engineering achievement of the Renaissance, the bridge is an elegant arch with steps and shops, a mass of water traffic passing underneath, and huge numbers of tourists and Venetians heading across it.
The area around the bridge was, and still is, full of important city functions. Nearby are the city's fresh produce and fish markets, which have been around for 700 years. This area was also where the first banks were established, where the traders who made Venice rich set sail from and sold their goods on return, where courts met, prisoners were held and punished, and new laws were declared.
Cannaregio — on the northernmost end of the city about the top curve of the Grand Canal's inverted "S" — is home to the Strada Nova, the longest street in Venice. Parallel to the Grand Canal, this pedestrian thoroughfare is a direct route from the train station to San Marco, and is a good point of reference when exploring. The wide and brightly lit expressway is lined with shops, gelaterias, bakeries, and fruit and vegetable stalls near Ponte delle Guglie.
East of San Marco is the Castello neighborhood, the largest of the sestieri. It was home to the Arsenale, the shipbuilding yards of the Venetian fleet. The Italian navy has a base in the old complex, but for less than 2 euro you can visit the Navy Museum to see ancient vessels and artifacts. For those looking to unwind and relax in the shade of a tree in a pleasant park setting, visit the Public Gardens in Castello, the largest of their kind in the city of Venice. Every two years, the Gardens play host to the world's largest modern art exhibition — the Biennale.
Across the Grand Canal from San Marco is the southernmost district of Dorsoduro.
It houses some of the most picturesque canals and palazzi, and Venice's two great art museums, Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim, but it is without the pretension and tourist traps that you might expect. Ca' Foscari University is here and gives the neighborhood a more youthful and relaxed vibe, with more late-night drinking bars and cafés than the rest of Venice.
Santa Croce is the smallest of the neighborhoods, to the north of San Polo. Part industrial and part filled with sleepy old palazzi along the Grand Canal, it is a quiet neighborhood away from tourists.
Gondola shipyard: The easiest of the squeri, or shipyards, to find — and the most picturesque — is next to the Church of San Trovaso along the narrow Rio San Trovaso close to the Accademia Bridge, just north of the Zattere. The tiny boatyard known as the Squero di San Trovaso was established in the 17th century and has been home to the workshops of many generations of gondola builders.
Getting to Venice from the terminal: The Marittima cruise ship terminal is a secure area. The new People Mover tram (1 euro) connects the ship terminal to public buses and taxis from the mainland in Piazzale Roma. It's a five-minute walk from the terminal to the People Mover, and a two-minute ride to Piazzale Roma. You can walk from Piazzale Roma to the Grand Canal to the vaporetto (water bus) landings to take the public vaporetto. Or walk toward the smaller side canal to hire a private water taxi. You can also walk to the Venice train station across the Ponte della Costituzione (in English, Constitution Bridge) from here.
You can hire a land taxi at the terminal to the Piazzale Roma for about 5 euros per person.
If you are going directly to the airport, a coach shuttle transfer will be available for purchase on board the ship.
To ride the vaporetto, which is easily the least expensive and most efficient way of getting around/seeing the city, you'll need a ticket or a pass:
If you've purchased a discount pass in advance through VeniceConnected.com, look for their logo at the ticket booths, down the stairs at the water level, just to the left of the big Ponte della Costituzione that leads across the canal to the train station. You may also easily retrieve your pass at the nearby automatic ticket machines.
And you may purchase passes and single tickets on-site at the ACTV ticket booths — prices are listed above the ticket windows.
You can buy single tickets and passes at the automatic ticket machines — review the ticket and pass prices, decide which option you prefer, and make your purchase using the English language option.
From Piazzale Roma, you can board lines 1 and 2 that travel the Grand Canal, lines 41/42 and 51/52 that circle the city, lines 61/62 that travel the Giudecca Canal to Lido, and line DM that's direct to Murano. For more information on ACTV navigation system, see the Venice Vaporetto Guide.
If you have a planned destination or reservation, always allow extra time to get there.
Little signs (usually yellow, sometimes white) are scattered along the main routes with arrows to help lead you from one major landmark to another — San Marco, Rialto (the main bridge), Ferrovia (train station), the Accademia museum.
Planning your day: A leisurely vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal from Piazzale Roma to San Marco will take about 30 minutes on the express (line 2 to the San Marco-Vallaresso stop) or 45 minutes on the local (line 1 to the San Marco-S. Zaccaria stop). Between 6:21 a.m. and 10 p.m., there's a boat every 10 minutes, so factor that brief wait into your schedule.
Vaporetto boats are open up at the prow with benches, so dash forward to grab an outdoor seat for the best views.
Gondola Ride: The official rates if you're using a gondola as a taxi are €80 ($104) for up to six people for a 40-minute ride; additional 20-minute increments cost €40 ($52). As soon as the clock strikes 7 p.m., the price jacks up to €100 ($130) for 40 minutes, €50 ($65) each additional 20 minutes. You might not even be able to find a gondolier who sticks by these rates.
The ride is cheaper if you share the boat with other tourists. The average gondola ride lasts 40 minutes. Make absolutely sure you agree upon the price and the duration of the trip before you step into the boat, write it down, and go by your watch.
Like many regional dialects in Italy, Venetian is practically a language unto itself, virtually incomprehensible to anyone outside of Venice — including other Italians.
Venetians love to linger over a proper meal of primo and secondo (most likely both courses are made with seafood), but the city is also known for its cicchetti, small-plate snacks that are eaten standing at bàcari (wine bars) — bàcari are everywhere, but the best can be found on the San Polo side of the Rialto bridge.
Visit our journal of daily updates to see the highlights from this year's cruise — including videos, photos, and all our Cruise News notes — or relive your time aboard the ms Ryndam »