Thursday, May 26, 2011

PRE- and DAY 1 – Travel to / Arrive in Venice for Oceania Cruise (Thurs & Fri)

We were up at 5:00 a.m. for the long trip, made longer because we (in an effort to save some money) took three planes to get to Venice, having two- to three-hour layovers in both Dallas and Madrid. Oddly enough, it was kind of nice to have the stop in Dallas, which allowed for a real lunch and some light-duty shopping. And in Madrid, it gave us more than enough time to go through another (required) security check and enjoy the architecture.

Interesting architecture at the Madrid-Barajas Airport

While we were in an airport shop, all of a sudden music and dancing broke out! The people of Madrid really know how to perk up the souls of weary travelers!

Flamenco dancing at the Madrid-Barajas Airport

We had a pleasantly uneventful taxi ride from the Venice airport to the dock. The driver quoted €40 inclusive of tip. Even though the meter was slightly higher than that, he only asked for the 40 -- very refreshing! (For price comparison, a water taxi would have been €100 [about $150] for the two of us from the airport to the pier, and the cruise line’s transfer would have cost $139 per person.)

So after one limo ride, 3 planes, 2 inter-airport busses, 1 taxi and a short walk, we were on Oceania’s newest ship, the beautiful Marina. Embarkation was quick and simple, and we were in our veranda cabin in no time, with a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for us to pop the cork. There is just something about coming to an end of all that travel and finally being on the ship…surrounded by water…in Venice…and sipping champagne. It’s almost a definition of perfection.

Our concierge-level veranda cabin, #10112, aboard Oceania’s ship, Marina

The granite bathroom had a separate tub and shower, both with hand-held wands (as well as a rainhead in the shower). The tub was nice and deep for soaking after a day of walking cobblestone streets!

Bathroom in veranda cabin of Oceania’s ship, Marina

Bathroom of veranda cabin of Oceania’s Marina

Sometimes people who are used to 4- and 5-star hotel properties (and the space they provide) are surprised when it isn’t the same on a cruise. It’s important to remember that this is a ship. And for a ship, this is a fairly large bathroom.  (Admittedly, it looks smaller in this photo than the one above it.)

For more space, however, one can upgrade to a suite.  At the pinnacle is the 2,000 square foot Owner's Suite (photographed on an earlier ship tour in San Diego).

Master bathroom in Marina's 2,000 sq ft Owner's Suite

(For more of our photos from that ship tour, click here.)
Wonderful Bvlgari toiletries in Oceania’s concierge-level cabins and suites

Figuring we’d be tired from the trip, we’d planned to call room service for dinner and eat on the veranda – there’s no charge for room service on Oceania – but once we were onboard, we felt invigorated and wanted to explore the ship. We decided to eat in the Terrace Café, which was much like an upscale cafeteria. That allowed us to pick and choose and eat odd combinations of things, the way one likes to pick and choose and eat odd combinations after flying for so many hours and across so many time zones. (And they were quite happy for us to bring along our glasses of champagne from our room. Things are wonderfully different that way on a cruise!)

The service was exceptional everywhere on the ship, and I like that the servers all wear name tags that also include their nationality. It’s a very international group!

Our cabin attendant, Alexandra, from Serbia. She was great!

We wondered what it would feel like to be on a ship and imagined more of an up-and-down sensation. What it felt like instead was more of a jiggling. If you remember those massage beds that some motels had in the 1960’s, where you put a quarter into a box on the headboard to start the motion, that’s sort of what the ship felt like, especially when lying down. But we didn’t have to put in our quarters.  (We didn't hear of anyone getting seasick on the entire 10-day cruise.)

It really felt good to hit the sack for an early bedtime. Marina’s mattresses are the perfect combination of firm underneath with a cushy top, and I’m not kidding, those 1000-thread-count linens are fabulous!

I'm cheating a bit: this was taken in 2009.  However, in that the ship was in port for
an overnight, it would have been possible to see Venice by night during the cruise.

Tomorrow: Venice by day!

TSA TIP #1: I wore a long skirt for the flight, which meant an automatic TSA pat down in Los Angeles. And because I was wearing a money belt under the skirt, it required a private pat down. Turned out it was no big deal. Two female TSA agents took me into a private room and had me remove the money belt. Then one of them patted my legs through the skirt. It never felt inappropriate at all, and I got the impression the agents dislike the process as much as travelers do. I told them, “My husband will be really happy I didn’t talk him into wearing a money belt!” and they laughed. Good to know TSA agents can have a sense of humor.

TSA TIP #2: Something we learned at a travel agent meeting recently was to make sure to keep your small electronic equipment (phone, etc.) and watches/jewelry inside something larger, such as your carry-on bag. That way, if you’re delayed in going through the screening yourself, it’s harder for a would-be thief to pick it up, pocket it and be on their way. The TSA does have cameras, but they’re only responsible for reimbursement if it was one of their agents who took something. Better to avoid problems by making it as hard as possible to be victimized.

CRUISE INFO: The taxi driver dropped off our luggage in one spot and pointed the direction in which we should walk for embarkation onto the ship. We heard of some who wondered if they’d ever see their things again, but this is standard procedure. It’s important to have the cruise-line-issued tags for your luggage, as you will not see your bags again until they’re placed outside your cabin on the ship.

At embarkation, they take your picture and issue you what looks like a credit card. This is used for any purchases onboard, but more importantly, to check you on and off the ship for shore excursions, so it’s important to carry it with you at all times. When you reenter the ship, they check the photo, so if you did lose your card ashore, the finder couldn’t get a free cruise at your expense.


  1. Fabulous Vicki - can you make a different layout - the white on black is making my eyes see stripes now everywhere I look! This cruise ship sounds and looks exceptional. Can't wait to see more x

  2. FrenChic, I agree! As fabulous as the pictures and experiences on this blog are, I dread reading them because it's so uncomfortable!

  3. Thanks for your comments. My posts are generally very photo-rich, and if possible, I would like to be able to keep the black background for the way they make the photos stand out. In light of these comments, however, I may need to reconsider. I obviously spend quite a bit of time with it and haven't noticed a problem, and I've gotten a couple of comments (both emailed and in person)from people who saw this thread and volunteered that the white on black didn't bother them. But I think I need a larger sampling. I'll do a poll on FB, and if anyone else is reading this here, please feel free to weigh in on it: have you noticed any problems with reading the white font on black background? Do the benefits outweigh the problems, or vice versa?

  4. I agree white-on-black is difficult with the small font used for comments! But please try to base your response on what it's like for you in the actual body of the post.

  5. We will be leaving on the Oceania Riviera on June 27 and have a similar itinerary. It was great to be able to read of your experiences (especially enjoyed the photos) and will use some of your recommendations as we make our plans. Also, I had no problems with white-on-black background.