After the great tour through the Greek islands of Corfu, Mykonos and Santorini, in the first chapter of this Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, we set sail to the Croatian coast, particularly towards Dubrovnik. To be honest, our knowledge about Croatia was sparse, neither we had precise expectations, only the positive comments of people who had visited the country.

DUBROVNIK

Dubrovnik is a city of southern Croatia, with a valuable old town declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, due to its particular beauty, and the nickname of “Pearl of the Adriatic”. The old town, fully fortified, is pedestrian and consists of a long cobblestone street that leads to the port, called Stradun, and a large number of perpendicular streets of extreme narrowness and charm, which delights the curiosity of the numerous visitors.

It is known, too, for being used, given the rich history of it´s streets, as a location for the TV hit series “Game of Thrones“.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Getting Around Dubrovnik

It is quite easy to get around the city, both inside and outside the walls. Once docked at the port, and, when visiting without a contracted tour, you can take a taxi for about 15 euros or, for just over 1 Euro, use the public bus, which is also fast and efficient. The bus stop is located behind the port, about 200 meters from the boat. Few people know this way of getting to the historic center, so don´t expect long queues for buying the ticket at the box office or getting on the bus.

The only thing to bear in mind is that you pay the ticket in the country’s currency, the kuna, although this is not a problem, as there is a currency exchange office adjacent to the bus ticket service. Our recommendation in this regard is that you change only what you need for the bus, as inside the fort it is possible to pay in euros or by credit card. Also, if you have spare kunas that you want to change back to euros, you will have to go back to the same exchange office, on your return, because your cruise boat may not offer this service (as in our case).

Recommended Visits in Dubrovnik

The bus drops you off at the Pile Gate, the entrance to the fort. Once there, you are free to move around by yourself. The walls can be walked over, prior purchase of the entrance, which is at the end of the main street, past the Church of St. Blasius and before reaching the old port of Dubrovnik.

However, we recommend moving through the streets firstly, enjoying its small shops and monuments, such as Orlando’s Column, the Franciscan monastery, the Large Onofrio´s Fountain, the Rector’s Palace -considered one of the most beautiful of Dubrovnik-, The Clock Tower or the Serbian Orthodox Church, among the more than 48 existing points of interest within the fort. Then, after doing this tour, you may want to walk up the wall and enjoy the wonderful views of the old Croatian city from above.

For those who are not afraid of heights, it is very interesting to take the cable car up to the viewpoint, located at a height of 405 meters above the sea level. Each cabin fits approximately 30 people and it is fully glazed (except ground), so the ride is attractive from the very beginning.

The views of the walled city, with the distinctive orange roofs, surrounded by the sea and fishing boats, are truly spectacular. Reaching the cable car is very simple, you can reach it by following the indications, around 10 minutes walking from the port. If you are interested in this activity we suggest that you don´t leave it for the end of the visit. We did it in the middle, just after walking inside the fort and before getting on the wall, and we did not suffered any queue. On the contrary, the story was different when we went back down, with many people waiting for their turn. 

Once walking around the wall, and delighted by the visit -though a little tired, especially for the last part on the wall, which is suitable for all audiences, except for the physically disabled-, we took the bus back to the port, from Pile Gate, on the opposite side of the street, to sail back to what would be our final destination, the beautiful Venice.

VENICE

Capital of the Veneto region and popularly known as “the city of canals” or “La Serenissima”, by Italians, Venice is located northeast of Italy and its historic center, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is based on the conglomerate of the largest islands on the Venetian lagoon, in the northern Adriatic Sea.

Venice, Italy

Getting Around Venice

The city is built on 118 small islands linked by 455 bridges, including the popular islands of Murano and Burano. The composition is characteristic of this place, being totally pedestrian and depending on the waterways to get around the city, through its canals.

From the port of Venice, where the cruise ships dock, there are two possibilities of travelling (always without contracted excursions): taxi or public transportation. We do not know the average cost of taxis for the land trip required to reach Piazzale Roma, which is like the central station of vaporettos (what would be like our bus services, but on the water), but we assume that the price must be high, as Venice is an expensive city. We decided to take an elevated metro, for just over 1 euro and a half per person, which took us directly to the Piazzale Roma.

When you arrive to the central vaporetto station, the rest is simple, you just go to the box office and buy the tickets. Our advice is to buy a voucher for the day, which costs 20 euros and allows you to move as many times as you want in this transport.

Recommended Visits in Venice

We could say that everything in Venice is worth a visit, but when the tour is reduced to a few hours, as in this case, you have to try to adjust yourself to the time as much as possible, in order to see the highlights. We were advised by our dinner partners at the cruise, which had visited the city in the past, to visit Murano and Burano. Unfortunately, because of the short time we had to choose one of the two, and that was Murano.

Venice, Italy

As many of you probably know, Murano is famous for its excellent works on glass. Adopting the name from the island, Murano glass is known worldwide for its high quality and high price. We got there on a vaporetto directly from Piazzale Roma, and it took us around 20 minutes. Once there, we walked across the main street, full of shops on both sides of the canal, where they exhibit and sell their finest creations to the tourists.

Figures, lamps, necklaces and earrings are some of the pieces on display in their windows. Hopefully, some wily Venetian vendor may offer you the opportunity to visit one of the factories of Murano glass and enjoy the creative process, before buying some souvenir. This was not our case, because of the time, but other people had the opportunity to visit some.

After our visit, we headed to the famous Piazza San Marco, urban and historical center of the city. It was fully crowded by visitors looking to ride on a gondola, for 15 minutes, at the excessive price of 80 euros, take the lift up the famous St. Mark´s Campanile, to enjoy the privileged views of Venice (thanks to its nearly 100 meters of height), visit the Ducal Palace, also in the same square, and, of course, enter into the majestic Basilica of San Marco. Thus, it is necessary to be patient, put your hat on and have a bottle of cold water on hand (between June and September), if you want to survive the endless queues that access each of these landmarks.

However, we must say the effort is worthwhile and none of the mentioned places leaves you unmoved. We take the opportunity, after an unpleasant experience with one of them, and observing the behaviour of others with the tourists, to suggest a more kind and respectful treatment by the gondoliers, as 80 Euros for 15 minutes of service is an amount high enough to strive to give, at least, an experience of the highest quality.

Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
Part 2: Dubrovnik & Venice

Text © Alicia Jiménez + Photos © Nano Calvo

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