Contemplating a cruise that begins or ends in Venice? You should know that once you’re on the ground in Venice, things are likely to get complicated as you manage bridges, cobblestones and canals, not to mention buses and a rather outdated airport. Anything you can do to simplify things gives you more time and energy to enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Step one: Ship cruise luggage to Venice
I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to move around Venice with heavy luggage.
Large spinner suitcases that glide effortlessly across smooth floors at the airport become an unwieldy burden when traversing ancient bumpy walkways.
And then there are the steps – steps up bridges, steps down to boats, steps up to hotels. There are steps everywhere.
“Oh, but I want to take a water taxi from the airport directly to my hotel,” you say. You picture yourself arriving in the city by boat with the breeze in your hair – looking like Angelina Jolie in The Tourist (a must-watch movie before you visit Venice, by the way.)
That sounds romantic. But first picture yourself dragging your behemoth of a bag down the dock and then loading it onto a boat that sits in the water well below that dock. Maybe a wonderful taxi operator will help. Maybe not.
If schlepping your bags doesn’t appeal, consider shipping your large luggage directly to your cruise ship, arriving in Venice with only your carry-on pieces. It sounds scary and expensive – but it worked for us (and it’s more affordable than you may think).
Cruise luggage delivery providers:
There are several delivery service providers that ship cruise luggage to Venice (and other cruise ports):
Some cruise lines partner with specific providers; you get a discount if you use their provider. (Crystal Cruises, for example, uses Luggage Concierge.)
How shipping cruise luggage works:
The process to set up the shipment online was simple (we used Luggage Forward). We provided the ship’s name and departure date and the rest was handled for us. Follow-up concierge-style phone calls made sure we understood everything and reminded us of our pickup date.
Instructions and a shipping label arrived by mail. We were instructed where to place the shipping label and the tags provided by the cruise line. Then, on the scheduled pick-up day, our regular FedEx delivery man came to our house in rural Texas to collect our suitcase containing our cruise clothes. He told us they ship luggage all the time – no big deal.
We used a FedEx smartphone app to track the travels of our bag and laughed when it arrived in Venice days before us. We even got notification when it cleared customs.
Not being burdened by large luggage left us free to travel to Italy, even taking the train to Milan for a few days, with nothing but our camera gear and a few changes of clothes. We were backpacking in Europe – in our fifties!
After our bag cleared customs, it was held in a secure location by a shipping company under contract with Luggage Forward. That company then delivered it to the cruise ship luggage drop on the proper day. I should admit it was a bit of a relief when we arrived onboard our ship, Viking Star, to find our bag waiting in our stateroom, but I’m getting ahead of myself – there’s even more you can do to make your Venice cruise simple.
Step two: Pick the right location for your hotel
Choosing a location near the transportation hub of Piazzale Roma is the second step in making your Venice cruise transition easy. The piazzale is essentially the last stop for land transportation between the island and the mainland. From there, you have access to taxis, airport buses, the people-mover tram to the cruise terminal and the docks for the vaparetto water buses.
We found the Hotel Papadopoli, a MGallery Hotel by Sofitel, to be the perfect spot from which to explore the city before our cruise (a well-located hotel for non-cruisers too). We were able to walk to Saint Mark’s square from the hotel in roughly twenty minutes. Even better, we used the nearby vaparetto water buses to take us on a sightseeing cruise through the canals and over to the island of Murano to see the glass blowers.
The hotel was charming and the staff welcoming. We had a view of the canals and a wonderful breakfast buffet too. One evening, we also enjoyed a spectacular dinner in the hotel’s restaurant – Giardino D’Inverno (Winter Garden). The chef specializes in the rustic cuisine of Northern Italy, using ingredients grown locally, including arugula and radicchio.
On the day our cruise departed, we left our backpacks with the front desk while we did one last bit of exploring, before making the short walk across the piazza to the people-mover.
Step three: Plan what you really want to do on a short Venice visit
Pre- and post-cruise stopovers are a great way to explore a port a bit more, but in a complex city like Venice, planning your short visit in advance is the key to seeing and doing everything you want.
The first thing I like to do in the planning phase is to figure out what we want to experience. Sometimes, that may boil down to something as simple as wanting to eat a slice of pizza or sip a glass of wine at a café on a canal to watch the myriad boats pass by. Only then do we factor in the actual sights we want to see.
In Venice, those sights included St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica, the Rialto Bridge, and of course, the Grand Canal. Those are all easy to accomplish. But if your list includes visits to the islands of Murano or Burano, additional time and planning is in order, as these require water bus rides.
I found a good website that provides a wealth of useful information, giving us confidence in our advance knowledge of the city. Venice for Visitors is filled with the details you need to get around, including transportation schedules and costs.
With a little extra planning, you’ll breeze through your Venice cruise stopover like a pro, making your time there everything you’ve dreamed of.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Visiting Venice free of heavy luggage makes a cruise from this complicated city far easier to manage.
- Hotel Papadopoli is just steps (and one bridge) away from the transportation hub of Piazzale Roma, so access to both the cruise terminal and other transportation is simple.
- You can ship cruise luggage to Venice and also back home again after your cruise, but shipping only one direction saves money. Example: ship from home to the cruise ship for a pre-cruise Venice stopover or from the ship to home for a post-cruise stay in Venice.
- The entrance to the people-mover tram from Piazzala Roma to the cruise terminal is a bit hard to locate; it’s at the far end of a multi-story parking building, across the street from the piazza with a small sign.
- The people-mover only gets you to the entrance of the terminal property, but still leaves quite a long walk to the ship from the gate. If that is a concern, skip the people-mover and take a very short taxi ride from the Piazzale Roma to the cruise terminal – the taxi drop-off is closer to the ships.
- Be sure to have your cruise contract at hand before you board the people-mover. You’ll need the documents to get through the gate at the terminal.
- On Cruise Critic: Shipping Luggage to Your Cruise: Is a Valet Service for You?
- In the Los Angeles Times: Should You Send Your Bags to the Ship Before Going on a Cruise
*Lead photo: Viking Ocean Cruises. Other photo credits (except where noted): Gary Crow
The author and her husband were hosted for a pre-cruise stay by Hotel Papadopoli. Their luggage shipment was provided at no charge by Luggage Forward for review purposes.
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