A Cruise and Tour
September – October, 2021
This was a trip delayed by a year because of the Corona-19 virus. We had arranged everything for this trip back in 2020, but Italy and much of the world shut down instead. As with our original plan, this would be a combination of a 10 day cruise followed by a 10 day land tour. September seemed a good time of year to do this trip: after the peak travel time of summer, but before the weather turned cold. It turned out to be good timing from the COVID-19 point of view also as our cruise and tour was one of the first to actually operate somewhat normally. We were to be told this multiple times during the trip.
The flight was a little late leaving, but we were excited.
Finding a cruise and tour that matched up reasonably well was a challenge: we had cruise credits from Windstar and tour credits from Collette from the cancelled 2020 trip, so we were pretty well limited to those companies, which were our preference anyway. The choice of a cruise was pretty easy as there were very few to choose from within the dates we had and that covered parts of Italy. Then the challenge was finding a tour for which the beginning matched up with the end of the cruise (for both date and location), or the end of the tour matched the beginning of the cruise. I initially choose a Collette tour that started a day after we arrived in Rome, which would give us an extra day in Rome to relax. Apparently that tour didn’t get enough people signing up for it so Collette “withdrew” that tour about 4 months before the trip was to start. The tour that I had to finally settle on actually started the evening before our ship arrived in Rome so we would be getting off the ship about the time that the tour would be leaving the hotel for the day. But, more about this in the section about the tour.
We made the flight reservations through Collette as this would provide us with several of the transfers needed during out trip. I booked Delta’s Comfort+ and kept an eye on the upgrade opportunities in the weeks before the trip. About two weeks before departure, Delta offered their Business Class “Delta One” seats on the flight to Venice at a decent cost, so I grabbed those. Unfortunately, the good seats on the return flights were never put on sale, so we flew those in Comfort+.
Almost to Venice, according to aircraft map
The flight to Venice, the starting point of our cruise, was a nonstop from Atlanta to Venice, which was very nice. The Delta One seats are about as comfortable as airline seats can be, although I still find them to be about one inch too short for my 6’1” frame. Susan managed to sleep very well. The aircraft apparently had some minor mechanical issue that caused us to depart about an hour late and we arrived in Venice about 45 minutes late but this did not really cause any problem.
There were no direct flights out of Milan, the termination point of our tour, so we flew from Milan to JFK airport in New York and then from JFK to Atlanta. We had a little over three hours layover in JFK which provided plenty of time to clear customs and immigration, recheck our bags, find the departure gate, and have plenty of time to read some. Both flights were on time or slightly early and reasonably comfortable.
In addition to delaying our trip by a year, COVID-19 had multiple other impacts on our cruise and tour. In order to enter Italy initially, we had to have a negative COVID test within 3 days of arrival in Italy. We got this test at a CVS store. We also had to fill out EU online health and destination forms describing where we would be on our travels. We also had additional tests prior to boarding the Wind Surf ship, prior to reentering Italy at the end of the cruise, and prior to flying home. We were reminded many times, during both the cruise and tour, to always take our CDC vaccination cards and copies of our passports (for identification) with us whenever leaving the ship or hotel. Of course, in all the excursions and activities we participated in, we were only asked to show the vaccination cards twice and then it as only examined superficially.
Practically any time when we had a local guide for a tour or excursion, the guide mentioned that this was the first such tour they had given in a a year and a half. We were one of the very first cruise ships to visit the ports and one of the first land tours to visit the various cities. The guides and all of the hospitality workers we talked to were very glad to see us!
Classsic photo of Gondolas: but they were idle.
Because the combination of the cruise and tour would be a very long report and not everyone is interested in both pieces, this report will be in two sections: one for the Windstar cruise and one for the Collette tour. We did have about a day in Venice before starting the cruise so I’ll cover that as part of the cruise for simplicity. You can click on the links below to take you to each activity.
I will point out here that, despite the above rambling introduction, this report will be a very “photo intensive” report, with more photos and less verbiage than usual for my reports. I hope my photos will be more enjoyable than my “rambles”.
It was a good trip: both the cruise and the tour. The two parts were different and each mode of traveling has its advantages. While the land tour allows you to see places not close to the coast, it does require you pack up and move about every two days and also means you spend a lot of time in a bus seat. Cruising, of course, limits the places you can visit to those within an hour or so drive from the port, but you stay in the same “hotel” the whole time.
The people we met on both the cruise and tour were friendly and the local people were uniformly very happy to see us since there had been essentially no tourists for the past year and a half. All the people on the ship were very good and helpful and Massimo did an excellent job of managing the tour. And if any Italian Tour Guide certification official is reading this, Massimo just took interesting walks around the cities, he did not “guide” us… really, he didn’t.
If you enjoyed reading this trip report, please let me know, I’d love to hear from you. If you noticed any errors or have suggestions on how to make future reports better, I’d really love to hear from you.