Posted on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 by Peter Knego
In this restored Sea Treks blog, originally posted in 2007, Peter Knego embarks Princess Cruises then-brand-new EMERALD PRINCESS for a twelve night voyage from Venice to Barcelona.
All Photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2007, unless otherwise noted.
Thursday, May 17, 2007:
It’s well past midnight. My fingers are skittling all over the keyboard as I fight the impulse to fall asleep. I am in Cabin D205, a plush mini-suite, aboard Princess Cruises newest palace of comfort and luxury, the EMERALD PRINCESS. My friend, Doug, who is blessed with the gift of “anytime, anywhere” sleep, is snoring steadily. Beyond our spacious verandah, the lights of Venice have mostly been extinguished. Even St. Mark’s permeating glow has faded into the moonless sky.
This latest journey began yesterday in Los Angeles, where Doug and I met in the early morning to catch our flights to Venice, via Amsterdam. KLM is a lovely airline with high standards of service but its coach seating arrangement is medieval — rows of three mean there are no really good seats for two people traveling together and the leg room situation is a borderline case for Amnesty International.
As the plane finally made its descent to Marco Polo Airport, we were treated to a panoramic view of the Venetian lagoon. In the midst of the red-tiled roofs and campaniles, we caught our first look at the sparkling EMERALD PRINCESS, which dwarfed the Maritime Station and all the monuments in her vicinity. Although our spirits were high, a total of fourteen hours commuting left our six-foot-three frames vastly crumpled.
Once we retrieved our luggage, a Princess representative sent it onward to the ship and led us to a coach for the twenty five minute ride to the terminal, which included a fleeting view of Cunard’s newbuilding QUEEN VICTORIA’s pipe-topped funnel at the Marghera Yard of Fincantieri.
Check-in was well organized and speedy, especially considering all the passengers that were being processed. We were given our cruise ID cards and assigned a boarding group number, which came up quickly. After the security photo was taken at the gangway, we entered on Deck Four and climbed five flights to our level. On the forward, starboard side of Deck Nine, our mini-suite has a separate sitting area, a wide verandah, bathroom with tub, and a walk in closet. There is a mini-bar station with two flat screen televisions, a writing desk and a coffee table.
Princess has some of the best buffet offerings on the seven seas and our subsequent Horizon Court lunch did not disappoint with its selection of paninis, roast turkey, various pastas, a delicious chicken teriyaki, a salad bar with a wide variety of vegetables (dressed with a generous supply of coveted balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and mounds of parmesan).
There was a convenient water shuttle service directly to St. Mark’s, with departures from the terminal (just off the ship’s bow) every twelve minutes during peak hours. Vouchers are in the stateroom upon boarding and a $15 charge is added to the passenger’s account when they are used.
The water taxi/vaporetto ride is about fifteen minutes, sailing past the enormous ship, into the Canale Giudecca, and along the colorful Venetian waterfront to St. Mark’s. Once there, we were surprised to find congestion at a minimum and walked past the soaring campanille, the ornate Baptistry and Doge’s Palace along the waterfront to Riva Setti Martiri. A most pleasant find was the gorgeous yacht MARALA, with her single buff amidships funnel and classic proportions resembling a scaled-down version of Elder Dempster Line’s late RMMV AUREOL.
Venice could not have been more enchanting. On previous visits, I was overwhelmed by the hordes of tourists and somewhat inclement weather (ranging from an all day downpour to sweltering humidity). Today, the skies were mostly clear, the humidity was low, and the crowds were manageable.
We enjoyed getting lost in the maze of canals and cobblestone streets in the outer portions of the old city. One of my favorite monuments is the Forte Fronte at the Arsenale, with its oversized lion statues and shaded piazza. We stopped here for an iced tea and my cappuccino fix before heading back to the water taxi station and the ship.
Our night excursion to Doge’s Palace was cancelled due to a private function, so we were able to attend the media get-together in Sabatini’s, the ship’s extra tariff ($20) Italian eatery. I lost count of the appetizers, which ranged from prosciutto and melon to marinated sun dried tomatoes and breaded zucchini. My main course was a phenomenal Chilean sea bass, served by the Romanian “dream team” of Sebastian and Peter. Wiser minds would have avoided the caffeine-rich espresso creme brulée, but I didn’t have the discipline, which is why I am not enjoying that much-needed sleep.
End of EMERALD PRINCESS Re-Trekked, Part One
Special thanks: Julie Benson, Karen Candy, Martin Cox, Bianca Le Moeul, Doug Satterblom