Venice Cruising Uncertainty

Venice Cruising Uncertainty

Regulation changes raise concern about busy Venice cruising itineraries By: Marilyn Green
Despite being a popular cruise port, Venice, Italy, is regulating large cruise ships. // © 2013 Skye Mayring
Despite being a popular cruise port, Venice, Italy, is regulating large cruise ships. // © 2013 Skye Mayring

Venice, Italy, is consistently ranked one of Europe’s top cruise destinations, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). But now the destination will be limiting or shutting down large-ship cruise traffic in parts of the main lagoon, close to St. Mark’s Square.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta approved the measures in early November, after meeting with regional officials to discuss application of a law enacted last year banning large ships from sailing close to shore in all of Italy. The ruling, which had been temporarily suspended in Venice, grew out of concerns about the effect of the cruise traffic on the seabed in the lagoon.

The new measures will take effect at the beginning of 2014. In January, the number of cruise ships weighing 40,000 gross tons or more sailing in Venetian waters will be limited to five per day. However, there are several instances in 2014 when six ships of this size are scheduled to dock, and the question of which ships will actually be accommodated remains unanswered.

Beginning in November 2014, no cruise ships over 96,000 tons will be allowed to cross the Giudecca canal. Of the ships larger than the limit scheduled to visit the port in 2014 — Celebrity Equinox and Silhouette, Costa Fascinosa and Magica, MSC Fantsia and Preziosa and Regal Princess — only the MSC and Costa ships are scheduled for November, after the ban goes into effect. Cruise lines are looking carefully at their plans for 2015, while the Venetians and cruise planners consider alternative docking locations.

The most recent statements from Venice indicate that cruise vessels will be diverted through the Canale Contorta Sant’Angelo, which is farther away from the best-known parts of the city. However, local groups and environmentalists say the deep dredging needed for this will accelerate the loss of sediment from the bottom of the lagoon. Leaders of the “No to the Big Ships” campaign have said they will call for an environmental impact assessment to evaluate the plan.

Previous proposals include the construction of a floating port outside the lagoon and placing cruise ships at Porto Marghera, a highly industrialized suburb from which passengers would be bussed into the main parts of the city.

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