In June 2005, we took a trip on Seadream
Cruise . We are mostly land travelers, however occasionally we prefer relaxing atmosphere of small ships. We do not like large cruise ships. Our previous cruise trips included barges in Europe and Thailand, Expedition in Costa Rica, small ship Windsurf. This time we tried SeaDream since this small ship (they call themselves "yacht" but actually if you sharing yacht with other 112 people, then I will call it small ship). This report includes our pre-cruise adventure in Dublin and Nice and post cruise romantic conclusion in Venice.
Day by Day Journal
Pre-Cruise, Dublin and Nice.
Friday , June 03, Dublin, Ireland - Nice, France.
We got FF free tickets with AA and we always accept whatever itinerary will have for free. This time AA booked us via Dublin with layover until 3pm for flight to Nice.
We arrived to Dublin at 5:30 am. We arranged a guide/driver meet us to show us Dublin. Our guide Keiron took us in a nice brand new car. It was early in the morning so advantages were that there was no traffic and we love to see cities waking up in Europe. The disadvantage was that most sights were not open. Dublin is very compact and in 3 hours we drove around it few times. Kieron did a good job explaining to us not only city but also the culture, politics and giving us general info about life in Ireland. We saw St. Patrick cathedral (from outside) and another cathedral. Interesting that both cathedrals in Dublin are protestant, not catholic. Phoenix park was very nice and quiet at that time of the day. We saw residence of president of Ireland in Phoenix park. She is from Northern Ireland.
Georgian townhouses are very lovely. All of them have doors of different color. We were told that a long ago when Irishmen drank a lot, the colors helped them to find their door by color. Dublin is very sophisticated city now. Nice stores. After 3.5 hours, we let Keiron go. We went to Trinity college and explored grounds. Unfortunately, book of Kells was closed and so the Dublin experience. But the campus is beautiful.
After Trinity College we went to the National Gallery when it opened about 9:30am and spent few hours there. It is free. After gallery, we were hungry. We stopped at the Kilkenny’s store (Kireon recommended) and had a lovely breakfast there. Very nice place. Excellent service. 12 eur total, full breakfast. Nice store for souvenirs. Excellent collection including some Monet and Picasso. After gallery, the rain started. We went to few shops on Grafton street and then it was time to go back to airport. We took blue bus aircoach (7 eur per person) to airport, checked in for our flight.
Dublin is very much contemporary sophisticated city. However, Airport did not get our high marks. It was small, crowded, and there was a lot’s if garbage everywhere. They do clean up however, it takes time to find clean chair available from empty cans. I do not know why Europeans do not use garbage cans. The lounge was crowded. I let sit 2 little French girls on half of our chair , they were very cute. Spoke both English and French to us. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “In France, even small kids speak both English and French!”. When it was time for us to board plane, we discovered that the seat assigned in JFK for second leg of our trip were separate – 20a and 25F – both at the window (3+3 configuration at airbus 330).
We were not able to change our seat at check-in because there was not check in, we just told to follow personnel to the plane. So we prepared to sit separately, only 2 hrs to Nice. For some reason, there were about 50% people with small kids probably headed to Nice from rainy cold Dublin for a long weekend for sun. George found himself sitting next to the same kids we’ve met in the lounge. Plus 2 kids in front of him and 2 in the back. Poor guy. I saw these kids standing on seat, making eye contact with him. I sat on my seat and 2 seats next to me were empty. Few more minutes, nobody came in!! I asked flight attendant to flag George for me and change a seat. She asked George surrounded by children “Do you have something to do with these kids?”. Grateful George accepted exchange and we had 3 seats for 2. Very nice. The flight was short and Aer Lingus like other budget European airlines does not serve food for free. They offer it to purchase. We knew that and bought good sandwiches in Dublin. Who wants to pay for airline food? We did buy orange juice and it was 1 eur a small can. On transatlantic flight, from NY to Dublin, they served food and you need to pay for alcohol only. We do not drink on transatlantic flights because of jet lag so it was OK for us. But I hope this info will help other travelers to get prepared for travel on budget airline.
The flight was a little bumpy and kids were screaming most of the time. Finally we landed. We took taxi from airport to Le Meridien hotel. The driver did not show the meter, only at the end. He charged us 35 eur which we thought was high. We've been in Nice before (drove ourselves) so we know distances. It is only 6 km or so to Le Meridien. We booked standard room at Le Meridien but were lucky to get upgraded to superior room, it was larger, corner room and had large balcony. Unfortunately we did not have time to sit there. The windows and balcony faced backyard of hotels but the views were lovely. The room also had separate wc from the bath so that was convenient. Toiletries – only one soap – usually there are two for bath and sink. The room also had robes and slippers. We both have conflicted experience re: bed. George liked pillows, but I thought they were a little hard. The bed was queen, not king but headboard was king, hence the night table was at distance from hands reach, you need to get up from the bed to reach night table. The room had separate living area and bedroom area. For couch potatoes who wants to watch TV from the bed, you cannot do it. OK for me. On arrival, we had a welcome message from manager and a tray of strawberries. Nice. Very tasty, fresh seasonal berries.
It was already 7pm so we went out for dinner to the beach.In our prior visit to Nice, we rented an apartment just next to Le Meridien. We love being on the beach and watch people and dogs on Promenade des Anglais. We ate at Lido café on the beach. Nothing special but the weather was perfect and atmosphere was very romantic. We were not hungry and had some jet lag left, so we only had small dinner: one salad Caprese, one thin crust pizza and a plate of grilled sardines. Sardines were excellent, salad was nice. Pizza was salty because they put a lot’s of anchovies. We shared all three courses for two and with bread and bottled water – no alcohol, the price came up to 40 eur . Welcome to the French Riviera!
Walked promenade after dinner, and came back to hotel, early to bed (about 10pm). I liked Le Meridien, very comfortable hotel. I like that they had an escalator in lobby so for people who have difficulty walking or tired or just plain lazy, that was very handy. I was debating where to stay that one night - Westminster or Le Meridien and choose Le Meridien and we were happy with the choice. It is in good shape, contemporary furnishings, light, decorated in Provencal colors. Also Le Meridien has broadband internet access if you want to work on computer.
Saturday, June 4, Nice - Seadream.
Next morning, we went to the beach the before breakfast. The beach charge for chairs is 15 eur per chair which also includes parasole, lounge. Towels were available at hotel. We crossed the beach and beach service did not start yet. Yes, they charge a lot on Riviera beaches, however in Nice, the beach is gravel and you cannot really sit on the beach on the gravel unless you can bring special thick spread. So you do not have a choice. Plus the beach attendants also rollout the runners which helps you walk. We did not go to the water because we did not bring water shoes, I forgot. We sat a little bit on the beach, walked in flip flops in the water and then went back to hotel to have breakfast. Breakfast was buffet, good pastries, fruit, some eggs, cold cuts, salmon, usual staff. Not elaborate selection but good quality. After breakfast we went to use pool. One of the reasons we chose Le Meridien over Westminster because it had pool on at he rooftop. They charge 15 eur per person per day. We reserved for half a day for 16 eur. For these money, the pool attendant helps you to choose the place – in the shade or in the sun, gets umbrella, towels, and generally makes you sunbathing very comfortable. I am a picky customer since I always alternate between sun and shade and we got one money worth for pool attendant replacing umbrellas to follow our movements :-)
The views are terrific from rooftop – all 360 degrees. We stayed there until noon and went back to hotel to pack and check out. We thought to use internet, but it cost 20 eur per hour and we passed on this.
We took a taxi to the port for 17 eur (checked and agreed on the price before getting in!), and went to the port to board Seadream ship. This beauty was already in the port, small ship (they do not call it cruise ship, they insist on calling it yacht. But yacht cannot be shared with 100 passengers, so I will be calling it ship in my report. Check in starts at 2pm, but we arrived at 12:30. We dropped luggage off and went to explore old Nice near the port. We found internet shop for 3 eur for hour (contrast with Le Meridien for 20 eur!). Checked messages for 30 mins – 1.50 eur. Aftet that we came back to the port and boarded ship.
I will give overall description of the ship there and then will continue with our itinerary.
Since the ship is small, people soon get acquainted with each other at the time and after check-in. The demographics - at least on this sailing - about 60% Americans, some Canadians (remember that Canadians do not like to be confused with Americans), the rest where from Europe and few people from Brazil. European guests - majority was from UK, the rest - from France, Belgium, Norway, Latvia. Mostly age 40+, I've read before. But on this cruise, there were about 10% or younger people and there was one family with two teenagers. If you are thinking to bring teenagers for the trip, make sure they can entertain themselves. Stewards, and some waiters and sailors are Fillipino and waiters/bartenders are from Europe (France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Norway).
We were ushered onboard with champagne and hor's douvreus (sp?) were waiting for us. We socialized for some time and then went to our room. The room is not large but very functional. We had 195 sq feet room but other 2 categories had more space. We were very comfortable there. Plenty of drawers and hangers for clothes. Bvgary toiletries. Excellent shower, enough for 2 people. Cabin had safe. The chilled champagne was in the bucket. There is a fridge with more drinks. Bottled water and red wine. All drinks are included in Seadream, unlike other cruises.
Drinks help to socialize so with such a small size, many people introduced themselves. The service so far is very good, with smile. They have so many nooks and crannies with sunbathing beds which are called Balinese. Very comfortable mattresses and many beds are double! Arranged in a small separate area – double beds, with separator, and lamps so you can even read at night and gaze at the stars! The area also has small table for drinks.
These features were great. It was very relaxing to lounge on these beds. In the evening, some people asked to be sleeping on the deck. I thought that you just bring your blanket from the room, but no - they made a bed for you the same way as in cabin! Great service. Not sure if possible to sleep with other people nearby at the bar at night, so we skipped on that.
The service was excellent, pre-emptive. You get spoiled after that. The bartender knew what you like after you ordered few times. You never need to look for service, they were always watching you in the restaurant. At the bar, on the lounges and beds, the bartenders would walk around and take orders.
We never tried room service but it was available and people reported it was good. One lady we've met had hairdo few times, was not happy first time, but the hairdresser convinced her to come next time.
They have Asian spa with Thai Masseuses. We did not try them (tried myself last year in Thailand, so know what to expect), we just did not had time. Another good feature is a water platform which opens up and you can swim from the ship. They had a lot's of water toys - jet skis, banana boat, kayaks and they got a new toy - a inflatable floating island. The platform, however was not used many times beacuse of weather. When it was used, it was not that hot to want to swim plus this itinerary was port intensive - that was the reason we chose Mediterranean - to see islands otherwise hard to get without sailing. Therefore it was not much in use. However, I think it is a big plus in Caribbean or Mexico - you have your own swimming space! Seadream has small saltwater pool which we used few times. They also have golf simulator. For activities in port, Seadream has bikes and also on this trip they had Segways.
Cabins are equipped with TV, internet access, DVD and CD's. They had very good collection of books and we also took some DVD's. The beds are very comfortable, and the linen the best I’ve ever seen (belgian). Very fancy bathrooms with marble 3 head showers. The glasses in the cabin are Norwegian crystal.
As for entertainment, as on such ships - and this is what we prefer - low key. Singing/listening with a piano singer by the piano bar. Dancing with DJ on top deck by the bar. People are the ones who make entertainment. Like on previous ships (Windsurf, barges), the entertainment was socializing, laughing, dancing, drinking. The bar included complimentary drinks and cigars. Cigars and smoking is only permitted on top deck at the bar. I personally do not like cigar smoke but it was enough space to move around without bothering you.
There is a small casino with blackjack table.
Food - so far the best food we've ever ate on a cruise. Creative menu, and various choice including vegetarian, low fat, low salt, etc. In addition, they would cook anything you want with advance notice. But it was plenty of choices for us. Once we were craving for good tomatoes and only found them in Amalfi drive on the farmer stands. We bought them, brought with us for dinner and asked to make Caprese salad, they did. Pastry chef was especially good. One thing which dissapointed us - Seadream advertised caviar splash and we were under impression that caviar will be available all the time - eat as much as you want! We and few other guests were looking for caviar and it was not on the menu - dissappeared. It was second day only at captains cocktail party. We asked and were told there is some kind of embargo on the caviar or shortage of it - not clear. As result - no caviar splash! Oh well. We compensated for that by other great meals and snacks. Basically food was available most of the time around the clock. Snacks/Sandwiches, fruit at the bar and by the pool and other 3 full meals. In the restaurants, you sit with whom you want. There are tables for 2,4,6 and few large tables for dinner. Lunch and breakfast were casual in outside restaurant. Few dinners were outside as well. For lunch and breakfast, there is buffet with general items - pastries, bread, salads and cold cuts for lunch. However, they always took order for cooked entry - eggs, pancakes, oatmeal for breakfast and cooked meal for lunch.
Dress is casual elegant, but many men brought jackets for few dinners including captains dinner night. Not required. Most people were dressed up very nicely but again, not tux and sequins as you see in large cruise ships.
So first day, Seadream departed from Nice to Monaco at 4pm. We had lovely dinner Sat night with couple from Florida we’ve met even before boarding - in Le Meridien. Then went outside to watch starry skies. These double balinese beds are something! We went to our cabin eventually. Our bed was made and there was a surprise – 2 sets of Seadream Pijamas! We were docked overnight in Monaco so some people (who brought jackets and ties with them) went to casino.
Sunday June 5. Monaco - Cannes, France
Breakfast was on the 4th deck in the outdoor restaurant. You order main course and you can also take fruits, cheeses, cold cuts from the buffet. It was very good. I had swedish pancakes with lingonberries.
After breakfast, we walked out and went to Monaco Center-Ville. We walked a bit too far and then found a bus. We wanted to pay for the bus, but were told on Sunday it is free. We made to Prince Rainer’s palace, it was very impressive. Nearby there is cathedral and nice small medieval streets. We spent an hour or so and took stairs down to the port and came back to the ship. Back at Seadream, we had lunch and used pool. The pool is small and has salt water. After lunch, the ship sailed to Cannes and at 4pm we took tenders to the port. In Cannes, we walked to old town Le Suquet, strolled there and then walked towards Palace where movies festivals takes place. It is right in the center, on Croisette blvd. We love watching people. We found a seat in a café , first row shared glace, and sat there. We “talked” to the French lady sitting next to us. “Talk” would be exaggerated because we did not speak french and she did not speak English but she had a small yorkie dog and we connected somehow. We showed picture of our dog and it caused such excitement! She showed it to her daughter. From what we understood, her dog was female. She also showed us other picture of the dog on her phone. Finally we said au revoiaur (sp?) to each other and left.
We came back to port and took tender to the ship. Rested a little and attended captains cocktail party. It had caviar along with other food. The captain made a small speech and introduced the crew. He said the passengers are from 8 countries and are served by the crew from 23 countries. After that we had presentation on info of next port for tomorrow – Calvi, Corsica. Tours were offered. We opted to share a taxi with other couple tomorrow and will go to see some villages. We had a lovely dinner tonight (lobster main course). Great cheeses, and desserts. Back in the room, the bed was already made and there was a rose on the bed. Very romantic.
Monday Jun 6. Calvi, Corsica, France
I dreamed about Corsica a long ago and was tempted to visit it last time we were in French Riviera by ferry from Nice, but could not, beacuse of ferry schedule. Otherwise if you want to get to Corsica, you can fly from Paris or Nice. So Corsica was part of the reason we liked this particular itinerary. It is the most mountaineous and geographically diverse of all the islands in the Med. Only 8720 sq km , it in many ways resembles a mini continent. it has 1000 KM OF coastline, granite mountains, which stay snowcapped until June, a national park, an uninhabited desert and continental divide. It covered by low dense shrubs and bushes. There are many flowers called maquis, which produce unbeleiveable aroma in the air. You would think that the island would have fisherman industry! Wrong! Since 10C, the island was invaded many times and Corsicans were forced to retreat in the inland and mountains. Therefore, they do most farming inland. The middle ages saw many numerous struggles between local clans. Corsica has been seen both Italian and French invaders. Napoleon was born in Corsica. Now it is French, but there is separatist movement and Corsica has been a victim of many separatist bombings.
We arrived to Calvi, northwestern city, at 8am. It has a citadel, and it it the largest settlement in the Balagne, a fertile region on northwest coast . We went up to Haute Ville (old town) and had a lovely walk. The harbor below hosts many boats (not that fancy as in Riviera), and there is nice 4 mile beach. Possible to walk from the ship. We wanted to take a taxi to explore villages but the taxi drivers did not want to go. We could not make any contact with taxi drivers so we spent some time in the town. It was lovely. The souvenirs there are things made from cork and olive wood.
We went to Calvi twice, in the morning and in the afternoon. Nice meditareanean castle, ramparts, narrow streets. There is a nice beach by the port, about 1 mile away - possible to bike or walk.
Back to the ship, In the evening, we had dinner under the stars.
Tuesday, June 7. Bonifacio, Corsica, France
We woke up in south of Corsica, Boniface. It is old fortified city , founded in 828 and located on the cliff top. There is a drawbridge and nail studded doors at the entrance. Insides, there are narrow cobblestone streets, stores, restaurants. Today Bonifacio is one of the most unique cities in Europe, situated on eroded white chalk that loom over the tiny harbor. Medieval buildings cling to the steep slopes, which lead to the guardian fortress on the promontory.. On foot from the port it is quite a climb to this city. This time we took a organized tour which allowed us to take a boat through the limestone chalk formations – grottos, very picturesque. After that we were dropped off in the city below and boarded a open train which took us to the top. In the top we listened to the history of the city, orientation and were left alone to explore it. Bonifacio was founded by count Boneface of Tuscany. It has been inhabited by a long succession of foreign peoples, from Greeks to Romans, to Pisans and Genovese. Finally French took control of Corsica in 1769. This year was when Napoleon Bonaparte was born there, the famous citizen.
We explored city and then went down to the port or should I say Le Port. We had a plate of corsican (corse) charcutreies at café Kissing Pigs. It was smoked sausages, and and a plate of cheese with fig jam. Washed down with Corse Beer, it was very nice . Came back to ship. Had some desert since we already had lunch in port. After lunch, Seadream had a new toy to explore – Segways. We’ve met a couple from Latvia and took their picture while they rode Segways. In the evening, there will be another dinner outside. We had a nice dinner again, with a another couple and after dinner strolled in port of Bonefacio. People were sitting on the boats, and at was 11pm so cafes were closing. It was very peaceful.
Wednesday June 8. Sardinia, Italy.
We arrived to Sardinia in the morning, on northern coast Costa Smeralda. Like Corsica, the island is very rustic with beautiful beaches and landscape however unlike Corsica, the investors realized potential of the undeveloped coastline. In 1962 or so, Prince Aga Khan, who just graduated from Harvard, decided to develop the area of Porto Cervo. Investors followed and the project was a great success. The one of the exclusives areas in Mediterranean was built, and they called it Costa Smeralda – The Emerald Coast. Like in French Riviera, the area has villas, marina, golf courses and exclusive shopping. The area is so exclusive that they did not allow Seadream to anchor. No cruise ships. Of course Seadream call themselves yacht, not a cruise ship, but this time it did not work. :-) We had to anchor at nearby village, Porto Quato, and first we had to take tenders to Porto Quato and then the shutlle bus was going back and forth 5 km to Porto Cervo. The driver on the bus did not speak English and Angela, our cruise director tried to explain to him where to meet people and Seadream rep. Like many people, who talk to people who do not speak English, she was speaking very loud. Anyway he understood. He dropped us off at Porto Cervo and pointed where to go and where to come back. Porto Cervo has the same Med architecture, but all streets are new, from natural limestone. Restaurants, world know boutiques, stores, Gucci, Prada, Bruno Magli. You get the picture. There is luxury hotel Cala di Volpi in town where infamous party of formet TYCO CEO Dennis Kozlowski for 2M birthday bash took place. We spent some time in Porto Cervo, were not impressed. Back to the shutlle, tender and the ship. Lunch and rest. However, I hear that south of Sardinia has very nice beaches and the rest of island is beautiful. We left for Sorrento now and are under way, it is 6pm now. Next morning, Amalfi Coast.
Thursday, June 9, Sorrento, Italy.
In the evening, there was a rough sea and many people became seasick including us. Skipped dinner. However, caught up on sleep and reduced consumed calories. Around 10pm, Seadream I was passing Seadream II so they honked. As for ship stabilizers, I can give it high marks since we had larger rocking on large Royal Caribbean ship.
Arrived Sorrento and took tenders to the dock, and the shuttle bus was taking passengers to/from Piazza Tasso – center. We prebooked driver for the whole day since we had few appointments. The driver was supposed to be English speaking but he spoke few English. Not that much of a problem with language, but he was just quiet. He drove us from Sorrento, to Positano, showing some small villages on the way (Saint D’angelo). In Positano, we walked about 1 hour and looked at some stores, nice views. We had few clients booked to hotels, so we wanted to check them out and make good contacts with management. We visited few hotels – Villa Franca, Poseidon and San Pietro. The manager showed us around. Nice hotels, especially 5* San Pietro, Relais and Chateaux. We went to the car and proceeded to Ravello where we had an appointment with hotel Palazzo Sasso. It is a beauty, located on the top of the cliff, incredible views, and incredible rooms. Expensive too, but this place is very special. Hard to get, but again, nice places are hard to find. We had lunch there so it took about one hour in Ravello to admire views. Afterwards we found our driver and proceeded back to Sorrento. It took about 1 hour, beautiful Amalfi Coast drive. We bought tomatoes on the way and they smelled delicious. We arrived to Sorrento and visited one more hotel, Corallo Sorrento. It is 4* hotel, located on the seafront, like all hotels there, hanging on the cliff. Incredible views. The manager Giovanni is very enthuastic and takes good care of his hotel and customers. He showed us rooms - all rooms are seaview! Giovanni drove us back to the port where we took tenders to the ship. At the ship, we asked steward to use tomato for our salad and tomato proved as much delicious as it smelled and looked. We had dinner and sat in the the bar, danced a little. It was lovely evening. Passengers had a good time. Some asked to sleep on Baliniese beds and we saw beds were made with real linen. Everybody had a good time. As always, British guests are very much fun. We enjoyed it.
Friday, June 10, Capri.
After breakfast, we took a boat to the port. We took funicular to the Piazzetta (forgot name) in Capri, walked around, shopped. We bought shoes in Ferragamo and t-shirt in Benetton. For some reason Benetton stores in US more geared to young people, but here we were able to buy clothes for normal people (not too skimpy!). We visited hotel Quissana, it is beautiful. We went down to port and negotiated with an English speaking taxi driver open top cuban-type car for 2 hours. We were lucky with driver, he was a great communicator, very enthusiastic, told us a lot about Capri, Anacapri, showed were celebrities lived. He sang some songs and in the end we ended singing with him. In Anacapri, we took cable car 24 min to the top, and took some pictures. Beautiful views and relaxing ride. Went back to Marina Grande (Port) and took a boat back to the ship.
That was a last night on the ship and and next morning we disembarked in Civitavechhia.
Saturday, June 11, Civitavecchia - Rome.
Last night was pretty much uneventful. In the morning, we arrived to Civitavecchia. We had breakfast. Unlike other cruise lines we've been before, Breakfast was not continental but full as any other previous day. Disembarkation was very simple since after you get your passport at reception desk and settle account, you just walk out. The bags were already taken out early morning. We found our driver (we had some problem finding us since there were 2 Seadreams as we learned that day in port). Soon we were on the way to Rome. It took about 1 hr to get to Termini
June 11 - June 11, Venice
In Termini we bought tickets in tickets machine (almost no lines and it is has instructions in English too). Otherwise you need to stay in long line to buy ticket and not clear if the clerk will be English speaking. It turned out to be about $10 less if you buy them in Rome as opposing to buy in advance in USA. But it depends how the travelers are comfortable orienting themselves in unfamilar station and finding machine what they need. Worked for us. Need to know basic rail words (carrozza = car, fumare - smoking, etc.).
We boarded our train for 4 hr trip to Venice. The first class train was very comfortable. We bought some sandwiches in restaurant car. On arrival, to Santa Lucia train station, we bought 3 day vaporetto pass 22 eur per person. We boarded vaporetto 82 to Piazza San Marco with our suitases. My advice to anyone going to Venice - travel light. We had one small suitase each on wheels and that would be enough. However beacuse of cruise, we also had one garment bag. Not full, not heavy, but still 3rd place. In addition, we had 2 backpacks each on the back. The luggage was manageable, not heavy but still a hassle to get to the hotel. Our hotel Anastasia, was located few blocks west - about 2 min walk of Piazza san Marco, and I saw the stop on the map Calle Valaressa - San Marco. However, for some reason, the vaporetto atendant told us that our stop is San Zaccharia - San Marco so we walked with suitcases passing bridges for 2 stops!!!! It was hot. We made it. That's why I do not recommend too much luggage, otherwise take water taxi. But it is also a pain to put and get luggage to/from water taxi.
Hotel was small, 3* but charming, with 2 large windows, and one window opening into small extension like a mini-balcony. Rooms however are small. Next time we will splurge on large rooms, 4-5* . It is located in a small campo which shares back entrances with Europa and Regina. This campo did not have people, since no restaurants, or shops there. As a result, it was very nice to sleep at night, it was quiet.
Our guides said that Guggenheim museum is open until 22:00 so we decided to have dinner in the evening in Accademia sestierre and then go to museum. We ate in Taverna San Trovaso, which got high mark for some reason in fodors forum and good reviews on slowtravel.com . Well, maybe we were overfed on cruise, however, the dinner was not much to write home about. The service was good but not that warm. We tried specialty - fried seafood and venetian liver. I like fried liver with onions, but venetian liver was stewed in some sauce and it was tough. Fried seafood came with fried zucchinis, but waiter also suggested side dish, we ordered boiled potatoes and realized it was too much. Food was kind of bland. We did not want to experiment with desert so we left. We tried to get into Accademia, however contrary their schedule (Sat open in June untill 22:00), it was closed. We headed to San Marco looking forward to romantic evening on "the most beautiful living room of Europe" as Napoleon said about it. As you probably know, there are 3 dueling orchestras playing wonderful classical music and you just get a seat in cafe (prices are steep, but, hey, you are paying for a concert) and enjoy it. Years ago, we had our teenager with us who ran around Piazza San Marco in the dark and we kept keeping eye on him, feeding pigeons, and resisting constant nagging to buy some staff in nearby souvenir stores. This time we could really relax and it was wonderful. The stars were bright and the moon was half-moon bright. Just perfect. First day we had tea and some desert in Cafe Florian, the orchestra is playing more classical music than others, more serious. It is one of the oldest cafes in Europe, by the way. Dickens, Byron, Heminghway sat there and now we did :-)
After tea, we went to hotel and fell asleep. Next morning, June 12, we had continental breakfast at hotel. OK fresh croissants, other staff is not exciting. Good coffee. We went to Guggenheim again and my guidebook said it opened at 9:30 but the sign at the door said 10am! We went to Accademmia instead, it was very interesting. Venetian art is different from Renneisance, more venetian scenes, wealthy merchants, etc. After that we went to Rialto bridge, we used Rick Steeves "offbeat itineraries" and realized there were quite a few people sharing same itineraries with us! We used route through Fenice Theater. One of the highlights on the way - we visited Scala Contarini del Bovolo - this is a Venetian tower/staircase/house ,located in a small courtyard very close to Campo Manin. It dates back to 1499 and is so special because of its very fine and original winding staircase. It shows many arcades and a parapet with little columns that follow the line of the staircase. George stayed below and I climbed steps (forgot how many) and took pictures from there. Splendid views of Venice from the top.
We went to Rialto and watched tremendous traffic there on grand Canal - ambulance, post boats, gondolas, transportation boats , even furniture movers. Incredible. That area of Rialto also was crowded with people. We spent about 30 min in internet cafe and walked towards Canareggio. We decided to take quick snack - pizza or something and have early dinner since we were not very hungry and we also had few gelatos on the way. Of course we could not agree on pizza place! We also were moving towards Canareggio to see ghetto. Some of the area there was very quiet, which we would otherwise liked but when you want something to eat.. We finally found a small restaurant with sitting outside and wanted to share one pizza since they would not sell by a slice. But they said no sharing, if we want to share, we can eat inside. We were upset but still ate there. Pizza was good but no relaxed surroundings. The place I think was called restaurant Vezuvius. Fortified, we went to ghetto and bought some glass figurines in David's shop. We bought last time some figurines of Jews and some broke. We bought more. David said if broken, we can ship to him and they will fix it. Or we can order anything else we want by mail. Their prices are actually much better then for the same figures in other stores.
We came back to San Marco, went to the Cathedral, spent some time there. Then we had early dinner in one of the small restaurant behind piazza. It was Ok but nothing spectacular. Rest after dinner and second trip to San Marco in the evening to listen at another cafe. That cafe had more like performance than classical concert but it was lovely. Went to bed.
Last day in Venice was spent in the morning by visiting Palazzo Ducale and then shopping for souvenirs. Next morning, we had early flight at 6:50am therefore we ordered water taxi for 4:30 and requested wakeup call at 4:00 . Yuk!
We walked to Rialto, passed market and did some shopping. We bought a lovely leather jacket in some of the stores north of Rialto. These are not touristy shops but rather good quality stores where Italians shop. This is third time I am bringing good leather from Italy and it wears well. Good staff.
We tried to have an early dinner in a nice restaurant but most serious restaurants with waterfront dining start only at 7:30pm. After trying Cipriani, Europa and Regina and Bauer, we gave up. All of them were closed at 5-6pm. We walked to Al Gondolieri near our hotel which is a nice unpretentious restaurant by canal. When we found it, I recognized it - we ate there on our previous visit with our teenager and it was fun to watch gondolas coming and going. So we were happy we found it, food was so far the best during these 3 days in Venice. It was open at 6:30pm so we had a lovely dinner. We noticed that majority diners were Americans, many with young adult children or teenage children. Probably beacuse of early opening hours. We watched gondolas. One party chartered few gondolas and ordered musician and singer! The concert floated by. It was great time spent.
That's it, next morning we got our water taxi and went to airport. For someone who is contemplating logistics - either to get transfer all the way to airport or only water taxi, I recommend - hire both water taxi and assistance to the terminal. We paid 95 eur to water taxi guy. Then we thought we will get a free shuttle to the terminal, so we had again to find shuttle stop (dragged luggage again) and the stop sign had info that next shuttle will be in 30 mins, it was 5am. We finally gave in to the guy who was offering us a transfer for whooping 15 eur but after that, we did not have to touch our luggage again until check-in! We also gave few euro to next porter who took our luggage from shuttle to the check-in counter but at least he loaded all our luggage to the check-in counter and knew where to go.
That concluded our 2005 European trip to Dublin, Riviera, cruise and Venice.
I cannot even tell what was the highlight since we loved most of it. It might be too many things to squeeze in 12 days, but we have so good memories.
Seadream ship was definetely highlight. I am not sure how I will get used to other cruise lines after that. Definitely not huge mega ships hearding 3000 customers!
Best islands/cities - Bonifacio and Capri. Of course Venice was very romantic. Best food - Seadream (but usually we love local restaurants).