By Marina Aagaard, MFE
Today cruise ships leaving Venice for the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean Sea have sailed close by the city centre for the very last time. The waves from the daily passings of cruise ships have accelerated the erosion of Venice, so per 31.12.2014 it is over. Now the giants of the sea have to find another way out …
Cruising in the Adriatic and Aegean Sea
A cruise with late summer sun, relaxation, indoor and outdoor workouts as well as nature and cultural experiences of the most exhilarating kind. That is fitness and wellness … and at a bargain price if the cruise is with the popular (and disaster stricken) Costa company.
Day 1: Welcome onboard in Venice, Italy
If you go on a cruise leaving from Venice, go there a couple of days beforehand to see more of the city.
Venice is one of the most amazing cities of the world; narrow alleyways – no cars in Venice – and beautiful squares, palaces and churches and exciting shops with glass, masks, clothes and everything for interior decoration.
And there is water, lots of water, in a web of canals with 400 little and large bridges.
According to the ‘Costa Today the daily programme’ found on the bed in the cabin:
3.00pm Welcome onboard meeting in Urbino theatre, deck 3,4 og 5
4.30pm All onboard!
5.00pm Costa sail for Bari
Dinner is arranged in two seatings, first seating is 1900 hours, the other is 2130 hours.
For health-conscious travellers there is only one option; eat early: 7pm (1900 hours).
The food is very good (better than other ships of the same class) and with attention to details. Only thing: How can you not serve tiramisu as dessert on an Italian ship?!
There is also a buffet restaurant, but it is an area to avoid (unless you have many and hungry children). It was chaotic, crowded and unpleasant to watch overloaded plates and excessive food waste. Also the selection of food was limited and less healthy than at other similar buffet restaurants.
After dinner there is plenty of entertainment if you are in the mood:
08.55pm Fashion show
09.45pm Magic show in Urbino theatre
11.00pm Costa Magica Party
10.45pm Special Latino
12.00am Disco Candy
The entertainment and shows change every day, however the times and general activities are the same.
Day 2: Bari, Italy
Every day there is a multitude of activities onboard the ship from around 8-8.30am, fitness, dance and sport led by instructors. Also quizzes and displays.
However, there is no doubt: A cruise should be about getting ashore and seeing the amazing sights. You can take part in a trip organized by the cruise company, but they may be expensive or you can go on your own with one of the many sightseeing busses lining up on the pier, when the cruise ships arrive.
12.30pm Arrival Bari
06.00pm All onboard
06.30pm Costa Magica sails for Katakolon
Bari is often on the cruise ship itineraries. A cozy old (300 BC) port and university city – and an important economic centre of southern Italy.
There are ca. 1 mio. inhabitants in Bari metropolitan area (ca. 650.000 in Bari).
Some important sights are Basilica di Sant Nicola (1087), Bari Cathedral (1034) and Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle (1131).
The city has many small coffee shops, both old and modern. However, there is not that much to see, and if the weather is (very) bad, as on this trip, you may want to return to the ship sooner rather than later.
On a day like this there is an opportunity for more time on board the ship. Costa Magica has a large and popular fitness centre. The style is old-school with carpet. There is, however, lots of machines, free weights and all sorts of extra equipment like step benches, balls, BOSU’s etc.
As a special and very nice feature there is a wellness centre with free admittance; steam room, sauna and jacuzzi indoors and outdoors. Super for recovery.
Katakolon, Greece At sea
Katakolon is a small port on the west coast of Greece. It is not the destination of the cruise ships, though: The destination is the nearby legendary Olympia (ca. 1000 BC), where the Olympic Games started (776 BC). A must-see.
However not this time around … a major disappointment. Due to the weather, it was a bit windy, the captain was afraid to send the passengers into the small port by small life boats. At the cruise ship, though, it did not feel anywhere near critical conditions, so there was a gloomy air among a few of the passengers as the ship sailed past Katakolon … there was another day at sea.
Not that there was not a lot to do on the ship, but …
Day 4: Piraeus (Athens), Greece
7.00am Arrival Piraeus (Athens)
2.30pm All onboard!
3.00pm Costa Magica sails for Izmir
Greece has been in rough weather lately, politically and economically, so the greek are not too optimistic. As a tourist on a quick visit, though, you cannot but be awestricken by the impressive Greek temples and monuments of ancient times.
The trip of the day leaves the (Athens) port of Piraeus and goes to the city centre, Athens (2000 BC), today a modern metropolis with approx. 6 mio. inhabitants.
The most famous sight is the area of Acropolis, a citadel situated on a hill top. The entire area is full of temples and buildings, the most important and well-known being the Parthenon temple (as seen of millions of tourist photos).
Still underway with restoration with cranes and scaffolding; no amazing photo opportunity this time.
Day 5: Izmir, Turkey
8.00am Arrival Izmir
2.00pm All onboard!
2.30pm Costa Magica sails for Dubrovnik
Destination of the day is Izmir (eller Smirne) a city with 3 mio. inhabitants and the second city of Turkey a.o. due to its status as a busy port.
The city was founded around 1000 BC and it is clear, when you walk around the city, that through the ages it has been under several rulers with different agendas.
You should take a guided tour (maybe with a sightseeing bus) of the city. And if there is time there is also a popular Archeological and Etnographical Museum. Many tourists however head straight for the very large bazar area with exciting shops and coffee shops. Or the extensive beach promenade with restaurants and bars and a large park with running and bike trails and a (weird) outdoor fitness area.
Day 6: At sea
Sailing from Izmir to Dubrovnik takes time, so there is a full day at sea.
And even if the daily weather report from the captain throughout the trip has been “rough sea”, there was nothing to be afraid of. Even impressive waves do not ‘stir’ the colossal cruise ships; you (3000+ passengers) hardly feel a thing.
Day 7: Dubrovnik, Croatia
A Adriatic Sea cruise highlight is Dubrovnik (Ragusa), one of the most beautiful cities of the Adriatic Riviera and one of the Worlds 10 best preserved medieval walled cities, since 1979 on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Unfortunately the city suffered during the Balkan wars in the 1990’s, but has been carefully restored.
During the last few years Dubrovnik has been known for its ‘role’ in the tv-series Game of Thrones, in which it is called King’s Landing.
The city centre is surrounded by a huge city wall, that you can walk on. This is highly recommended and the trip lasts at least around two hours including photo stops.
You should also walk around the entire city, as there are many beautiful squares and buildings as well as shops and og cafés.
A minus, when visiting Dubrovnik, is the enormous amount of tourists (ahmmm). Even out of season several cruise ships visit every day, which means that it can be difficult to get around and to get a full view of many of the beautiful buildings.
In spite of this Dubrovnik is a truly unique city, which is well worth visiting.
Day 8: Venice, Italy
9.00am Arrival Venice
Back in Venice.
Arrividerci the captain writes in the Daily programme!
Disembarkation is o.k., but could have goon smoother and faster. There is a wait for checking out and leaving the ship. Finally after a couple of hours you are back on the cruise terminal pier.
There you have three options, if you are bound for the airport. You can take the monorail or you can take a taxi or bus. Or you can take a water bus all the way through Canal Grande and to the airport (where you have a 7 min. walk to the terminal) – this is a fantastic chance to have a last slow (1½-2 hour), wonderful Venice sightseeing tour (photo: A water bus station).