Lunch in Venice on our second day there was at a restaurant, Ai Barbacani, recommended by our friend Arthur in Calgary. It was also endorsed – as we discovered when we looked at the reviews posted on a bulletin board out front – by the British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. It was a little hard to find but Google Maps kept us on the right path. When we got there, the server welcomed us each with a glass of Prosecco. Very civilized custom, that. Canadian restaurants should take note.
We were the only customers for the first half hour and the server told us the place gets much busier at dinner time, when they set the fire in the grate and light the candles on the tables.
The food was excellent and the service professional. After a couple of appetizers we shared a dish of seafood risotto, the house specialty, accompanied by a good bottle of Ripasso. After that we did a little shopping and took some pictures. We thought about taking a gondola ride but the cost – 120 euros for a 10-minute trip – seemed a bit much. It was not hard to understand why many of the gondoliers spent much of their time standing on the pier talking on their cellphones, waiting for customers.
Back aboard the ship we didn’t recognize many familiar faces from the first part of the cruise. We had the mandatory emergency drill required under maritime law and were somewhat surprised to see the guitarist from the house band demonstrating how to put on a life jacket. “Do you have training in safety procedures?” we asked. “Oh yes,” he replied with a sly smile. “I have a certificate.” Wink wink, nudge nudge.
We had missed the captain’s welcoming reception on the first leg of the cruise, so it was good to have a glass of champagne with him and to meet some of the 550 crew members who are there to provide as comfortable and as safe a trip for us as possible.
The captain explained to us the difference between a ship (which we are on) and a boat (used for the Viking river cruises). “A ship is captained by a Norwegian,” he said. (His name is Rune Lokling, so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess where he comes from.) “Whereas a boat is captained by an Italian.” So there.