Pula, said our cruise director, is a seldom-visited Croatian city with a shallow-water port accessible only to small ships. Big ships like the Viking Star have to drop anchor in the deeper waters of the outer harbour, a 15-minute boat ride from the heart of town.
After we arrived, we were “tendered” into town aboard the ship’s four orange-coloured lifeboats, each of which can accommodate as many as 200 people. It gave us a sense of what to expect if ever there was an emergency on board and we had to abandon ship. We didn’t have to don lifejackets, however. I suspect they prefer to refer to them as “tenders” rather than lifeboats so as not to make the guests nervous. I also suspect they used the lifeboats rather than relying on local shuttle boats as they did in Venice so as to ensure the pulley systems were working properly and that the lifeboats themselves were in good working order.
The most striking architectural feature of Pula is what’s left of a 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre, said to be one of the largest and best preserved in Europe. Better preserved even than the Colosseum in Rome, in fact. Once used to stage gladiatorial combats for the entertainment of 23,000 spectators, the Pula amphitheatre is now used as a venue for operas and concerts. One of the neat things about hitting a different city every day aboard a cruise ship is that you don’t have to repack your suitcase before moving on to the next destination. You never have to check out of a moving hotel. That said, we could be packing up our suitcases earlier than expected on this trip. After today’s suicide bombing in Istanbul, we could end up having to change our itinerary. The captain just made an announcement to that effect over the ship’s public address system. He said he is reviewing the situation with Viking’s people on the ground in Turkey. If it turns out we can’t stop in Istanbul, this will create problems both for the people now on the ship and those due to come aboard for the cruise from Istanbul back to Barcelona. It’s expected that 2,000 people would be affected if this occurs.
In the meantime, we are looking forward to a return visit to Dubrovnik tomorrow (with no rain, we hope), followed by stops in Montenegro and Greece.