Venice: the richest and most powerful marine republic of the Mediterranean. the Queen of the Adriatic, an unparalleled UNESCO World Heritage site. Venice also is a very popular destination of cruise ships from around the world. Can the city that survived flood, pestilence, and war for more than 13 centuries survive the controversy surrounding these huge cruise ships? It has become one of the most controversial topics in the world of travel.
On one side are environmentalists supported by a huge list of celebrities. They say that Venice is too fragile to withstand the intrusion of these ocean goliaths. They fear more flooding of Venice’s historic buildings. The underwater vibrations harm the structures’ pilings. The profile of these ships dwarfs this beautiful city. And then there are the tourists themselves who clog the calle and bridges.
On the other side is the cruise industry that says that the great Italian island city is one of the world’s foremost destinations—a place that adds elegance and history to a long voyage. Many locals say that the cruise ships need Venice for provisioning—food, water, and supplies—on their lengthy travels. And local businesses and government certainly benefit from the rates charged to the ships and the tourists who arrive.
Last year Venice imposed limits on the cruise ships: No ships over 96,000 gross tons, which roughly equates to 2,260 passengers, can sail along the Giudecca Canal and St. Mark’s basin to the city’s main cruise terminal. The ban also limited the number of ships of 40,000 tons or more to five per day.
In January 2015 Venice’s Regional Administrative Tribunal overturned the ban. It stated that any restriction on cruise ship travel would be enacted only after alternate routes had been established. One that is suggested is Contorta-Sant’Angelo canal, which is a proposed excavation from port Marghera to Venice. The environmental impact assessment of the proposed new route will be released in March. The project would require an estimated 18 months for completion.
In the meantime, cruise ships are voluntarily complying with the ban as they didn’t know it would be overturned. Last year the number of cruise ships sailing through Venice was capped at 708, compared to 809 in 2012. Venice is not expecting any cruise ships over 96,000 gross tons this year, resulting in a predicted loss of about 300,000 passengers.
The controversy continues. In a future post, I will talk about cruise ships in Santa Barbara harbor—not the same scale, for sure, but controversial as well.