Dark Clouds Looming After Sunshine

Go directly to Venice. Do not wait. Do not pass go. Do not miss the boat. And while this is directed at those of you who cruise, there's a good reason for it. Having driven as close as you can to Venice in a car, and arrived on a cruise ship, the latter is simply an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping experience that no photos can do justice.

And it may soon end.

The battle between the environmentalists and the economists is getting legs. The most recent of them arrived Saturday morning, just as the Carnival Sunshine did. There are conflicting reports about what actually happened. Of course.

The environmentalist view:

The Sunshine was too close to shore. Some environmentalists think cruise ships are always too close to shore if they can be seen. On Saturday, they claim the Sunshine was within 20 meters (60 feet) of the fragile shoreline, right by St. Mark's Square. One report that fueled the argument was that a water taxi, of which there are dozens if not hundreds, was "squeezed" between the Sunshine and the shore. Waves from the city's principal lagoon causes flooding on smaller canals and the subsequent erosion is putting the city at risk.

Another report was that the cruise ship was manouvered that close as a "sail-by salute" to Carnival's major shareholder, Mickey Arison, whose 150-yacht was reportedly in the vicinity. yet another claimed that cruise ships owned by Carnival Corporation regularly do this sort of thing, because that's what the Costa Concordia captain did in 2012 in the industry's deadliest accident…and Carnival owns Costa.

The economist's view:

Local economists who in the past have saluted the cruise industry's financial impact on this unique city have been silent since Saturday. The other economic beneficiary is Carnival. Spokespeople have issued statements that the Sunshine was 70 to 72 meters (about 200 feet) from shore and that the coast guard, the local pilot association and Carnival's "black box" have confirmed the distance.

Carnival denies it allows such sail-bys, naturally, and that the Sunshine was fully compliant with navigational regulations, including the distance from shore. The cruise line is intent on refuting witness accounts.

The solution?

There isn't one, of course. The more incidents like this, true or unfounded, the more likely it is that one day large cruise ships will be denied access to Venice and more people will have less chance of seeing the jaw-dropping arrival at this beautiful port.

Go. Now. Before it's too late.

Carnival Inspiration
4 nights
September 23, 2013
Long Beach (return): Catalina IslandEnsenada
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $69
www.carnival.com

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