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

The two camps each demonstrated on their own to defend their positions: as the huge silhouette of the MSC Orchestra loomed off St. Mark's Square, demonstrators waving "No to cruise ships" banners shouted their opposition on board small motor boats.

"Cruise ships represent lightning tourism, which actually brings little benefit to Venice," said a protester.

Protection of the ecosystem against jobs

Defenders of the environment and cultural heritage also accuse the large waves generated by these ships, several hundred meters long and several storeys high, of eroding the foundations of the buildings of the Serenissima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. , and endanger the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.

They too on deck, the supporters of cruise ships, united in the “Venice works” movement, highlight the many jobs that their presence would generate for Venice, whose economy lives essentially on tourism, which particularly affected during the pandemic.

The MSC Orchestra, which arrived empty Thursday from the Greek port of Piraeus, left with around 650 passengers, who had to present a negative test dating back less than 4 days and undergo a new test to be able to board.

The tourists have submitted with good grace to the strict security procedures in force, intended to prevent ships from becoming veritable traveling homes, as has been the case on several occasions.


The MSC Orchestra is only allowed to embark a total of half of its capacity of 3,000 passengers, to comply with anti-Covid measures. It must stop in Bari (southern Italy), Corfu (Greece), Mykonos (Greece) and Dubrovnik (Croatia). During its two-day stop in Venice, the ship was supplied by its on-board staff, who also took the opportunity to refine the safety protocols governing daily life on these giants of the seas.

“We are happy to make our contribution to restarting this city which has suffered so much during these 17 months,” commented Francesco Galietti, leader of the International Association of Cruise Companies (CLIA).

"In one year, the sector has lost a huge number of passengers, around 800,000, which means for the economy a loss of around 1 billion euros".

The debate on the presence of the giants of the seas is not confined to Venice and has always had an international dimension, due to the notoriety of this tourist destination, one of the most popular in the world.

Open letter

On Tuesday, a plethora 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 between others a “permanent stop” of cruise ship traffic.

This letter entitled “A Decalogue for Venice”, also signed by the former French Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen, calls for better management of tourist flows, the protection of the lagoon ecosystem and the fight against real estate speculation, to protect “the physical integrity but also the cultural identity” of the City of the Doges.


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