On September 16th we departed for a 12-day cruise on the Island Princess - Grand Mediterranean. Prior to the start of the cruise we flew into Rome for a one night stay and then spent two days in Venice. This is a 50th birthday celebration for Gina (our sister-in-law) and Jim (brother), Gina’s parents and Sharon’s parents on this cruise. We always enjoy cruising with family and friends!
Although our stay in Rome was brief it allowed us an opportunity to see the city sights at night. On the day we arrived we were able to view St Peters Square in addition to visiting the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Castle Sant Angelo. While visiting these sights we stopped off at one of our favorite sandwich shops for a fresh salami sandwich. We spend some time walking back to our hotel and had a good opportunity to view Rome at night. After a good night’s rest we headed out to the Vatican to see everything but the museum and Sistine chapel. We started out with a tour of the Vatican cupola (took elevator and walked up to the top of the dome) where we had a great view of the Roman skyline and took a look at the Vatican City, garden and area inside the walls. This is a must see for anyone visiting the Vatican. After touring the cupola we spent some time walking through the Basilica to view the magnificent artwork, sculptures and architecture. After spending several hours in the Vatican we began walking towards the Colosseum. Along the way we stopped and had a great lunch and a visit to the Vittoriano which is very impressive with its two chariots on the roof facing city. When we arrived at the Colosseum we took a tour of the inside of this famous Roman icon. On our way back to the hotel we saw Constantine’s Arch and Circus Maximus. That concluded our quick pre-cruise trip to Rome as we boarded a 3 ½ hour train ride to Venice.
The train ride to Venice was uneventful and most of our group took a few quick naps to rest from our long walks in Rome. When we arrived in Venice late at night we quickly checked into our hotel and spent a little time walking around Venice at night where we grabbed a late night snack.
The next morning our group headed out to the Rialto Bridge. Along the way we visited the back streets and canals of Venice to watch the lives of every day Venetians going about their business. We took our time walking while visiting many shops and trying a few samples of some of the Venetian foods along the way. When we arrived at the Rialto Bridge (part under restoration) we were still able to walk the bridge and visit the shops up and down the sides of the bridge. We took many pictures of the Grand Canal where gondolas, vaporettas (water buses), water taxis, and other boats went along their canals. After checking all our luggage onto the ship, we headed back out to visit St Mark’s Square and travel on the vaporettas to see different areas of Venice. St Mark’s Square is a beautiful open area surrounded by St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge Palace. In the square is the tallest tower in Venice that provides a great view of the city. Behind the square is the Bridge of Sighs were prisoners walked from being sentenced before the Doge (“king” of Venice) to prison with one last glimpse of daylight where they sighed with regret. While riding in the vaporetta we were treated with a great sunset over the city of Venice. After a full day of visiting Venice’s many beautiful sights, we headed back to the cruise ship where we spent the night before heading out the next day.
The next day in Venice we spent visiting some islands away from the main part of the city: Murano and Burano. Getting to these islands was a pleasant boat ride allowing more great views of different areas of Venice. Our first stop in Murano allowed us to view the world famous glass works made on this island. There are more shops on this island than you can count that sell all types of glass items: vases, ear rings, necklaces, bracelets, chandeliers, figurines and so many other things. Also on this island are glass factories that have many furnaces that produce this glass. After our group bought our fair share of Murano items we headed out to Burano where we had never visited but had heard very nice things about it. We were very impressed with this island which is a small fishing village where all the houses are painted bright colors which can make for some very impressive pictures. Around the island are many shops that line the canals in the city. After that we headed back to the main Venice area where we picked out a gondola to take a farewell ride of Venice down some of the small canals around the city. What a nice way to end our visit to Venice!
After boarding our ship we went back up to the top of the ship for our sail away out of the city. Venice is probably the best city in the world to sail in to or out of on a cruise ship. The scenery is beautiful, especially as the sun sets and you get such a great view being on the ship. Italian music is always played to add to the experience and it always makes one of those memorable moments of your vacation.
From Venice we had two days at sea relaxing, laying out, and enjoying the ship before arriving in Athens and then Istanbul. Our cruise has just started and we are having a great time!
Greg & Sharon