Cruise from Venice – the essential guide

“Quite possibly the most romantic city in Europe”

Venice, with triumphant architecture sitting on winding waterways, is host to travelers, holiday makers, cruise ships, festivals and galas throughout the year. And now you have the opportunity to explore this wondrous city when you book your cruise from Venice.

In this article we offer expert tips, planning advice and cruise information to help you book your own cruise from Venice easily. You will find detailed information about hotels, transportation, what to see and do and how to get to the cruise port in Venice or outside of Venice to the ports of Porto Marghera, Trieste or Ravenna.

Once a major Mediterranean trading post and an important maritime power, the city, perched on the northeast coast of Italy at the edge of the Adriatic Sea, now relies heavily on tourism for income.

It’s impossible to book a cruise from Venice without wanting to stay extra nights to really explore. And so you should. Take the opportunity to see the magic of Venezia for yourself. Crowded? yes. Overpriced? of course. But you will be enchanted and glad you visited.

Which port does your cruise ship depart from?

Venice is known as the floating city. And much has been reported about how the water level is rising and that the ancient streets are at risk of crumbling. Congestion in port traffic has resulted in some cruise ships being moved from docking at Venice.

Right now there are no definite decisions having been taken as whether the Government will continue to allow cruise ships into the two main ports of Venice, or not. MSC Cruises still has ships docking there, whilst Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are using the port of Ravenna located 150km south of Venice. Norwegian Cruise Lines use Trieste, 160km east of Venice.

Royal has been awarded a contract to build a brand new terminal at Ravenna. This new cruise port terminal will be in operation in 2024.

It is vital that you check with your cruise line which of the ports you need to head to, before you book your flight and transfer arrangements.

Getting around Venice

Venice Island is attached to the mainland, the area known as Maestre, by a bridge. Vehicles use the bridge to cross over to Venice Island. But they are only allowed as far as Piazzale Roma. From there the island is a vehicle-free zone, and the only mode of transportation is gondolas and vaporettos (water-buses). And of course this is what makes the island so charming.

If you are taking a taxi or bus from the airport then you will be dropped off at Piazzale Roma. From there you either walk or take a water-bus to your hotel. Note that many of the small streets are cobbled. You will find it easier to walk with your luggage if you have good walking shoes.

An easy way to prepay your public transport in Venice is to purchase a Venezia Unica City Pass.

You can use this pass for your transfers, bus and water buses transport and even save money on entrance fees into museums, palaces and churches.

Transport options to and from Venice Marco Polo International Airport

When booking your flight for your Venice cruise, you will most likely choose to fly into the international airport, Venice Marco Polo Airport (Venezia Airport VCE). It is located on the mainland about 16 km from Venice Island.

From Marco Polo Airport there are many transport options available to get to Venice Island. The main transport hub on Venice Island is called Piazzale Roma. From Piazzale Roma you can walk or transfer onto a vaporetto (waterbus) to get to your hotel. 

We recommend that your take cash in euros with you, as not all buses and taxis can accept credit cards.

Bus

Buses are located outside the arrival terminals. You can buy bus tickets from machines located in the luggage collection area, or from the ticket office in the arrivals lounge. The fare is around 2 euros per person and it takes about 35-40 minutes. Note that any “express” bus will be more expensive but will get you there quicker with less stops along the way.

Taxi

There are plenty of taxis outside the arrival terminals at the airport. The offical taxi company at the airport is Cooperativa Artigiana Radiotaxi. Confirm the price with your driver before you start, it is a fixed fare and costs around 40 euros for a one-way journey from the airport to Venice Island and takes around 25-30 minutes. If you arrive late in the evening the taxi fare may be a bit higher.

Water Taxi

There are water taxis available from the airport to Venice Island. After collecting your luggage, follow the signs for “Water Transport” on the first floor of the terminal you will find a moving walkway. Take this straight to the dockside.

For tickets, there are ticket machines at the baggage collection points or you can purchase a ticket onboard. Have some cash in euros with you if you want to pay onboard.

The price for a one-way journey with a water taxi is from the airport is around 100-120 euros and the journey time is around 70 minutes. It’s expensive but if you are travelling in a group you can share the cost. Tell the driver of the water taxi which hotel you are staying at so he can get you to the closest stop.

The train station on Venice Island – Venezia Santa Lucia (Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia)

The train station, called Venezia Santa Lucia (Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia), is located on Venice Island itself. It is right on the Grand Canal and within walking distance of Piazzale Roma.

If you need a train journey, book tickets through the Trenitalia ticket office at the station, or via their website before you leave home. Trenitalia is the main train operator in Italy.

Connecting your stay in Venice to Ravenna, Trieste, Florence or Rome

Many cruise guests make the most of their vacation in Italy by visiting Venice, Florence and Rome in the same trip. Many start in Venice, then end up in Rome before boarding a cruise from Rome. Or reverse the journey if boarding a cruise from Venice.

The good news is that modern, high speed trains offer a reliable service from Venezia Santa Lucia train station.

Read more below for ideas on visiting the cities of Venice, Florence and Rome before you start your cruise. We also include details about getting to the ports of Ravenna and Trieste.

Where to stay in Venice

We have tried and tested hotels in Venice that are popular with cruise customers. We recommend staying on Venice Island. It’s the best option if you want to discover the beauty of Venice by foot within just a couple of days.

You could stay in the area called Venice Mestre on the mainland but you will need to take a local bus each time you want to get to Venice Island as it’s too far to walk.

Here are some of our favorite hotel options. We have included top-rated hotels as well as those that are more affordable so there is something for everyone.

Our recommendation is that you stay in a hotel that is at least 4-star standard. This way you will get a good standard of room, convenient amenities and good service. The concierge can advise on local transport and provide city maps.

Whilst hotel options in Venice are endless, we like to stay near to the train station at the beginning of Venice Island. 

Hotels in the Santa Croce district

These first 4 hotels are located in Santa Croce district, close to the transport hub Piazzale Roma. This is close to the entrance to the island and very popular with travellers booking cruises from Venice as the hotels are easy to get to, and the logistics to get to your ship are simpler.

St. Mark’s Square is a beautiful 25 minute walk through the winding streets or you can hop on a vaporetto water bus outside of the hotel. 

BW Premier Collection CHC Continental

This is a very popular hotel with cruise guests. Located just a short walk from the train station, it works well for guests wanting to transfer by train to Florence or Rome after their visit to Venice. It’s a modern hotel and all you would expect from a 4-star Best Western property. Breakfast is good and rooms are spacious.

Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal

What we love about this hotel is the rooftop cocktail bar, overlooking the Grand Canal. This Venetian style hotel feels romantic with antique furniture and light, bright elegant decor.

Hotel Santa Chiara

Just 200 meters from the train station and one of the few hotels reachable by car as it is so close to Piazzale Roma, this traditional hotel is a classic. Your taxi can drop you right outside. Breakfast is a continental style. Ask for a balcony room with a view over the Grand Canal for a truly great stay.

Hotel Canal Grande

This 4-star boutique hotel is located right on the Grande Canal in a small Rococo style palace. We love the hotel’s little terrace, overlooking the grand canal. It’s perfect for an evening drink. The hotel is easy to get to using the vaporetto boat from Piazzale Roma. Get off at the second stop “Riva de Biasio”. The rooms are smaller, but the service is fantastic.

Hotels close to St Mark’s Square

Hotels close to St Mark's Square - Piazza San Marco, Venice
Choose to live close to St Mark’s Square

These next 3 hotels are located closer to the city’s famous St Mark’s Square, if you really want to be close to the historic heart of Venice Island.

At St Mark’s Square discover the magnificent Doge’s Palace. The 3 connected buildings running around the perimeter of the square, known as The Procuratie, are the Archeological Museum, the Clock Tower, and of course the landmark cathedral with its golden domes, Saint Mark’s Basilica.

To get to these hotels from Piazzale Roma, take a vaporetti to Saint Mark’s Square (the stop is San Marco/Vallaresso).

Alternatively a water taxi from the airport will take you to the hotels’ private landing.

Hotel Cavalletto & Doge Orseolo

This hotel is fantastically located in the heart of the old town, just steps from St Mark’s Square. In old Venetian style, you will feel transported back in time. 

Hotel Casanova

The hotel Casanova is a good 4-star hotel in a great location. What we love is that you can choose between doubles, triples and quad rooms. So if you are visiting with family or friends you can keep you price down if you don’t mind sharing. The hotel is easy to find just 50 meters from St Mark’s Square.

Baglioni Hotel Luna

The Baglioni Hotel Luna is in a class of its own. It’s a great choice if you are looking for a 5-star experience. The highlight is the award-winning Canova Restaurant. It’s perfect if you have a special occasion to celebrate – in an unbeatable location.

More hotel gems for cruise customers

More good hotels that our cruise customers have also enjoyed are these:

Hotel le Isole

Hotel le Isole is one of the most reasonably priced hotels in Venice for the excellent location. It is just a short walk away from St Mark’s Square and offers free Wi-Fi access, air conditioning, and breakfast for its guests. This small, 3-star hotel has lots of charm with a great indoor courtyard for dining. And conveniently, it is just 2 mintues walk from the San Zaccaria water taxi stop.

Star Hotels Splendid

In the San Marco neighborhood of Venice, Star Hotels Splendid offers immaculate, spacious rooms, a friendly reception and an all-round first class stay in Venice. The hotel offers transporation from the airport for a fee. Enquire when making your booking.

Hotel Bonvecchiati

What we love the best about this super hotel is their water door. You can step right out onto your waiting water taxi or gondolo from the hotel. It is located at the edge of the canal and walking distance to St Mark’s Square. If you are a family choose their family rooms or a suite.

Carnival Palace Hotel

The Carnival Palace Hotel is located in the Jewish Quarter, an area full of charm and history. It’s a beautiful hotel with air conditioning and spacious bathrooms. Ask for a room overlooking the canal.

The ultimate 3-day guide before your cruise from Venice

Venice Island is made up of six districts (sestieri). Three districts either side of the Grand Canal. There are only 4 bridges on the island where you can cross from one side of the canal to the other. The Grand Canal is the main thoroughfare of Venice Island. 

We have the ultimate 3 day guide to make your pre-cruise vacation in Venice exceptional. Explore this beautiful city before starting your cruise from Venice by following our detailed itineraries below. 

Day 1: Classic Venice – the essential sights

Rialto Bridge, Venice
Rialto Bridge is one of many “musts” to visit

There are definitely some classic spots you will want to start with when you arrive in Venice. Whether you’re looking for breathtaking scenery, mouth-watering food or historical landmarks, these top attractions give you a well-rounded view of Venice’s beauty. So grab your camera, put on comfortable shoes and get ready for some unforgettable memories!

Discover the beauty of Italian architecture on your first day by starting at the famous St. Mark’s Square. Make your way there from your hotel. The square is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.

The 3 connected buildings around St. Mark’s Square are the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), the Basilica of St. Mark, and the Campanile. The palace was originally the residence of the Doge of Venice, and now houses various government offices.

The Basilica is one of the most famous churches in Italy, and is known for its Byzantine architecture and gold mosaics.

The Campanile – also known as the bell tower – is the tallest structure in the city. It has one of the best views across Venice. Reach the top by climbing the 323 steps.

To learn the history, book a local tour guide

If you love history, consider booking a tour with a professional guide. It’s well worth the money to listen to them bring history to life as you tour the incredible buildings.

From there, you can walk to the Bridge of Sighs. This famous landmark connects the Doge’s Palace to the prison. It’s said that prisoners would sigh as they looked out over Venice for the last time before being taken to their cells.

Close by is the Rialto Fish Market (Mercato di Rialto) – one of the oldest markets in Europe. It’s a great place to see how Venetians buy their seafood. Enjoy some delicious seafood dishes in the many restaurants nearby.

Try lunch at the restaurant Hostaria Ai Coristi, which is located on a canal in the Cannaregio district. The restaurant has an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy your meal while watching Venetian life go by.

Experience the music of Venice

The San Marco Chamber Orchestra (Virtuosi di Venezia) is one of the top orchestra’s in Europe. They perform regularly at venues throughout Venice. A live classical performance will give you an enduring memory of the city. Check out their website to find out when they are performing and book tickets before you leave home.

Visit Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a Venetian palace that is home to a spiral staircase (Scala Contarini del Bovolo). You’ll get incredible views of the city from its rooftop.

There is an entrance fee, but we do not recommend taking young children as the staircase gets busy and is quite narrow.

Make your way to the Rialto Bridge. The bridge is one of the most iconic sights in Venice and spans the Grand Canal. It was originally built in the 12th century, but has been rebuilt and renovated numerous times over the years.

Head to Marco Polo’s former residence , the Ca’ d’Oro. This beautiful Gothic palace is now a museum. It is home to a collection of Venetian art from the 15th and 16th centuries.

In the evening, walk along the Grand Canal. This canal stretching 4km is the main thoroughfare in Venice. There is always something to see and do as night falls.

Day 2: Your bucket list Gondola ride and areas off the beaten track

Classical view of Venice
Gondolas, Grand Canal and Murano Glass lamps – three classical symbols of Venice

A much anticipated Gondola ride is the first thing to do today after breakfast. By starting early you will avoid the possible crowds and queues which are invariably at their peak in the middle of the day.

Venice is one of the most romantic and enchanting cities in the world. And a gondola ride is a must-do activity when visiting. These boats have been navigating the city’s canals since the 12th century. They offer a unique perspective on Venice’s iconic architecture and waterways.

Gondoliers are experts at maneuvering through Venice’s narrow streets and under bridges. Be sure to take advantage of this leisurely way to see the city. Book your gondola ride online before you arrive in Venice, or ask your hotel concierge for recommendations.

The city square of Campo Santa Maria Formosa

After your gondolo ride, head towards the city square of Campo Santa Maria Formosa. Experience local life here in a less touristy area of Venice.

It is one of the largest squares in Venice, and gets busy with the locals going about their daily life. The square is dominated by a beautiful large church with its white bell tower. To one side is a market selling fresh product. The square is home to many small restaurants and cafes, perfect for lunch, dinner, or just a pastry and espresso.

After lunch walk the quieter district of Dorsoduro. Prices are better here for gift shops and souvenirs, and the narrow streets often are less crowded.

Day 3: The outlying islands in Venetian lagoon: Murano, Burano, and Torcello

Burano island canal, Venice
Burano island canal lined with colorful houses

Burano

If you’re looking for a beautiful and charming day trip while in Venice, head over to the island of Burano.

This small island is famous for its brightly-colored houses and there’s plenty to see and do on a day trip here.

You can easily spend a day here, but even a short visit is well worth it.

Murano

Murano is known for glassmaking at the Museo del Vetro (Museum of Glass), It is well worth the visit to bring home a wonderful piece of Venetian glass with you. To get to the island, you will need to travel by Vaporetto. Ask you hotel concierge to point you in the direction of your closest stop where you can climb aboard the water boat. The journey only takes 20 minutes.

Torcello

Torcello is one of the smaller islands in Venice and it’s quieter atmosphere makes it a popular spot for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The island is home to some beautiful churches and historical buildings, as well as a few restaurants and bars. If you’re looking for a relaxing day out in Venice, Torcello is definitely worth a visit!

How to get to the port for your Cruise from Venice

So which port does your cruise ship depart from? Check your cruise ticket or call the cruise line. It’s essential you get to the right port, and know where you are going before you leave home so that you can make timely arrangements to get there.

The port of Venice – Venice Passenger Terminal (Venezia Terminal Passeggeri)

The port of Venice – Venice Passenger Terminal (Venezia Terminal Passeggeri) is located in Santa Croce on Venice island.  To reach your Venice cruise ship if you depart from this port you have the following options: 

Taxi: A taxi from Piazzale Roma to Stazione Marittima. It’s a short drive and costs a few euros. Just give the name of your Venice cruise line to the driver so they get you as close as possible to your cruise departure point.

Shuttle Bus: There is a free shuttle bus from Piazzale Roma to the cruise terminal. The buses are clearly signposted and leave roughly every 15 minutes.

People Mover: This is an automated, elevated shuttle train. Buy a ticket at the ticket machines at Piazzale Roma. Credit cards and cash are accepted and the fee is 1.5 euros per person. The Marittima exit that you need for the Venise cruise terminal is the first stop and doesn’t take very long.

Porto Marghera

Porto Marghera is located about 2km from the center of Venice, in Venice Mestre on the mainland. It is the industrial port and one many cruise lines may choose to use in the future. 

Train: You can get to this port in under 10 minutes by train from Lucia train station. Buy a train ticket for about 3 euros per person at the kiosk at the Santa Lucia train station and you will be at Porto Marghera very quickly. 

Taxi: Take a short taxi ride from the train station or from Piazzale Roma to Porto Marghera and tell the driver which cruise line you are with and the dock number (listed on your cruise ticket). The journey takes about 15 minutes and costs around 15 euros.

Port of Ravenna 

Some cruise lines have moved their Venice cruises to depart from the port of Ravenna. More cruise lines may follow suit very soon so be sure to check your cruise ticket or speak to your cruise line before you plan your hotel and transportation so you know where you need to be and when.

In truth we will find in the future many more Venice cruises departing from Port of Ravenna.

Ravenna is a quaint, historic city located 150km south of Venice on the Adriatic Sea. It takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to travel between central Venice and Ravenna (or vice versa). You can book a transfer before you leave home with your cruise line (if possible) or with a trusted supplier.

You can also travel there by train and purchase train tickets travelling from Venezia S.Lucia train station to Ravenna, changing trains at Ferrara. The cost of a single journey for an adult is around 25 euros per person.

From Ravenna railway station there is a dedicated shuttle bus which takes you straight to the port. But we actually recommend at least one hotel night in Ravenna before your cruise starts to ensure you get there in time. It really is a charming city. Try the Hotel Palazzo Bezzi or the NH Ravenna hotel. Both hotels are our favorites and are located in the historic center, a short walk from the train station and just 15 minutes by taxi from the port.

If you prefer to skip visiting Venice and fly straight to Ravenna, the closest airports are Rimini (60km) and Bologna International airport (80km).

Trieste Port

Norwegian Cruise Lines is one cruise line which now has come cruise ships leaving from the port of Trieste, instead of Venice. It takes around 2 hours to transfer to Trieste from Venice.

Be sure to check your cruise ticket or speak to your cruise line before you plan your hotel and transportation to find out which port you are departing from as this information can change at any time.

Trieste is a beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea and well worth a visit before you climb onboard your cruise ship. You’ll find stunning architecture, fantastic hotels and great shopping.

We recommend that you stay one night in the city before your cruise and there are plenty of good hotels to choose from. If you have a big budget try the excellent Savoia Excelsior Palace Trieste, 15 minutes walk from the train station. We like the NH Trieste in the city center which is just a few minutes walk from the train station. Both are just a short taxi ride from the port.

It is easy to travel from Venice to Trieste by train. Purchase train tickets travelling from Venezia S.Lucia train station to Trieste Centrale. The quickest journey is about 2 hours and costs around 15 euros per person.

Highlights of Venice

If you are lucky to have a Venice cruise to look forward to, try not to miss these traditional Venetian events where you can join the locals and celebrate this beautiful city:

Feast of St. Marcus

On the 25th April each year is the feast of St. Marcus. The celebration starts with a colorful procession from The Basilica in St. Mark’s Square. On this day you present someone you love with a red rose. 

The Vogalonga

The Vogalonga takes place each May and is a boat race starting at St. Mark’s Basin, right opposite the Doge’s palace, and finishing 30km later at the punta della Dogana. It is open to all types of vessels, from traditional wooden boats to modern watercraft. For more information on this event, visit their website.

Ascension Sunday

Ascension Sunday in May is a coming together of all the locals to remember the liberation of Dalmatia, over 1000 years ago. The mayor starts the events on board a Bucintoro boat at St Marco quay. Throughout the afternoon there are concerts, parades and theatrical performances.

Check local information for when Ascension Sunday is and hopefully your time in the city will coincide with this event.

Spring and the Fall are perfect times of year to visit Venice for cruise vacations. You have a chance of beating the worst of the heat (expect soaring temperatures in the summer months).

Regata Storica

If you are visiting on the first Sunday in September, then witness one of the most colorful regattas in Italy, Regata Storica. It’s a long-standing Italian tradition and an essential part of the Venice calendar.  It’s a day when all residents come out to watch as hundreds of small boats compete in races that last for hours.

These range from traditional wooden boats and gondolas to motorboats. Including locals dressed in venetian costume race a sporty looking gondolo. 

The prestigious Palio della Madoneta is the main prize awarded at the regatta.

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Meet the Author

Mattias has nearly 2 decades of travel industry expertise, working with cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, IT providers, hospitality suppliers and everything else in between that makes the travel industry tick. more..