If you ever decide that the stress and effort of flying is just too commercial and looks into alternative ways of getting to Italy, do not, if you value your sleep, time or mental health, take the boat to Venice. While the magnificent city itself might have relied on the sea vessels for trade, tourism and other such things, it certainly does not need the massive cruise ships which cut through it, and tower taller than the city could ever hope to be. Interestingly enough, the BBC have recently been talking about this dilemma and even covered a local protest that went on against them.
Understand, we are not talking about a five star cruise boat with waiters in crisp white uniforms and a pool bar on the top deck. This is a cheap method of getting from one part of the continent to the next. If you do happen to find yourself on one of these magnificent works of engineering, here are a few survival tips:
1) Get a cabin. Sounds simple but to the backpacking, inter-railing, baggy-trouser-wearing hitchhikers, a simpler, cheaper option is to camp out on the main deck(and really any other bit of floor space). As you side step and hop over bundled up bodies, you will soon learn to appreciate the itchy prison blanket back at your cabin. As others sleep on anything from blow up mattress’, to lilos and even a small tent, you will certainly value your cramped hot bunk bed. Privacy may cost an extra €100 but it saves you bunking down in the “discotech”.
2) Bring plenty of entertainment. Ipods are essential to block out the crying of the baby in the next door cabin who does not like the constant vibrations of the engine(don’t worry, they are easy enough to tune out, until it comes time to sleep) Cards are however, the best option. Take the opportunity of being stuck on a moving tin can to learn those card games you always wanted to, and bond with family members as you do so. And who says it has to be with your own family?
3) Destination. In essence however, all of this is quite bearable if the place you step off at the end is extraordinary. With Venice as the destination, you can survive the plastic food, the prison blankets, the constant feeling that you are on a refugee barge. As you arrive, you are welcomed by a fantastic, highly photographic angle of the city. When you step off the gang plank, into those unique waterways, knowing many new card games and speaking more german than when you started, you will look back at your time on the sea as a grand adventure and feel like any 18th century Grand Tour personality.
While the important debate about whether these massive ships should be allowed down the Venice lagoon continues, the experience itself is perhaps, not all that bad.