Cruise passengers transported to Venice by motorboat to avoid ban on large ships | Venice

A cruise line has circumvented a ban on its ships entering the Venice Lagoon by ferrying passengers to the famous city center on small motorboats.

The Norwegian Gem, a ship just under 300 meters long belonging to Norwegian Cruise, dropped anchor off Venice Lido early Saturday morning. He then launched several motorboats which dropped off around 1,500 passengers in St. Mark’s Square before picking them up in the evening.

The move, which was cleared by Venice port authorities, is believed to be part of an experiment after the Italian government last year banned ships weighing more than 25,000 tonnes from docking at the World Heritage site of Venice. Unesco.

It followed years of protests that pitted environmentalists, who saw the ships as damaging Venice’s fragile lagoon, against those who feared it could hurt an economy dependent on tourism.

Most cruise lines have since diverted to the ports of Trieste or Ravenna, from where passengers wanting to see Venice can take a bus ride of around two hours. A handful use Marghera, a nearby industrial area, which has been redeveloped for cruise ships on a temporary basis.

The Norwegian Gem was just transiting through Venice when it dropped off passengers for the day on boats provided by the city’s port authority.

Venice’s governors had no influence on the matter, but Simone Venturini, the city’s tourism adviser, warned against “hit-and-run” tourism and hoped Norwegian Gem’s tactics would not create of precedent. “This is not the type of tourism we want for the city,” he told local press.

Italy banned huge ships from using the Giudecca Canal to enter the historic center of Venice in July 2021. The 25,000 tonne limit means only small passenger ferries and cargo ships can use the channel. The decision follows years of protests against cruise ships and a warning from Unesco that Venice risked being placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger unless the ships are permanently banned.

At the same time, the Italian government is launching a call for tenders for the construction of a terminal outside the Venice lagoon equipped to accommodate ships of over 40,000 tonnes.

Francesco Galietti, director of the Italian unit of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), said the ban had left the industry “in limbo”.

“Venice used to be a home base, which meant people came a day or two ahead and spent time in Venice. [before starting a cruise], book a hotel and eat at local restaurants. It was the old world,” he added.

“The Norwegian episode shows that there is an ongoing struggle to keep Venice a home base. Everything is in a state of flux and we are trying to figure out what the new normal looks like.”

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If the Norwegian experience becomes the norm, it’s unclear whether cruise lines would be forced to pay a landing fee that Venice leaders will enact from January 16, 2023.

The fee targets day-trippers, who will need to go online to book the day they plan to visit Venice, paying between €3 (£2.50) and €10 per person, depending on how busy the city is on the day. chosen day. .

Violators risk fines of up to €300 if caught and unable to prove they booked and paid with a QR code.

About 80% of tourists in Venice come just for the day.

In 2019, the last full year of tourism before the pandemic, 19 million day-trippers visited Venice and provided only a fraction of the income compared to those staying at least one night.

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