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The Venice Cruise Controversy

Venice-Wolfgang MoroderOne of the cruise stories that just refuses to go away is Venice. Here’s a recent headline from The Daily Telegraph, in London:

“Giant cruise ships ‘crushing the life out of Venice.’”

This is a story that’s been going on for years, and there’s no end in sight. What it boils down to is this: Cruise ships that dwarf some of the waterways of Venice, notably the Guidecca Canal, are being blamed for erosion that environmentalists claim will destroy this jewel of Italy. Business interests, including the most recently elected mayor of Venice, argue that tourism is vital to the city’s economy and cruise ships (probably) deliver more tourists (and jobs) than any other mode of transportation.

One side says “the city will die” if it continues. The other side says it must continue and Venice will never die.

What triggered the most recent headline is a photo exhibition — 30 images of cruise ships that make St. Mark’s Square look like a local playground…and they do. The images are on display until January 6th in, of course, St. Mark’s Square.

A little history…

In 2013, the port of Venice banned large cruise ships — 2,200 passengers or more. The ban was overturned by a regional tribunal. In 2014, the Italian government stepped in and restored the ban, to take effect in 2015. Twelve days into the year, Venice’s regional court of appeal overturned the ban.

Clearly, Italians can’t make up their minds, so here’s a novel idea for them.

Have a referendum. Limit votes to the people of Venice, the ones affected by the death/life of their city. Yes or no. Let the people speak. Let the decision be in their hands, not the politicians in northern Italy or down south in Rome. 

Give them the facts, give them the propaganda, give them the pros and the cons…and let them decide. 

Once and for all.

- Photo by Wolfgang Moroder

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• Royal Caribbean orders Quantum Class ship No. 5 to arrive in 2020
• Rough seas, high winds delay Nieuw Amsterdam by a day in Barcelona

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Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 2, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67

‘Wheels Up’ The War Cry In Venice

Okay, Venice, do you want it like this…or like this? Do you want lots of tourists and all their trappings, which by the way includes some wear and tear on your environment…or do you want more protection and fewer tourists, dollars and — by extension — jobs?

That’s what “no wheeled suitcases” is going to mean.

Starting in May, just in time for the next Mediterranean cruise season, tourists who use baggage with “hard” wheels will be fined more than $600. Baggage with “inflatable” wheels will be okay, so now tourists will need to carry mini-pumps in their suitcases, or spare tires.

This comes on the heels of decision to ban cruise ships bigger than 96,000 gross tonnes from the lagoon in Venice, which ranks high in port popularity among cruisers. Cruise ships St. Mark'sare not the only carriers of Venice’s 20 million or so tourists every year, but their frequency in the city of canals make them a major contributor…and the ban is an attempt to have them use a part of the environment that's less fragile than the lagoon That argument makes a little more sense than the suitcase one. 

Think about the hard-wheeled luggage ban. 

Most tourist couples will have four pieces of luggage. Since there are no cars on the streets of Venice, that means struggling along the cobblestone surfaces, up and over the many bridges, the way we used to before somebody invented wheels for suitcases. Or it means hiring a local to transport your bags every step of the way, a risky way to balance jobs lost by having fewer tourists. 

This is to prevent deterioration of the cobblestones and the bridges, but only the deterioration caused by tourists — the new law won’t apply to locals.

Oh yes, and there’s another reason for the ban on wheeled suitcases. Noise pollution. An Italian newspaper reported that residents and shopkeepers alike were suffering “serious discomfort” from the constant clatter of wheeled luggage.

The way Venice is going, they may have to worry about another “noise.”

The silence could be deafening..

Today at portsandbows.com: Sir Richard Branson's cruise plans

Carnival Ecstasy
4 nights
September 14, 2015
Miami (return): Key WestCozumel 
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $44

The Ebb And Flow Of Cruising Venetian Waters


If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you've been reading about Venice, one of the most beautiful and inspirational ports we've ever visited. 

How big cruise ships were causing erosion of the precious little soil there is in the city of canals. 

How protesters have taken to the airwaves and the courts and even the water to keep the big ships out. 

How later this year the ships will become persona non grata (also banished) from the canal that is bordered by St. Mark's Square.

Check this:

"Giant cruise ships are set to return to Venice’s historic waterways, just months after they were banned."

This is not an April Fool's Joke.

That story, in London's Daily Mail, reports that the administrative court of Venice accepted an appeal by lobbyists and suspended the ban "because of the absence of any practical alternative navigation routes."


They need a court to tell them there was no alternative water route into and out of "downtown" Venice for large ships but by the Giudecca Canal? In the end, like so many other things, this decision is all about money. The port, which charges cruise lines huge fees, convinced the court that the ban would cost Venice too many euros.

Somewhere down the road, a compromise is likely to be found but since it couldn't happen in time to keep the ships, it's for another day…another year.

Meanwhile, the protesters will continue to be vocal in shouting: "Viva Venezia!"

Today at portsandbows.com: Celebrity's seasonal split a shift

Holland America Eurodam
12 nights
April 29, 2014
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $83

The Price Of Swimming In Venice


If you've ever cruised into Venice, you might have thought about taking a dip in the canal — any canal, pick one. We're not sure why you would but, hey, everybody's different.

For future reference, don't do it.

It could cost more than your cruise!

There have been people swimming in Guidecca, the most famous of the Venice canals because it fronts St. Mark's Square. They've been swimming, supported by a variety of inflatable devices, because they oppose the volume of large cruise ships that use the canal.

With protest comes a price.

Italian officials fined the swimmers they could catch and/or identify. The ticket is 2,071 euros and you don't need a calculator to know that it's more in dollars. 

Like, $2,844.

The protestors think it's worth doing. They slowed arrivals and departures of large cruise ships and generally made nuisances of themselves in the name of anti-business/ecology. Large cruise ship traffic is down by 20 per cent this year and, besides, like-minded individuals and organizations are raising funds to help pay the fines. 

On the shore, life is even more distasteful for protestors. They were fined for "unauthorized demonstrations" to the tune of 3,950 euros ($5,425). Given that large ships are supposed to be permanently banned come November, either the protestors think they were responsible for it — or they have deep pockets.

And…there isn't even a beach!

Photo by Wolfgang Moroder

Norwegian Star
14 nights
May 5, 2014
MiamiPonta DelgadaLondon, Helsingborg, Copenhagen
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $32


With the Saga of Venice Continuing, Stakes are the Future of Cruise Ships

Giovanni Dall'Orto photo

Much is written and spoken about the controversy of cruise ships in Venice. In case you're wondering why it's such a big deal, there are three ports at the heart of European cruising and one of them is Venice…the others would be Southampton and Barcelona. Many Mediterranean cruises touch two of the three and, while there's no official count that we've seen, it's conceivable they are 1-2-3 of port stops of Europe. Think of it as the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and New York on this side of the pond.

Get the picture?

So Venice is in cruise-ship turmoil, because one faction doesn't want them at all and another thinks they are critical to Venice tourism. Last week, the "antis" staged a protest on Venice's busiest day for cruise ships (12 of them) by jumping in the water of the Guidecca Canal and generally tying up traffic for over an hour. The "pros" responded by trying to find a way to appease the "antis."

Along the way, there were many conflicting viewpoints.

In response to the protest, the pros claim the antis' claims of environmental impact are false, or at least exaggerated. They deny that cruise ships cause erosion yet they are working to find alternative and appropriate routes into St. Marks Squarethe city, and say that sulphur emissions have already been minimized. They claim that one-third of the hotel industry is dependent on cruise passengers, and that one in six shops and 5,000 families survive because of it.

The antis, or the other side, have argued at various times about how cruise ships make Venice waters unsafe and a candidate for another Concordia, how the ships must go as far away as possible as soon as possible, and how the city is crushed by tourists who "disembark, buy a souvenir and leave."

We've been to Venice twice. There is no city on earth like it. Nobody wants to see it undermined by erosion or unsafe conditions. Sailing into Venice on a cruise ship is a unique experience that every cruiser should enjoy. It seems the pros want to find a solution. The antis don't seem to think there is one and sometimes show an astounding lack of credibility.

Take the shot about "buy a souvenir." We don't buy a lot of souvenirs any more. Yet because we cruised into Venice, we used the water taxis, stayed three nights in a hotel, visited Murano where all that glass is made, rented a car for nine days to drive around Italy, rode a train along the Cinque Terre and stayed in half a dozen hotels.

Does it really matter if we bought only one souvenir?

Celebrity Millennium
14 nights
May 10, 2014
Tokyo, Aomori, Sapporo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $57

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