Cruise from Venice – the essential guide

Quite possibly the most romantic city in Europe.

With triumphant architecture sitting on winding waterways, Venice hosts travelers, holidaymakers, cruise ships, festivals, and galas throughout the year. And now you can explore this wonderful city when you book your cruise from Venice.

This article offers expert tips, planning advice, and cruise information to help you easily book your cruise from Venice. 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 Porto Corsini in Ravenna.

Once a central Mediterranean trading post and a significant 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 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.

Venice cruise port

Venice is known as the floating city. And much has been reported about how the water level rises and that the ancient streets are at risk of crumbling. Congestion in port traffic has resulted in some cruise ships being relocated to other ports.

Right now, there are no decisions as to whether the Government will continue to allow cruise ships into the two main ports of Venice. MSC Cruises still has ships docking there, while Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are using the port of Ravenna, located 150km south of Venice. Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, and Holland America use Trieste, 160km east of Venice.

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

Check with your cruise line which ports you must head to before you book your flight and transfer arrangements.

Getting around Venice

Venice Island is attached to the mainland, the area known as Mestre, 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, you will be dropped off at Piazzale Roma. From there you either walk or take a waterbus 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 bus transport and even save money on entrance fees into museums, palaces, and churches.

Transportation at Venice Marco Polo International Airport

Venice’s international airport, Venice Marco Polo Airport (Venezia Airport VCE) is located on the mainland, about 16 km from Venice Island.

To get from the airport to Venice Island, choose between the bus, a taxi, or a water taxi. The central transport hub on Venice Island is called Piazzale Roma. To get to your hotel, either walk or transfer onto a Vaporetto (waterbus).

We recommend taking cash in euros with you, as not all buses and taxis accept credit cards.

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

Taxi: There are plenty of taxis outside the arrival terminals at the airport. The official 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, which takes about 25-30 minutes. If you arrive late in the evening, the taxi fare may be a bit higher.

Water Taxi: Water taxis are 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 from the airport is around 100-120 euros, and the journey time is about 70 minutes. It’s expensive, but you can share it if you are traveling in a group. Tell the water taxi driver which hotel you are staying at so he can get you to the closest stop.

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

It’s easy to travel by train between Venice, Florence, and Rome. Extend your cruise vacation and combine all these destinations in the same trip, either before or after your cruise.

It’s also easy to connect by train from Venice to the cruise ports cities of Ravenna and Trieste.

Regional and high-speed trains offer regular services from Venezia Santa Lucia train station (Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia). The train station is located on Venice island, right on the Grand Canal, between Santa Croce and Cannaregio districts, and within walking distance of Piazzale Roma.

Alternatively, you can use Venezia Mestre train station if you have chosen to stay in a hotel on the mainland in Mestre district.

Italy’s major train operators are Trenitalia and Italo. You can search, compare, and book train tickets online before you leave home.

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 on 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 on Venice island. We have included top-rated hotels and those that are more affordable, so there is something for everyone.

We recommend 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.

While hotel options in Venice are endless, and staying close to St Mark’s Square is very popular, we prefer to stay near the train station and transport hub, Piazzale Roma, at the entrance to Venice island. This is the area called Santa Croce.

Hotels in the Santa Croce district

These hotels are close to the central transport hub Piazzale Roma, close to the entrance to the island. They are easily accessible, and the logistics to get from here to your ship are simpler. St. Mark’s Square is just a 25-minute walk through the winding streets, or hop on a Vaporetto water bus outside the hotel. 

  • Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal
  • Hotel Santa Chiara
  • Hotel Canal Grande
  • Hotel Moresco Venice
Click to see our recommended hotels in Santa Croce district, Venice.

Hotels in the Cannaregio district

If you would like to be close to the train station on Venice island, then stay in the Cannaregio district, which borders the Santa Croce neighborhood. In addition, you are not far from the transport hub, Piazzale Roma.

  • BW Premier Collection CHC Continental
  • Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Nani Venice
  • Ai Mori d’Oriente Hotel
Click to see our recommended hotels in Cannaregio district, Venice.

Hotels in San Marco district

Stay in the historic heart of Venice, close to St. Mark’s Square, and discover the magnificent Doge’s Palace and the three connected buildings running around the perimeter of the square, known as The Procuratie. And, of course, the landmark cathedral with its golden domes, Saint Mark’s Basilica.

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

  • Hotel Cavalletto & Doge Orseolo
  • Hotel Casanova
  • Baglioni Hotel Luna
  • Hotel le Isole
  • Star Hotels Splendid
  • Hotel Bonvecchiati
Click to see our recommended hotels in San Marco district, Venice.

The ultimate 3-day guide before your cruise from Venice

Venice Island is made up of six districts (sestieri). Three districts on either side of the Grand Canal. There are only four 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

You will want to start with classic spots 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 prepare for 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 three 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. Listening to them bring history to life as you tour the incredible buildings is well worth the money. We recommend knowledgeable guides at Tours By Locals.

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 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 Europe’s top orchestras. They regularly perform 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 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 relatively narrow.

Now 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 initially built in the 12th century but has been rebuilt and renovated numerous times.

Head to Marco Polo’s former residence, 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. The canal, stretching for 4 km, 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 gondola 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 lives. A beautiful large church dominates the square with its white bell tower. To one side is a market selling fresh products. The square is home to many small restaurants and cafes, perfect for lunch, dinner, or just a pastry and espresso.

After lunch, walk along 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

You can easily see all three islands in one day if you like. We recommend booking a tour which will include a local guide and transportation. Alternatively, choose just one island for a slower pace and take the Vaporetto from the Fondamenta Nova ferry terminal, which is a 20-minute walk from St. Marks Square.

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.

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.

Torcello

Torcello is one of the smaller islands in Venice, and its 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, historical buildings, restaurants, and bars. If you’re looking for a relaxing day out in Venice, Torcello is worth a visit!

How to get to the port for your Cruise from Venice

Check your cruise ticket to find out which port you need to reach on embarkation day.

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

The port of Venice – Venice Passenger Terminal (Venezia Terminal Passeggeri) – is in Santa Croce on Venice Island. To reach the port of Venice, 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 driver the name of your Venice cruise line so they get you as close as possible to your cruise departure point.

Shuttle Bus: There is a free shuttle from Piazzale Roma to the cruise terminal. The buses are 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; the fee is 1.5 euros per person. The Marittima exit you need for the Venise cruise terminal is the first stop and doesn’t take very long.

Porto Marghera cruise port

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

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

Taxi: Take a taxi from the train station or 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.

Ravenna cruise port

Some cruise lines have moved their Venice cruises to depart from the port of Ravenna. Porto Corsini, the seaside town 11km from Ravenna center, is home to Ravenna’s port. More cruise lines may follow suit very soon, so check your cruise ticket or speak to your cruise line before you plan your hotel and transportation to know where you need to be and when.

In truth, we will find 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 tickets from Venezia S. Lucia train station to Ravenna, changing trains at Ferrara. The cost of a single journey for an adult is from 15 to 25 euros per person.

Italy's major train operators are Trenitalia and Italo. You can search, compare, and book train tickets online before you leave home.

From Ravenna railway station, a local bus goes to the port. But we recommend at least one day in Ravenna before your cruise starts to ensure you get there in time. It is a charming city. Try the Palazzo Bezzi Hotel 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 (80km).

Trieste cruise port

Norwegian Cruise Lines is one cruise line that now has 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 depart 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 staying one day in Trieste before your cruise, and plenty of good hotel options exist. If you have a big budget, try the excellent Savoia Excelsior Palace Trieste, a 15-minute 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 traveling from Venezia S. Lucia train station to Trieste Centrale. The quickest journey is about 2 hours, costing around 15 euros per person.

Italy's major train operators are Trenitalia and Italo. You can search, compare, and book train tickets online before you leave home.

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 of 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 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 Ascension Sunday; hopefully, your time in the city will coincide with this event.

Spring and fall are the perfect times to visit Venice for cruise vacations when you can beat the worst 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 hundreds of small boats compete in races that last for hours.

These range from traditional wooden boats and gondolas to motorboats. Locals dressed in Venetian costumes race a sporty-looking gondola. 

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

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Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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