Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oceania Cruise: Venice

I’ve never yet been on a cruise. That’s somewhat ironic because my late father was a yacht broker and owned a marina. As kids we slept many a summer’s weekend-night on our cabin cruiser, anchored in a cove on Old Hickory Lake. So yes, it is ironic that I’ve never been on a real cruise!

I do dream of a cruise, however -- a specific cruise.  It’s Oceania’s Grecian Glory, on the cruise line’s soon-to-be-launched new ship, Marina.

Photo at
Marina is one beautiful lady!

Photo at
The Grand Staircase


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Marina’s Veranda Stateroom -- I so want to drift off there!

So, with this post begins a ScheckTrek series that will mirror Oceania’s Grecian Glory itinerary. This will include Venice, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Ephesus, Turkey; and seven stops in the Greek Isles, including Santorini and Mykonos, ending in Athens.

Venice is the city of embarkation. While this series will primarily be virtual travel, it will begin with an overview of a actual 2009 trip to that enchanting city of canals. (All photos from ScheckTrek unless otherwise noted.)

This was taken from St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). On the left is the Doge’s Palace, constructed largely in the early 1300s. To the right in the photo, but really across the Venetian Lagoon, is the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and its church, dating from 1566-1610.

The church/island of San Giorgio Maggiore


This was unposed.



So Venetian!

St. Mark’s Square is magical at night. By then the day-trippers have gone and the major cafes sponsor free open-air concerts. You only pay (dearly) if you take a seat at one of their outdoor tables.

Caffe Florian is one of the hosts of these concerts. Established in 1720, it may be the oldest coffee house in continuous operation, according to Wikipedia. In their respective times, the Florian was frequented by Charles Dickens, Goethe, Lord Byron, and Casanova—the latter probably because it was the only coffee house that allowed women. (Bravo for them for allowing women!) It came to be frequented by people from all walks of life and social classes.

Actually, all of Venice is magical at night. This was taken from the Rialto Bridge.

The ScheckTrek pick for Venice, if not staying onboard the Marina, is the Al Ponte Antico. It was one of our top-five, best hotel experiences ever!

The hotel, as seen from the water. Don’t be put off by the appearance of a crumbling exterior. This is TripAdvisor’s #1 rated hotel for Venice, and it comes in #6 on their list of Top 25 Hotels in Europe, based on user reviews.

Some of our fondest memories of the trip were sitting under that red awning — enjoying breakfast in the morning and spritzes in the evening — and watching all of Venice go by on the Grand Canal below.

This is a view from the hotel terrace. It’s only a stone’s throw from the Rialto Bridge.

We’d never imagined all the types of boat traffic we would see. Of course there are the ever present gondolas. But the city’s “busses” (vaporettos) are also boats. The mail carrier arrives in a boat, as do the hotels’ supplies of clean linens from their laundry service. We even saw an ambulance boat, with siren blaring, zooming by and splashing water over both sides of the canal!

Our room. The Venetian style can seem a bit over-the-top when taken out of context, but it looks perfect in its setting. The woods, whether of furniture or doors, are absolute works of art in themselves. Simply stunning.

The ceilings are really, really high — it was a lot of wall space to cover in that rich fabric. The chandelier is Murano.

The final clincher for splurging on this hotel was the glowing consensus of TripAdvisor reviewers who'd raved about it.  But even before reading the appraisals, I was pretty much sold on those banquettes! 

In cool weather this would have been a great place to eat breakfast, have drinks or just lounge. However, with the good weather we had, it was too hard to pass up the terrace all those times!

Another lovely spot for breakfast

In addition to the beautiful, ready-to-eat breakfast assortment, the owner, Mateo, offered to make us banana crepes each morning. We accepted. He also scrambled us some eggs that came from his grandmother’s farm.

Al Ponte Antico’s charming owner, Mateo. Long may his success continue!

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