Return of cruise liners to Venice rekindles tensions
Saturday saw the first cruise ship jettisoned from Venice after nearly a year and a half of suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, reigniting a war of words between supporters and opponents of the huge floating hotels.
As the MSC Orchestra towered over St Mark’s Square, protesters in small motorboats held up banners saying “No to cruise ships”.
“Cruise ships bring fast tourism which actually brings little benefit to Venice,” protester Lucia Tedesco, 57, told AFP.
Concerned about the environment and the city’s cultural heritage, opponents of the ships say they cause big waves that undermine Venice’s foundations and damage the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.
But the UNESCO World Heritage Site is also home to massive ship enthusiasts, many of whom are organizing themselves into the “Venice at Work” movement.
They say tourist cruise stopovers are creating jobs in a tourism-dependent city – itself heavily undermined by the pandemic.
About 650 people boarded the MSC Orchestra in Venice after showing a negative coronavirus test dating back less than four days and having another one there.
None showed any sign of annoyance at the stringent hygiene measures designed to prevent the intense epidemics that hit some cruise ships at the height of the pandemic.
Only half of the 3,000 seats of the MSC Orchestra will be occupied for its tour to southern Italy, Greece and Croatia.
– Celebrity call –
The ship’s crew refueled and tightened safety protocols during their stay in Venice.
Venice’s economy lost “around one billion euros” ($ 1.2 billion) in the space of a year due to the 800,000 fewer cruise passengers, Francesco Galietti, director, told AFP of the Cruise Lines International Association. this city”.
As one of the best-known tourist destinations in the world, the debate over Venice cruise ships still resonates beyond Italy’s borders.
On Tuesday, many international artists – from Mick Jagger to Wes Anderson and Tilda Swinton – wrote to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Draghi and the mayor of Venice.
They called for a “permanent stop” of cruise ship visits as well as better management of tourist flows, the protection of the lagoon ecosystem and limits to real estate speculation to protect “physical integrity but also l ‘cultural identity’ of the city.
© 2021 AFP