Venice, Italy, built solely on water...or is it? Venice is actually a series of 116 small islands connected by a series of over 400 bridges. These small marshy islands were incapable of supporting any sort of infrastructure and so that the "lagoon dwellers" as they were called deforested a forest of old-growth trees and sunk them deep into the marshy lagoon in order to form a stable platform. All of this was done in the early 3rd and 4th century. How they accomplished that feat remains a mystery. The reason why they did it was to stave off the constant attacks coming multiple invaders on the mainland.
While Venice was built as a defense, the Venetian navy at one point became the strongest naval force on the planet. Often this was done by siding with a variety of enemies from the Ottoman forces to the south and east to the Roman Empire which at one point completely dominated the land encompassing the entire Mediterranean.
Today, Venice is considered to be the most romantic city in the world. For many tourists however it is the opportunity to see a unique history "built on water".
May 29, 30 & 31, 2012 -- The first "tremor" as the locals are calling it occurred at 9:35 AM, May 29th, about 25 minutes before we touched down at VCE, Venice's international airport. We knew nothing of the 5.3 "tremor" until we saw a smashed statue laying on the ground. Other than plaster falling off of walls, we saw no other damage. At 1:25PM the second "tremor", 4.2 on the Richter scale occurred while we were on a vaparetto (water bus) and so once again, we felt nothing. We also saw no additional damage the remainder of time we were in Venice.
Arriving at Piazalle, Roma on the airport bus, we lugged our four suitcases and backpack a few hundred feet, up and down two bridges with about 20 steps each, and finally into the Hotel Olimpia lobby.
The hotel is three-stars by European standards and very acceptable although the elevator could only fit two of our bags at a time and no people! The room was pleasant but nothing to write home about. Without unpacking anything but a change of clothes we were off and on our way to explore the City of Water.
We initially did what all tourist guide books recommended and that was to get lost in Venice. We had no trouble doing that within 5 minutes. There is no logic in the street system which bars motorized traffic of any sort. Even bikes are few and far between. Around every corner however there is a photo opportunity and by the time we had left Venice, we had shot over 500 photos!
The language barrier worked against us initially but once we got a trainee at the vaparetto station, we were in great shape. Our pre-purchased tickets did little to benefit us and that was my fault more than anything. Once we got our three day vaparetto pass and WC cards we were in great shape and learning the system by the time of our first gathering of friends from the Cruise Critic board.
About 25 of us gathered at Al Prosecco, (Processco is the name given for Italian champagne), a tapas bar near the center of the city. It was good to finally meet folks we had met only on line.
On the 30th with instilled confidence in maneuvering the vaparetto system we started the early morning with a hop on the vaparetto to St. Mark's Square. En route, it just didn't feel right and for once I was right...sort of. I got us on the wrong vaparetto and we were headed to St. Mark's only via the major ship's canal and not the Grand Canal. Despite the blunder, we saw sights we normally would never see. It turned out to be such a blessing!
We stood in line for about 50 minutes before the doors opened to St. Mark's Basilica and then only for a 15-minute, self guided tour where photos were not allowed. (Want to see some photos?) Once headed back to the vaparetto stop we came across an artist displaying his wares. With little convincing, we purchased some art work from this amazing city.
With getting on the correct vaparetto this time we cruised on down the Grand Canal seeing all of the sites we would never see again. As I said earlier, there is a photo opportunity around every corner and every bend.
Still in the morning we checked out of the hotel and lugged our bags back over the same bridges and the same steps to Piazalle Roma and to the "People Mover" to the ship. I think the people mover took as at least ÃÂ½ mile to our exit point where we had to walk another half mile to the luggage dropoff and ultimately to check-in which went incredibly fast.
By the time we were on the ship our cabins were not ready so they housed the masses in the buffet cafeteria where we were force-fed more food! This is going to be a good cruise. The Celebrity Silhouette, heretofore referred to as "CS", is a magnificent ship. The design is excellent save for the lack of stairs or elevators aft. Our cabin, 7309, is a cabin that far exceeded our expectations. It is larger than expected and the wrap-around deck makes vistas even better from almost any angle. Our "butler", Sebastian is very attentive and has also already exceeded our expectations. It's interesting because we haven't quite left port yet.
Getting the layout of the ship, we headed to the Cruise Critic group social hours up at the sunset bar in which, Ancel, the local bar server saw me as an easy mark. After two of his drinks I knew I'd never be able to assist the captain if he asked for my help.
Afterwards we made the mistake of walking past the new "Lawn Club Grill". Again, being noted as an easy mark, we were escorted inside for one of the most fun evenings we have ever had on a cruise ship. Once we decided we would dine with the folks, they started off teaching us how to make flat bread from scratch, including the hand tossing process. We then selected toppings for our creations and sat down to enjoy until it came time to prepare our main course consisting of two cuts of steak, shrimp, and scallops. We left after nearly three hours, stuffed, happy, and with a grilling apron for Pete.
Needing to walk off some of the weight we gained from one incredible meal....and maybe a few drinks, we walked the ship from stem to stern and top to bottom. It remains a very well designed and created ship.
Sore from all of the walking and eating, we retired to the cabin around 10:30PM. We were exhausted.
The morning of the 31st rattled our cages with another thunderstorm! The lightning flashes were incredible and the rain very intense. By the time breakfast was delivered to the cabin, the skies had parted and blue skies became the dominant feature, just in time for our tour to Murano and Burano, two of the islands away from the main cluster. Those two islands are famous world-wide for glass manufacturing and lace works, respectively. While it may seem a perfect tourist trap, both tours provided a rare glimpse into lost and sometimes forgotten talents.
Read Superior-Shores's full Celebrity Silhouette cruise review