"There are two types of cruise line organized Venice water bus shuttles that take Mediterranean cruise passengers to two different points in Venice"
A Venice water bus (a regular one), also known as a "vaporetto," is a type of public transportation boat used in the city of Venice, Italy. It's a waterborne vehicle that serves as a form of public transit, similar to buses or subways in other cities, but adapted for the unique canal-based transportation system of Venice.
Water buses are essential for getting around Venice, as the city is built on a network of canals with limited roadways. They provide a practical and scenic mode of transportation for both locals and tourists.
In Venice, the primary provider of waterbus (vaporetto) services is ACTV - they offer various lines that cover different routes throughout the city and its lagoon.
But you will also see water buses belonging to Alilaguna - a company that operates water transport services between Marco Polo Airport, Troncheto parking and many stops in the city center that offer travellers a convenient way of reaching their destinations. In other words - they cater to travellers more than ACTV which are just regular commute buses that happen to be on water.
But we are not primarily goint to talk about these two public means of transport in Venice (except at the very end of this article).
We are going to talk about the water buses your cruise line rents to transfer their passengers from the ship to different locations (depending whether you want to pay for this service or not).
Keep reading for the explanation!
At the moment, cruise lines that still dock in Venice (many have moved their services to Ravena, Trieste etc.), use the dock at the Marghera industrial area.
As of 2022 cruise ships don't dock at Stazione Marittima cruise terminal anymore, following the Venice city ban of large cruise ships in the city.
Marghera cruise port isn't really a port - it is just a dock inside a large industrial area (many containers around) and an impromptu tent 'cruise building'.
But this is where you will catch cruise line organised Venice water bus shuttles!
In summer of 2023, on our last MSC cruise we were quite confused with the whole water bus/shuttle bus situation. When we asked about our tranport options at the excursions desk, they weren't very helpful but in the end we figured it out. There were three ways of reaching Venice from the port of Marghera:
They will shuttle you either using water buses or land buses.
From Stazione Marittima you will find your own way into Venice via Piazzale Roma square and you can read all about that in my article The port of Venice.
Although free, for this service most cruise lines will distribute tickets so as to be able to control traffic. Ask about how to get hold of your ticket once you get onboard.
Here's a few good ones that have a great price/review ratio:
And then there are only a few shore excursions that will take you from Stazione Marittima cruise port into Venice:
No, you can't. Public transport companies don't have access to the industrial area of Marghera. They don't have stops at it's exit either, and you are not allowed to walk through this industrial area to it's exit anyway.
It used to be possible. Alilaguna company used to have a stop here inside the Stazione Marittima, it was the so-called Blu Line that connected the airport with the square of San Marco. Since cruise ships changed it's dock to Marghera or other towns in the area Alilaguna moved the stop to the car park in Tronchetto.
Public transport point closest to Stazione Marittima is Piazzale Roma square which is where Grand Canal starts. That is where you will start your ride to Piazza San Marco.
There are two vaporetto stops nearby: Piazzale Roma in the square and Ferrovia across the Calatrava bridge, in front of the Santa Lucia train station.