As of the writing of this post, I am less than 2 weeks out from my trip to Venice and my cruise aboard the Norwegian Jade. I’m really excited about seeing all the ports on my itinerary, and relaxing about the ship. But the amount of hours I’ve put into preparations for this trip is staggering. I forgot how much is involved getting ready for a week-long cruise!
I’ve been planning for this trip for almost a year (it took me that long to save the money, but the trip is almost entirely paid for, so–yay!), but I waited until after my Vegas trip in January to do the bulk of the preparations. What did I need to do?
- Figure out my ground (and water) transportation options for my stay in Mestre/Venice before and after my cruise.
- Find a hotel that would allow me to book just one night before the cruise and one night after (that was no easy feat on a weekend, and is how I wound up booking a hotel in Mestre instead of Venice).
- I’ve never been aboard the Jade before, so I needed to review what’s available aboard the ship in terms of dining, entertainment, and other facilities.
- I researched each cruise port (5 total) I’ll be visiting to determine what might be of interest to me in each port.
- Then I researched all 60 shore excursions available on this cruise to determine which, if any, would allow me to do most of what I wanted to do.
- I also had to research the “do it yourself” options for each port, just in case I didn’t see any shore excursions I liked, or I wanted to save money.
- I created cheat sheets of language basics (please, thank you, where’s the bathroom, etc.) in Italian, Croatian, and Greek. (Croatian and Greek were so difficult, I gave up on Turkey. I’ll be lucky if I can remember the Italian.)
- Figured out what currency is used in each country I’m visiting, and how much I might need based on what I plan to do.
- Downloaded maps and instructions from online websites that will help me find everything I need to find.
- Bought a map of Venice.
- Researched where to find public bathrooms in each city (for obvious reasons).
- Signed up for my Roll Call on Cruise Critic to “meet” other travelers ahead of time and sign up for some onboard activities with the group.
- Researched whether or not I’d need a visa for Turkey (no, since we stop there in the middle of the cruise).
- Stocked up on Bonine.
It’s been time-consuming and exhausting, but I finally feel prepared. If I hadn’t done all this research and planning, I’d have been a quivering, neurotic mess right now. (Believe me, 2 weeks ago, I was.)
So, what do my days look like?
I’ll be leaving Vermont on a Thursday and arriving Friday morning in Italy. I’ll get a ticket for the ATVO Fly Bus and take that to the train station in Mestre, which is conveniently across the street from my hotel. I’ll check into the hotel and buy an ACTV tourist card that will allow me unlimited 24-hour access to the public bus into Venice as well as the vaporettos in Venice. I’ll spend Friday seeing the sights in Venice.
On Saturday, I’ll check out of the hotel and catch a taxi to the cruise terminal, where I’ll board the ship around noon and start exploring it. There’s a Cruise Critic Sail Away at 6pm, a solo traveler meetup organized by the cruise line at 6:30pm (I believe, though I won’t know for sure until I’m aboard the ship), and dinner with some members of Cruise Critic at 7:30pm.
I’ll get to sleep in on Sunday, since we don’t arrive in Dubrovnik until 2pm. I’m doing Dubrovnik on my own. My first stop will be the Tourist Information Office near where we dock in Gruz. One of the other ladies on the roll call tipped me off to the Dubrovnik Tourist Card, which will allow me to take the public bus from the cruise port into Old Town and also admits me to various museums and to walk the Old Town wall. I’ll walk the wall and the Stradun and just explore Old Town. I’ll probably grab dinner here, since we’re in port until 9pm.
Monday is a sea day, so I get to relax a bit. There’s a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet scheduled in the late morning I’ll attend, but otherwise, my day is wide open. I’ll be sure to peruse the daily list of activities they leave in my cabin the night before to figure out what I might want to do.
Tuesday, we arrive bright and early in Athens. I’ve signed up for a Norwegian shore excursion called “Acropolis and Leisure”. I really wanted to make sure I had a guide to explain the history and significance what I was looking at while touring the Acropolis, since this is one of the most important stops of the week for me. The tour includes a couple of hours to tour the neighborhood of Plaka on our own. Please pray that I don’t get lost and miss the bus back to the ship. Heh. #JokingNotjoking
Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
Wednesday brings us to the port of Kusadasi, Turkey, where I’ll be joining another Norwegian shore excursion, this time a half day to the ruins at Ephesus, including the Library of Celsus and the Terrace Houses (the houses of the rich). Again, I wanted a guide to explain the significance of what I’ll be looking at. The unfortunate part of Norwegian’s excursions in the port of Kusadasi is all of the ones in my price range involve a mandatory stop at something known as “Ephesus Theme Park” (which sounds kind of like Colonial Williamsburg for ancient Ephesus) and then a stop near port for a rug-making demonstration (which will no doubt involve a high-pressure pitch to buy Turkish rugs). From what I understand, I can get out of the demonstration, and just walk back to the ship or explore Kusadasi for a little while instead. No such luck on the “theme park”. Oh well. I like Epcot, so maybe I’ll like it more than most people do.
Thursday is another sea day, and I’m so glad, because I have a feeling Athens and Turkey are going to wear me out. It’ll be good to rest. There’s a Cruise Critic luncheon on this day that I’ll attend, but the rest of my day is wide open.
On our last day, Friday, we arrive in Split, Croatia. This is another port I planned on doing on my own, but another member of my Cruise Critic roll call put together a small private walking tour that covers all the sights I want to see (Diocletian’s Palace, the statue of Gregory of Nin, the Golden Gate, the Riva, etc.) for a very reasonable price , so I signed up for that. Might as well hear the history behind these places instead of just looking at them, right?
We disembark back in Venice on Saturday morning, and I’ll have the rest of the day to tour Venice some more. If I made good time on the previous Friday, I might even have time to take a boat over to Murano, the island famous for its glass blowers. (Keep your fingers crossed!) Then I fly home on Sunday.
It sounds like a whirlwind trip, doesn’t it? I bet it will feel like that, too. But what a great way to visit 5 places at the top of my travel list all in one week! I will probably purchase an Internet package aboard the ship to stay in touch with folks back home. If I have time, I’ll try to upload some photos to Facebook and Twitter during the cruise.
Catch you on the flip side!