Venice reopens its lagoon to cruises in a controversial atmosphere

Venice | 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 demonstrated on their own 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.

“The cruise ships represent lightning tourism, and in fact it does not benefit Venice,” one protester told AFP.

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.

On the deck, supporters of cruise ships, united in the “Venice Business” movement, highlight the many functions that their presence will provide for Venice, whose economy is mainly dependent on tourism, which has especially affected it during the pandemic.

The MSC Orchestra, which arrived empty Thursday from the Greek port of Piraeus, has left with about 650 passengers, who had to submit a negative test less than four days old and underwent a new one to be able to board the flight.

Tourists have been subjected with great honor to the strict security measures in place, aimed at preventing ships from becoming a true travel outbreak, as has been the case on several occasions.

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The MSC Orchestra is only allowed to carry half of its 3,000 passenger capacity, to comply with anti-COVID measures. A must stop in Bari (Southern Italy), Corfu (Greece), Mykonos (Greece) and Dubrovnik (Croatia).

open letter

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 pleased to make our contribution to revitalizing this city that has suffered so much during these 17 months,” Francesco Galletti, Director of the Cruise Companies International Association (CLIA) told AFP. “In one year, the sector lost a huge number of passengers, about 800,000, which for the economy means a loss of about one billion euros.”

The controversy over the existence of sea giants is not limited to Venice, it has always had an international dimension due to the reputation of this tourist destination, which is one of the most popular in the world.

On Tuesday, a slew of international artists, from Mick Jagger to Wes Anderson to 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 request, among other things, a. “Permanent stop” of cruise ship traffic.

This message is entitled The Ten Commandments of Venice, also signed by former French Culture Minister 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 cultural identity” of the Doge city.

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