Cruise line organized Venice water bus transfer - what is it?

"There are two types of cruise line organized Venice water bus shuttles that take Mediterranean cruise passengers to two different points in Venice"

What is a cruise line organised Venice water bus?

ACTVStopThis is a typical ACTV water bus stop on the Grand Canal

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!

Where do cruise line organised Venice water bus shuttles depart from?

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!

MargheraLuggagePassing through Marghera 'cruise terminal' tent

What are the two types of Venice water buses/shuttle buses offered by cruiselines?

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:

  1. Cruise line organised shore-excursions (also use water buses)
  2. Cruise line organised shuttle boat to Venice (From Marghera port straight to St.Marks's square, i.e. a dock very near the square). It is a convenient but quite expensive service: on MSC ship they charged 48,00 € per person round trip. The boats had a few departure times in the morning and a few return times in the afternoon. 
  3. Cruise line organised land bus/water bus to Stazione Marittima - as Marghera dock is quite displaced from historical Venice, and it does not offer the option of catching public transport nearby (actually, you can't even walk to the port exit), the cruise line will shuttle you to the old Stazione Marittima cruise terminal building for free. Actually, Stazione Marittima is the place where all the check-in/embarkation/disembarkation/customs procedures are still taking place. 

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.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of taking either one?

  1. Cruise line organised shuttle boat to Venice (From Marghera port straight to St.Marks's square, i.e. a dock very near the square):
  • The best part of this service is that it saves you time: first of all, passengers using this service will, just like other paid-for shore excursions users, have priority when getting off the ship once it's cleared in the morning. Boats will leave quite early to maximize your stay in central Venice. 
  • From the drop off point there is just a few minutes walk to Piazza San Marco, the place you want to be if this is your first visit to the city of Venice
  • You can book one of the Venice walking tours that have meeting point in central Venice because you know you won't get lost along the way to Piazza San Marco. 

Here's a few good ones that have a great price/review ratio:

  1. Cruise line organised land bus/water bus to Stazione Marittima:
  • This service can save you some money: if you decide to walk all the way into Venice you will pay 0,00 € (do it only if you have a very long day or an overnight in Venice)
  • On other ways of getting from Stazione Marittima into central Venice via Piazzale Roma (People Mover, vaporettos, water taxis, shore excursions) you can read in my article The port of Venice.
  • All of them involve getting from Stazione Marittima to Piazzale Roma first, and only then from Piazzale Roma to Piazza San Marco - this is a disadvantage because it is a bit time consuming
  • If you don't have time to read yet another article and want to plan your day ASAP using the quickest and best value for money transport options, here's one - a private water taxi that takes you to San Marco from Piazzale Roma:

And then there are only a few shore excursions that will take you from Stazione Marittima cruise port into Venice: 

Can you catch a public water bus in the port of Marghera?

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.

Can you catch a public water bus in the Stazione Marittima port ?

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.

AlilagunaLineaBluThe advertisement is still there but the line is not operational anymore

What is the closest point to catch a public water bus/vaporetto to my cruise ship?

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.



From VENICE WATER BUS to Mediterranean cruise ports easy

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