Today’s visitor to the former Republic of Venice is met with the decaying grandeur of what was once one of the world’s wealthiest city states. The proceeds from its involvement in the lucrative world of commerce and shipping helped finance the construction of many grand palaces, churches and piazzas mainly between the 9th and 13th centuries. Such a wealth of attractions has contributed to Venice becoming a victim of its own success as a tourist destination as 30 million visitors per year threaten the fragile ecosystem of the city and its lagoon. Such is this threat that UNESCO are considering adding Venice to its list of endangered heritage sites.
Whilst cruise ship passengers represent only around 5% of total visitors to Venice the large cruise ships on which they arrive are causing avoidable environmental damage. As such these larger vessels will soon be diverted away from the Giudecca Canal which runs through the heart of Venice to a cruise port at Marghera on the mainland. For the moment, however, passengers are treated to one of the cruise world’s great sights as ships sail past St Mark’s Square on their approach to Venice’s Stazione Marittima cruise port.
Port of Venice
Most large cruise ships visiting Venice will dock at the Stazione Marittima which lies on the western edge of the island city some 3km north-west of St. Mark’s Square. There are a number of piers which accommodate the thousands of ships which visit Venice every year. Some smaller vessels dock at the older Basilio pier which stands on the Giudecca Canal to the south.
Environmental groups and local residents have long been protesting about the damage caused to the fragile city by large cruise ships. As a result it was announced in November 2017 that within four years ships weighing over 96,000 tonnes will be redirected away from the the Grand Canal to the industrial port of Marghera on the mainland. Passengers will then be transferred into Venice by road or on small boats. Opponents of this proposed solution continue to advocate that cruise ships should not be allowed to enter the waterways of the Venice´s lagoon at all.
Passengers who are beginning or ending their cruise in Venice will most likely be arriving or departing through Venice Marco Polo Airport which lies on the mainland to the north of the cruise terminal. Airport buses and taxis are available for the 13km journey from the airport to Piazzale Roma via the Via della Libertá bridge. Water boats and taxis are then available to transport passengers to city hotels and cruise ships. A scenic transfer option from the airport is to take an Alilaguna water bus across the lagoon or even hire a private water taxi.
Probably the most practical way to get from Venice Airport to the cruise port when travelling with a lot of luggage is to pre-book a private transfer with Shuttledirect. This reliable company also provide transfers from Treviso Airport which lies 40km north of Venice and is a popular destination for Ryanair which is one of Europe’s main budget airlines.
Getting Around in Venice
From Stazione Marittima: Visitors to Venice can expect to do plenty walking but first of all you’ll need to get from the Stazione Marittima to the historic centre. Many cruise lines provide Shuttle Boats which ferry passengers from the cruise terminal to St. Mark’s Square (San Marco). If this service isn’t available you can take a 15 minute boat ride from the terminal to San Marco on one of the frequent Alilaguna Water Buses.
Alternatively, you can walk or take the elevated People Mover tram from just outside the cruise terminal to Piazzale Roma which is an important transport hub for water taxis and ACTV Vaportettos. These water buses provide a remarkably cheap way to get around Venice’s waterways on 19 scheduled routes. Lines 1 and 2 connect Piazzale Roma with St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge by way of the Grand Canal. You can buy single tickets or full day passes.
From San Basilio: Passengers from ships which dock at San Basilio who aren’t offered shuttles by their cruise line can get into St Mark’s Square by means of a port waterbus or on a vaporetto. the only difference is that the vaporetto is a little slower as it makes stops en route. Water taxis are an expensive alternative, otherwise you can simply take a pleasant walk to San Marco which takes less than 30 minutes.
Main Tourist Attractions
The city of Venice is made up of 117 small islands which are connected by 409 bridges spanning its waterways. During a day in port you will be doing plenty walking between sights so make sure that you’re wearing the most comfortable footwear possible on this day. For passengers who aren’t able to manage the physical challenge of getting around on foot the Actv and Alilaguna water buses will be your best friend.
Insider Tip: St. Mark’s Square is home to two historic caffes – Caffe Florian and Gran Caffe Ristorante Quadri. Many visitors like to enjoy a drink at one of their outside tables overlooking the square. Be warned, however, that their prices are very expensive.
Another unmissable sight is the famous Rialto Bridge which has enabled pedestrians to cross the Grand Canal since the year 1255. Today it is one of only four bridges which cross the city’s main waterway. Line 1 of the vaporetto water bus network provides visitors with a cheap way to take a trip on the Grand Canal whilst the traghetto service ferries passengers back and to across the canal on old gondolas from a number of designated departure points.
This public transport service is an economical way to briefly enjoy a ride on one of Venice’s flat-bottomed rowing boat without having to go to the expense of taking a private gondola excursion.
One Night in Venice
If your visit to Venice allows for an overnight stay you really should consider taking a gondola ride along the Grand Canal at sunset. Whilst this isn’t the cheapest of activities it is certainly the most romantic tourist experience in Venice. Typically a gondola ride only lasts around 40-minutes yet the experience provides a lifetime of memories and often proves to be the highlight of their trip for many cruise ship passengers. Typically gondolas can accommodate between two and six passengers.
After meandering around the secluded waterways off the Grand Canal you should head for a canalside restaurant to further absorb the unique ambience of this very special city. Ristorante Da Raffaele (Sestiere San Marco, 2347) is a fine choice from where you can watch gondolas passing by as you dine on their outdoor terrace.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the most established and respected airport transfer provider in Europe and northern Africa. Our friendly local drivers will ensure your safe, economical, and convenient passage to and from the cruise terminal, airport, or major train station of your choice with a minimum of fuss. Book your transfer with our easy to use online booking system and leave the rest up to us!