Venice reopens its lagoon to cruises in a controversial atmosphere

Venice reopens its lagoon to cruises in a controversial atmosphere

Environmental activists carry “No to cruise ships” signs aboard small steamboats on the Venetian lagoon as the MSC Venice Philharmonic departs on June 5, 2021. Marco Sabdin/AFP

After a 17-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the first cruise ship set sail on Saturday in Venice, sparking controversy between supporters and opponents of the presence of these sea monsters in the famous Italian lake.

Both camps spontaneously pretended to defend their positions: as the massive silhouette of the MSC Orchestra loomed off St Mark’s Square, demonstrators waved “No to cruise ships” signs and chanted their opposition on small steamboats. “Cruise ships represent lightning tourism, which is actually not very good for Venice,” said one protester.

Protecting the ecosystem from jobs

Environmentalists and cultural heritage advocates also accuse the large waves generated by these ships, several hundred meters in length and several storeys high, of eroding the foundations of the Serenissima buildings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and endangering the fragile ecosystem. her lake. They are also on board, the proponents of cruise ships, united in the “Venice Business” movement, highlight the many functions that their presence will provide for Venice, whose economy lives mainly on tourism, which has especially affected during the pandemic.

The MSC Orchestra, which arrived empty Thursday from the Greek port of Piraeus, has left with about 650 passengers on board, who had to submit a negative test less than 4 days old and underwent a new test to be able to board the flight. Tourists with great honor have undergone the strict safety measures in place, which are intended to prevent ships from becoming real travel homes, as they have on several occasions.

” Input “

The MSC Orchestra is only allowed to release half of its total capacity of 3,000 passengers, to comply with anti-Covid measures. A must stop in Bari (Southern Italy), Corfu (Greece), Mykonos (Greece) and Dubrovnik (Croatia). During her two-day layover in Venice, the ship was manned by her onboard staff, who also took the opportunity to improve the safety protocols that govern daily life on these giants of the seas.

“We are delighted to make our contribution to revitalizing this city that has suffered so much during these 17 months,” commented Francesco Galletti, President of Cruise Lines International (CLIA). “In one year, the sector lost a large number of passengers, about 800,000, which means for the economy a loss of about one billion euros.” The controversy surrounding the existence of sea giants is not limited to Venice, but has always had an international dimension, due to the reputation of this poor tourist destination, which is one of the most popular destinations in the world.

open letter

On Tuesday, a slew of international artists, from Mick Jagger to Wes Anderson via Francis Ford Coppola and Tilda Swinton, sent an open letter to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the mayor of Venice to ask others to “permanently halt” cruise ship traffic.

This letter entitled “The Ten Commandments of Venice”, also signed by former French Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen, calls for better management of tourist flows, protection of the lake’s ecosystem and the fight against real estate speculation, to protect the “physical integrity” but also the cultural identity” of the Doge.

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