What to see when docked in Genoa

Genoa Italy

While never identified as a famous port like Rome, Naples or Venice; Genoa can certainly compete on many fronts. It is a highly rewarding destination, providing cruise holidaymakers with many things to see and do.


The port of Genoa, Stazione Maritima, serves container and cruise ships. It is a large harbour and can accommodate several ships on the same date and time. Stazione Maritima is the home port for MSC cruise ships but other major cruise lines have ships that dock here too.

The cruise port has several transportation options for you to get about. It’s also possible to walk to the city centre in 15 minutes. Taxis are available right outside of the terminal. However, there is also a metro stop by the port at the Principe metro station that will take you to the city centre or the old port. The local buses N° 9, 11 or 32 have stops at the port as well.

MSC Poesia and MSC Fantasia in Genoa

Image courtesy of MSC Cruises


There are many attractions to fill up your day in Genoa.

One of the things that the inhabitants of Genoa are most proud of is their ‘native son’. They call their city the ‘Land of Columbus’ since explorer Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 and raised here. The house is tucked away outside the city gates.

Genoa is Italy’s sixth largest city. However, the historic centre is compact and an easy walk. A good place to start once disembarking is the Porto Antico (the old harbour).

Acquario di Genova (aquarium) is conveniently located here. It was built specifically for Expo 92 and holds the title as the second largest aquarium in Europe. A biosphere known as “La Bolla” is a modernistic glass ball utilized as a conservatory for plants, as well as birds and insects.

Acquario di Genova

In its old town, it’s easy to be transported back to the Middle Ages, with the hilltop castle, the cathedrals and the narrow cobblestone alleyways. Medieval, Roman and Venetian architecture can be seen everywhere.

The San Lorenzo Cathedral or “Duomo” is Genoa’s oldest cathedral and dates back to the 5th or 6th centuries. This historical building has a black and white striped marble facade interior with Moorish influence. During the WW1, the cathedral was one of the few buildings that withstood attack without any damage. A British battleship fired a shell into it but it never exploded. The fuse and the shell are still intact and are visible in a corner of the nave.

A different fate bestowed the 19th century Teatro Carlo Felice (Opera House) located on Piazza de Ferrari, the city’s main square. During WW2, the building was severely damaged during the bombing raids throughout the city. The Opera House was restructured to its former glory and reopened in 1991 serving as a house of culture for ballet, opera and concerts.

The symbol of the city of Genoa is its Museo Laterna, a lighthouse dating back to medieval times. The lighthouse’s property houses an enormous museum which contains several artefacts related to Genoa’s vast history. The observation deck boasts a wonderful view.

Located on Via Garibaldi, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was the home of the aristocracy. Today, it serves as a “museum street”, consisting of Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi.

  • The Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) museum contains much of its original 17th Century furniture and impressive frescoes as well as a prestigious art gallery.
  • Palazzo Bianco (White Palace) houses the city’s premier art gallery.
  • Palazzo Tursi serves as home to Genoa’s city council but also plays hosts to several cultural events and art exhibitions.

After sightseeing, passengers find that shopping in the small shops in the old town is a perfect end to the day before heading back to the ship. Originating in Genoa is the much loved Pesto sauce with many shops selling it freshly sealed in a jar.


Genoa serves as port to tour other areas such as the very picturesque Portofino on the Italian Riviera. On the Flower Riviera, another alternative is the Renaissance town of Savona.

The village, Portovenere is a picture perfect UNESCO World Heritage Site and belongs to the Cinque Terre. This is a collective name, meaning 5 lands for five picturesque villages located in a National Park along the Ligurian coast.


To visit any of these places outside of Genoa, arrange for a tour excursion from the ship’s tour desk or venture on your own via train from Genoa or by taxi.


Most cruise vessels call on Genoa from April to October. The exception is MSC, who have a ship in this charming home port year round.


The following cruise lines offer itineraries that include Genoa:

  • Carnival
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Costa Cruises
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Holland America Line
  • MSC Cruises
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Princess Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean International

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What to see in Portofino


Portofino is a charming coastal village in Italy that portrays a feeling of romance and luxury. It is a very popular destination, particularly for those who arrive in enormous and opulent yachts and of course cruise ships. The region has been a playground for the rich and famous since the 19th century. Sir Rex Harrison visited Portofino for his holidays and loved it so much he built a villa, named San Genesio after the patron saint of actors.


With its fantastic location on the Mediterranean, the summers are dry and warm with temperatures hovering around 30°C. For the winter months the temperature rarely goes lower than 10°C.


The harbour of Portofino is small and shallow. It is a typical marina and fishing port. Cruise ships cannot dock in port and instead will drop anchor in the bay. Reaching the shore is done via a tender boat. It is a brief walk from the port to the centre of Portofino. The town is highly favoured by hikers as there are many well-kept footpaths that lead to every area in the town.


Abbazia di San Fruttuoso

Constructed by Benedictine monks, the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso is a medieval era stronghold that fiercely protected the small fishing village. It can be reached via a 20-minute boat ride. Today, the abbey is a popular attraction and holds many art and history exhibitions. The abbey also contains the tombs of the Doria Pamphilj family, a prominent family of nobles that resided in Portofino some centuries ago.

San Fruttuoso Portofino

Castello Brown

For those with a deep passion for history, the best place to head to is Castello Brown. It sits towering above Portofino’s harbour. The castle was restored in the 16th century and has maintained its original appearance. Visitors are greeted with an enormous array of medieval relics once inside.

Castello Brown Portofino

Museo del Parco

On the hillside above the port, the museum is an open-air sculpture park that sits amongst stunningly beautiful gardens filled to the brim with a variety of flora. It houses the largest collections of outdoor Italian monumental sculptures by more than 100 contemporary artists. The grounds were commissioned by a Baron and it was initially part of the Castle located above it.

Punta Portofino Lighthouse

If seeking that perfect photo opportunity, the Punta Portofino lighthouse is yet another good choice. The lighthouse can be reached by a 15-minute walk from the port. The views from here are truly memorable.

Punta Portofino Lighthouse - Image courtesy of flickr user Aloa

Taking in the sun

Since Portofino has a lot more sun than rain, spend some time at Paraggi Beach. This contains a small sliver of sand that is located just outside of the town. Many locals come here in the summertime to cool down in its crystal waters. There is also a nearby cove to explore that is teeming with aquatic life.

Other things to note

See one of the most impressive views with the number 82 local bus running along narrow coastal roads towards Santa Margherita Ligure.

St. George’s Day is one of the most popular holidays in Portofino. It is celebrated in the San Giorgio church. The church is prominently located on a cliff overlooking the sea and within it are trinkets and relics from the Holy Land. Many historians claim that the objects were brought back during the Crusades.


Designer stores selling luxury clothes for example Gucci and Prada as well as local markets are popular places for cruise passengers to visit before they set off to the next port of call. There are also many vendors selling the town’s speciality of antiques and furniture.

On many Mediterranean cruise itineraries the ports of call in Italy tend to be Civitavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Pisa and Florence) and Naples. It is great to see that many cruise lines are making visits to the smaller ports too.

The following cruise lines visiting Portofino in 2015 include Hapag Lloyd, Oceania Cruises, P & O, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, SeaDream Yacht Club and Silversea.

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Decision in Venice

venice cruise ship ban

After years of going back and forth, Italy finally passed a law to ban some cruise ships from going through Venice. However, it should be no surprise as petitions by people concerned with the ecology, local residents and celebrities had secured enough awareness to overturn a previous decision.

Italy once again changed their decision regarding whether larger cruise ships will or will not be allowed into the famed city of Venice. Presently, arrival into Venice is a star attraction for cruise passengers and 650 cruise ships pass through the city each year.

Environmentalists asserted that irreversible damage to the Venetian lagoon’s ecosystem is caused by ships sailing through the city’s shores. There has been also been additional concerns are about potential damage to some of the iconic landmarks of the city. Cruise lines may now only pass 1000 feet away from the legendary St. Mark’s Square to provide a stunning view without upsetting the delicate balance of the water.

The About Turns

About2Cruise ran this story in November 2013. It reflected in turn about the directive being passed regarding cruise ships in Venice. Enrico Letta, the then-Prime Minister and the Italian legislation ordered a directive stating that ships weighing more than 96,000 tons would not be permitted to sail in the waters. It went further and determined that cruise lines with fleet members weighing in at 40,000 tons or over must be reduced by at least 20 percent.

However, in March 2014, those restrictions were rescinded following an appeal by the Venice Passenger Terminal Authority. Travel in Venice via a cruise was back in business. With the amount of ships continuing to make its way into the lagoon, the public outcry and celebrity involvement only made the government’s concern slightly more justifiable to have another look.

Celebrities such as Julie Christie, Cate Blanchett, Sir Michael Caine, Edward Norton, Susan Sarandon, Isabella Rossellini and Diane Lane petitioned against cruise ships from entering into the Venetian lagoon. Passing historic buildings such as St Mark’s Basilica by a cruise ship had to end and it appears they have finally won their battle.

“It seems to me to be a balanced solution which takes account of our duty to remove the skyscrapers of the sea from the canals of Venice, while safeguarding a world heritage city that is the envy of the world and protecting the city’s economy which is so linked to cruise tourism”, stated Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi when making the announcement.

The New Route is still in the Discussion Stage

No doubt this will take a large percentage out of the cruise industry’s influence in the region. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) vowed to keep the ships out of both the Giudecca Canal and Saint Mark’s basin. They added, ”We agree that a sustainable solution for Venice requires a new alternative route for ships and so we are pleased that the Italian government is working very hard to find a sustainable solution”.

The unknown route that ships will be forced to take in the coming months remains in the discussion stage. One proposal that sounds promising is to dig a new channel stretching three-miles and reaching Venice’s main shipping terminal, ‘Stazione Marittima’.

CLIA has urged the Italian government to be swift on this alternative route and begin dredging immediately. Any delay in construction could mean that some cruise lines will not be able to offer Venice as a port of call in 2015.

Most Ships wiil be Unaffected

Most ships are unaffected by tonnage restrictions and will continue to enter the lagoon. The ships that are mostly definably banned and in excess in weight include the Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Silhouette, Costa Fascinosa, Costa Magica, MSC Fantasia, MSC Preziosa, P&O Ventura and Regal Princess. Which ships over 40,000 tons that will be part of the 20% cut is anyone’s guess at this date?

However, there is a silver lining for certain members of the industry, such as Azamara, Oceania Cruises, Saga, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea and Voyages to Antiquity. Their passengers will continue to have unsurpassed views whilst arriving in Venice and meandering through Saint Mark’s basin.

What is your opinion on this decision?

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Venice Cruise Ship Debate Reignited

The debate over the sailing of cruise ships into and out of Venice has been raging on for years however, it has been wholly reignited due to the recent death of a tourist on the congested waterways of the city.

German tourist, Joachim Vogel, was enjoying a gondola ride with his family when he was crushed against a dock by a reversing water bus near the world-famous Rialto Bridge. This tragic accident has understandably led to a strong crackdown on water traffic within the city and Italy’s Environment Minister, Andrea Orlando, has yet again put forward proposals that cruise ships be banned from the narrow waterways.

Gondolas in Venice

The rise in cruise ship traffic in 2013 alone has been around seven per cent which has seen the anti-cruise ship protesters up in arms yet again. Although they enjoy the economic benefits of cruise ships passengers visiting the city and buying souvenirs, taking tours with local operators, eating meals and generally contributing to the economy, they believe it is not worth it for the level of corrosion that ships passing through the lagoon cause.  

If you’ve ever visited the undeniably beautiful city of Venice before then you’re sure to have noticed the high levels of congestion that exist within the city’s main waterways. Authorities have now introduced many new safety regulations on the canals, including a ‘floating congestion zone’ on the Grand Canal which they feel will ease the chaotic rush hour waterway traffic.

Grand Canal

In June of this year Venetian residents organised a flotilla of protesters who want rid of the giant cruise ships from the city and they managed to hold up the departure of a cruise liner. They believe that the large ships cause irreparable damage to the delicate foundations of the city and its canals.

The Mayor of Venice has proposed that cruise ships dock at the nearby port of Porto Marghera instead of travelling through the lagoon, in front of St. Marks Square, easily dwarfing the entire city.

There have also been calls to create a floating off-shore port which would then see cruise passengers brought into Venice via smaller tender boats. This however, would surely not be a viable option given the latest cutbacks on traffic in the waterways of the city.

Another viable option is to dredge a different route for cruise ships to pass into the city and allow them to use the same port as they do today. This newly dredged route would not see ships pass so close to the centre of the city and St. Marks Square.

St Marks Square

I have previously stated that I’d prefer cruise ships to be banned from Venice’s canals and moved to another nearby port instead. I believe that if it means the preservation of the city for a longer period of time then it will be absolutely more than worth it. Venice is a beautiful and unique city with a rich and vibrant history that we should be aiming to protect for further generations to explore and enjoy.

Do you think cruise ships should be banned from entering Venice in order to protect the city?


Venice the highlight of many Cruise Itineraries

Venice is undoubtedly one of the most famous cities in the world. It is the highlight of many cruise itineraries and sailing into and out of this wonderful port is sure to leave you with many wonderful memories.

Although at present cruise liners are able to sail right past Piazza San Marco, offering cruise passengers unrivalled stunning views over the city, this could soon be a thing of the past. There have been many protests recently over the damage that large cruise ships sailing up the canal are causing to the fragile foundations of the city.

Piazza san Marco

It is likely that cruise ships will soon be banned from entering the port of Venice through this route and instead be forced to call in at a nearby port and passengers will have to be transported to the heart of the city of Venice, or ships will have to enter into the port via another route. So, if you want to enjoy views of Venice from the upper deck of a cruise ship sailing into or out of the city then you should probably do so soon before cruise ships no longer enjoy this luxury.

Once you reach Venice you will no doubt be caught up in the magic of the city. The stunning architecture is one of my favourite things about the city. The Bridge of Sighs, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto Bridge and the opulent buildings which line the Grand Canal are all absolutely stunning and well worth visiting.

St Marks Basilica

Beyond all the main tourist sights, one of the main things I recommend anyone to do in Venice is to put down the map and simply wander through the maze of streets away from the tourist crowds. You don’t have to worry about getting lost in Venice though – there are signs dotted throughout the city that will steer you back to Piazza San Marco or the Rialto Bridge. It is in the back streets of the city where you will get a charming glimpse of local life in Venice that many tourists simply do not see.

History lovers are bound to fall head over heels for the city of Venice and it’s fascinating, scandalous and enchanting past. Venice was once one of the most important port cities in the world and as such was a prosperous and exciting place for residents to live. A tour of the Doge’s Palace and the jail next to it will enlighten you on many of the details of Venice’s past and give you a glimpse into what it was like to live here at this time.

Doge's Palace

Venice is one of the most photogenic cities in the world. Everywhere you turn your eyes will rest on something beautiful, whether it’s a gondola gently floating down a canal or an opulent building slightly crumbling due to the force of the waters upon which it rests. This is one port to make sure your camera is fully charged and ready to capture those sights!