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Barcelona to Venice April 10 to 24 - Part III


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continued from Part II ...


The ship was scheduled to anchor at Sorrento the next day, Sunday. It did arrive at Sorrento early morning, but then because of high waves, it was not able to launch its tenders. The captain made the wise last minute decision to rush to nearby Naples to dock instead. We arrived at Naples in a little more than an hour, and appreciated the docking, which spared us of the "rock and roll" of tendering! Unlike Sorrento and Amalfi, which were small coastal towns, Naples was a city with a population of two million. It was still close to Pompeii, a relic of two thousand years, where Pliny the Elder stood witnessing the volcano eruption before being burried in it himself.

There was a pier where we docked. Unlike Asian cruise ship terminals which tended to have commercial complexes right beside to serve the tourists, most Mediterranean terminals were desolate, and you had either to find means to travel into town, or you might as well just stay on the ship. Here at Naples, the pier building was not too small, but it was mostly empty, containing only one gift shop and a post office which was closed on Sunday. We took the elevator down to street level, and got a taxi with a young driver. He was willing to take us to Pompeii, only some 25 kms away, and after bargaining, he agreed to give us also a Naples city tour for a total of three hours, charging 150 euros. So on the highway to Pompeii, he drove at 120 km/h where the speed limit was 90 km/h. We reminded him of the limit, and he told us that the police was off duty on Sundays. We did not stay long in Pompeii, just took pictures from the perimeter of the fenced area, and bought a small imitation jug for 10 euros. The coral souvenirs at the gift shop were grossly over priced.

Then we returned to Naples, and the driver took us half way up the hill to take pictures of the view below, and also brought us through some shopping streets to a huge cross-shaped arcade, but the shops were all closed. Then he dumped us back at the pier only after two and a half hours, half an hour shy of the agreed time. We still gave him the full 150 euros agreed to, but he dared ask us for a tip! Well, we declined.

The ship was supposed to set sail at the break of dawn for Amalfi, but since the storm had not yet subsided, the captain decided to cancel Amalfi altogether, and stayed at Naples until Monday afternoon. So, on Monday morning, as the shops open, we took a taxi and for 10 euros arrived at the central shopping district. At a stairwell little store, the male cat bought a leather waist belt for 15 euros, and it was immediately cut to measure on the spot. We sat down in a local cafe and ate a small thick and soft pizza, which tasted good. We returned to the ship in time for the 5 p.m. sailing, and this time it would go directly to Corfu Greece, some forty hours away.


The sea was rough through Monday night, and the ship rocked and rolled. The female cat declined to take medication until it was too late and vomited a couple of times, while the male cat barely managed with the help of dimenhydrinate (dramamine). We skipped dinner and called room service instead. Most ship room service food we tried before was marginal, but to our surprise, on this ship we got nice pan-fried halibut steak, which was quite impressive. We also found that the best "tonic" for sea sickness was to lie flat in bed and try to go to sleep. Once you were asleep, you wouldn't feel it any more, of course unless the rocking was so strong as to throw you off your bed, which hadn't happened yet. The next day was a sea day, the second in our entire cruise. We were worried about how to get through this torturing journey, but luckily by the afternoon of Tuesday, it all calmed down. Life was back to normal, and fellow passengers with that typical sickly look regained their smiles. This was another humbling reminder of how we humans live on the mercy of nature.

That night, we attended the show at the Regatta Lounge. This lounge, unlike on most modern ships, was in a single storeyed setting, and the show consisted of variety music, from jazz to Broadway musical pieces. The entertainers tried hard, and despite its physical limitations, attendance was high, and the Lounge was just about full every night. The sound system, however, left much to be desired, and it actually "coloured" the piano and violin tones. We would rather they switch off that system or replace it with something better!


We arrived at Corfu on Wednesday morning. This was a Greek tourist port with a population of one hundred thousand. We docked and the cruise line provided a shuttle bus which took us to the newly built duty free building, only a two minute ride away. This building, while no where near the scale of Asian cruise terminals, was already the best in the whole Mediterranean. Taxis were easily available right outside this building, and we took a taxi tour for a couple of hours. It dropped us at a town square to wander on our own for an hour before returning to pick us up and take us back to the pier, charging a total of 80 euros. We purchased some Olympic Logo items, which the only young adult overgrown kitten asked us to buy for him.

Since we still had time, we went ashore a second time in the afternoon, taking a taxi directly to the downtown shopping area for 10 euros (it appeared that 10 euros was a standard fare here for anything within the vicinity). We sat down on the side walk next to a local cafe, sipping Greek coffee and eating ice cream, it was pleasurable and relaxing, watching the passersby. We also strolled along this shopping street, picking up some souvenirs. There were a few jewellery stores. We found a Greek designed 22 karat gold ring for 400 euros, the female cat loved it, but hesitated at the price. After we returned to the ship, she regretted not picking up such a unique piece, but it was too late. The ship left at 5 p.m.


The next day, Thursday, we arrived at Dubrovnik. We were scheduled to tender, but luckily, again we docked. We would have to walk five minutes to the street to get a taxi, but we were lucky to get one coming near to the pier area where the ship was docked. The driver spoke fairly good English (the smaller the country, the more incentives for the locals to learn this universal language). The driver volunteered to be our guide, and took us to a small seaside village some 18 km away. On the way, he showed us the remnants of the war ten years ago, with bullet holes covering some buildings, and how most houses had to be rebuilt or at least rewalled. For a country which had finished fighting barely a decade ago, Dubrovnik looked surprisingly rich and peaceful. There were many luxury cars and the locals appeared rather well off. The driver also showed us the new bridge the allies built for them after the war. We would like to stay longer, but the ship was scheduled to leave at 2 p.m., hurrying on to Venice, so reluctantly we left, not having a chance to visit and enjoy the downtown area. For three hours, the taxi charge was 900 kunas (120 euros).


We finally arrived at our last stop, Venice, on Friday. Since we arranged to stay post-cruise for a few days, we did not leave the ship on Friday, preferring to rest, pack our luggage, lie around the ship and enjoy it for one last day. Our favourite spot on the ship was the stern side of the Terrace Cafe, where we could sit outside under the awnings when the weather was good. This night, we by chance finally saw the captain, a nice man probably in his fifties with his wife.

On Saturday morning, we disembarked, so this long planned, long awaited for cruise finally came to an end. Disembarkation was orderly and well arranged. We had to pick up our luggage inside the terminal building, and took a water taxi, the only means of transportation to San Marco Square. To do so, we had to line up and pre-purchase the ticket in the terminal building for 70 euros, and then go to the small docking area and line up again for the water taxi, by "matching numbers" on the ticket. The water taxi took half an hour to reach our Duodo Palace Hotel, a local four star at which it could dock right at the front door, while the back door faced an alleyway leading into town. Our room was reasonably sized, with the tallest ceiling we had seen in a hotel room, perhaps fifteen feet or higher, so high that even standing on a chair, we could not get our tape measure to go straight up to touch it! While being centuries old, as all buildings were in Venice, it was well renovated, with modern fixtures and marbled bathroom. The bidet seemed to be an European favourite, we had it both in Barcelona and Venice. This hotel had only thirty some rooms, each one being different, and it charged us 200 euros per day, including taxes and breakfast.

Venice was composed of many islands joined together by pedestrian bridges, under which gondolas and water taxis sail in the canals or ditches. Other than the main squares, streets or alleyways were very narrow, some less than five feet across, and we had to squeeze pass other tourists. Again the weather was very unstable, though warmer by then. Carry your umbrella even if you saw sunshine, for it could rain in the next half hour! Tourist shops were eveywhere, with the main local industry being tourism and glass work. The alleyways were often like a maze, and getting loss was our order of the day! San Marco Square was about five minutes walk away, it was huge and lined with shops on three side, with the far side being a grand cathedral, ringing its loud, musical bells every hour. We recorded the 2 p.m. chime on our camcorder. In a shop nearby, we bought some crystal pieces, and the shop would ship it by Fedex back home to us.

Restaurants were everywhere. Pizzas and spaghetti were better than what we could get at home from Boston Pizza, for example. Venice was truly unique in being the only city built on water which we had visited. While we had been here with a tour group some two decades ago, this time, on our own, we really got the taste of it. We were surprised that the population was only sixty thousand -- how could so few people manage a marine empire only a few centuries ago?

Well, after this post-cruise stay, it was time to head home. The water taxi to the airport was 90 euros, and we had to take a short shuttle ride from the docking to the terminal. We took bascially similar flights, but in the opposite direction. Everything in this life would come to an end, the trip was nice and enjoyable, though also somewhat tiresome, and it wasn't so bad to be back in home sweet home!

... to be continued (discussions, suggestions, etc.)
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Meow! Thank you for this very interesting report of your cruise. It was an excellent view of what to expect and I am sure I am not the only one concerned as to the cost of the simple pleasures in the ports of interest.
I appreciate you taking the time to share your adventures with us.

Grandeur 1998
Voyager 2000
Radiance 2001
Brilliance 2002
Regatta 2003
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We are doing the same itinerary on the Insignia on Aug. 17th. Are there any places, tours, activities that you would definitly avoid if you had to do the cruise again? What places or activities would you look forward to again. Thanks for your suggestions.

8/16 Insignia Barcelona to Venice
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I was also wondering why nobody replied to my Part II. It is on the topics list, perhaps pushed down a bit lower due to the lack of response. For completeness sake, please don't overlook Part II. Thanks.
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  • 3 months later...
My husband-like equivalent and I are taking the Insignia from Barcelona to Venice from the 17th to the 31st. We fly out on Sunday August 15, so I would love to hear from anyone else who is on this cruise also.
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