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Part of the joy of traveling to Venice is the beauty of the Lagoon. But, navigating your way into the heart of Venice takes a little know-how.

If you arrive by plane into Venice, it's important to know that Marco Polo Airport is in Mestre. Mestre is part of the mainland and is about 6 miles north of Venice.

From the terminal it's a short taxi ride or a 10-minute walk to the dock where public and private boats depart for the historic center of Venice. There is regular ferry service from early morning until late at night and it takes about an hour to reach the landing area near Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square). Another option is to travel by motoscafo (water taxi), which also leaves from the same dock. These boats normally hold up to 4 people and 4 pieces of luggage. These are modern power boats that take about 25 minutes to reach the city center. Since each additional person, bag and stop costs extra, it is very important to agree on what the cost will be before you board.

Many people do not realize that there is also bus service available as a way to reach Venice. The blue buses will take you fairly quickly (about 20 minutes) and inexpensively to the Piazzale Roma. From the Piazzale Roma, you can then board a vaporetto (water bus) to the landing nearest to your hotel. More specific information on buses and schedules can be found at www.atvo.it.

If you arrive by train into Venice, it is important to know that there are actually two train stations servicing Venice. The closest and most convenient is Stazione Ferroviaria Santa Lucia. Santa Lucia station sits adjacent to the Piazzale Roma and is the most convenient arrival point if coming in by train. Once you are at the Piazzale Roma, you can then board a vaporetto (water bus) to the landing nearest to your hotel. Stazione Ferroviaria Venezio-Mestre is located on the mainland about 7 miles outside of the city.

For the locals and for most travelers visiting Venice, the most convenient was to glide through the lagoon is by vaporetto (water bus). These vaporetti operate several routes throughout both Venice and the outer islands of the lagoon. Landing areas are clearly marked with the name and line number, but always ask before boarding to make sure the boat is going in your direction. There are a number of travel cards available that offer unlimited travel for a set period of time or you can buy individual tickets. This is a great way to rub shoulders with the locals and glide through the beautiful waterways and canals of Venice.

And then, there are the gondolas. About 400 of these beautiful handmade boats still exist, sailing the waters of the Venetian Lagoon. There is no more magical way to see Venice than to glide through her canals with a gondolier at the helm. San Marco (St. Mark's) offers many gondola stations, but sometimes it is better to walk over to San Toma or Santa Sofia. It's important that you and the gondolier agree on the cost before you start, including not only the total cost but the length of the ride and where the gondola will go. Remember, the Grand Canal is grand, but the tiny side canals show you a side of Venice that few other visitors get to enjoy.

There IS an inexpensive way to jump on a gondola, if only for a few minutes. Most tourists are not aware of the two-man gondola ferries (called traghetto) that cross the Grand Canal at specified locations. They may not be as romantic as the longer rides, but they are definitely the cheapest gondola ride in Venice! It’s also the quickest and most practical way to cross from one side of the canal to the other and will save you a lot of walking. Just look for the Traghetto signs located up and down the Grand Canal and be ready to hand your fare to the gondolier when you board. As of this writing, the one-way fare is still less than a dollar.

Unless you are lucky enough to be staying at a hotel with a water door (so that you can be taken directly to the hotel's arrival platform) and can afford the means to get there, get ready for your arrival into Venice by wearing sturdy walking shoes that can handle cobbled streets and making sure that your luggage is also up to the journey, since you will most likely be wheeling it behind you for at least part of the distance. That’s part of the adventure when you arrive in Venice!


Choosing the Perfect Cruise Cabin

A cruise ship is both a floating hotel and your home away from home, so the cabin type you select is an important part of ensuring that your cruise holiday will feel perfect. Everyone has different priorities and there are many options when it comes to selecting the perfect cabin for you.

There are four basic cabin types to choose from when you cruise. Here are the main cabin types available on most cruise ships:

Interior Cabins (commonly referred to as Inside Cabins):
Inside cabins are usually the least expensive staterooms on a ship. They are located on the interior of the ship and have no windows. Most cruise lines install a mirror or drapes to make the rooms feel less confining; Disney’s newest ship will actually have ‘virtual’ windows to give passengers the sense that they are not in an interior stateroom. Who chooses this cabin type? Those who are very budget conscious. Parents often put their older children in an inside stateroom across from their own oceanview or balcony cabin. Travelers who are rarely in their room or who do not enjoy spending time in their cabin also select this type. But remember, when you are in a destination like Alaska, the view is the reason you’re there. Also, the length of the cruise may be a factor. On a shorter cruise one may not spend as much time in a cabin. However, on a longer cruise selecting a cabin with a window or a balcony may be more important. So, take a look at where and how long you will be traveling and think about how important the views will be to your overall cruise experience.

Oceanview Cabins (commonly referred to as Outside cabins):
This refers to the minimum cabin that provides a window or port hole to the outside. Often, the windows are not large but they do provide natural light and views that you don’t have with interior cabins.

Balcony Cabins:
Balcony cabins provide sliding glass doors onto terraces, allowing for extraordinary (and private) ocean or destination views. You can relax on you balcony in the morning with a cup of coffee and enjoy the views. On sea days you can get comfortable with your favorite book. In the evenings enjoy a glass of wine on your balcony as you get ready for dinner.

Suites:
Suites are next as you go up in category and price. Suites almost always include balconies or verandahs and some even have separate sleeping areas or private bedrooms and larger bathrooms (often with a tub and/or separate shower) as well as larger closet space. The décor becomes more opulent and additional amenities are often included – all the way up to your own butler!

Guaranteed Staterooms:
A guaranteed cabin really applies more to a rate than to a stateroom. If you are offered a guarantee rate for a ship and sail date, you are really taking an option on a category of cabins rather than a specific cabin. In most cases, your cabin number is assigned at some point prior to departure, although there are instances where a cruise line may opt to wait until you board to assign your cabin.

Why select this option? The main reason is price. A guarantee stateroom is less expensive to book than a confirmed cabin assignment. However, there is a catch. A guarantee stateroom can be assigned in any part of the ship. Guaranteed cabins may have an obstructed view (in other words, part of the view may be hidden by a lifeboat or other obstacle), may be on a lower floor or a higher floor, or in the very front or very back of the ship. So why would you ever consider booking a guarantee? Because cabin guarantees may also be upgraded at the discretion of the cruise line. So, depending on how full a sailing is, you might find yourself paying for a cabin with a porthole and finding yourself in a balcony cabin – a cabin that would have been considerably more expensive if you had selected that cabin initially. The bottom line is that a guarantee rate is great for someone who really does not care where they are placed on the ship. You should not select a guarantee cabin if your cabin location is critical to you, if you are traveling with others that you need to be close to, if you need to be near an elevator or have other specific requirements. In any of these cases you should opt to pay a little bit more and select the stateroom you really want.

All cabins have full bathrooms with a shower, toilet and sink.. Some cabins even have a bathtub in the higher categories. Other features include a television, in-room safes and a blow dryer on most ships. Some cabins also include a refrigerator.

Selecting the right cabin is a personal decision based on a number of factors including price, cabin size, cabin location, cabin amenities and the itinerary. Do your research before selecting a cabin. Look at the deck plans for your particular ship. Read the descriptions and look at the cabin sizes, locations, amenities, features and prices. Considering all of these factors will help you to choose the right accommodations. Also, the advice of a cruise specialist to help you to understand all of your options can be invaluable.