Covid: Venice reopens its lagoon for cruises in a controversial environment

After a 17-month halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first cruise ship sailed in Venice on Saturday, sparking controversy between supporters and opponents of the appearance of these sea monsters in the famous Italian lagoon.

Each of the two camps performed on their own to defend their position: as the massive silhouette of the MSC Orchestra exited St Mark’s Square, the demonstrators staged their protest on small motor boats, waving “no cruise ships” banners. Screamed.

“Cruise ships represent electric tourism, which actually does little to Venice,” one protester told AFP.

Protectors of the environment and cultural heritage also accuse the large waves generated by these ships, several hundred meters long and several storeys high, of destroying the foundations of the buildings of Serenissima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and endangering the fragile ecosystem. Huh. Its lagoon.

They are also on deck, supporters of cruise ships, united within the “Venetian Works” movement, highlighting the many jobs that their presence would generate for Venice, whose economy essentially rests on tourism, which is particularly affected during the pandemic.

The MSC Orchestra, which had evacuated from the Greek port of Piraeus on Thursday, departed with about 650 passengers who had to submit a negative test in less than 4 days and undergo a new test to be able to board.

Tourists have presented with good grace to the strict security procedures intended to prevent the ships from becoming actual travel homes, as has been the case on several occasions.

The MSC orchestra is only allowed to carry half of its total capacity of 3,000 passengers to comply with anti-Covid measures. It should stop at Bari (southern Italy), Corfu (Greece), Mykonos (Greece) and Dubrovnik (Croatia).

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– open letter –

During its two-day stay in Venice, the ship was supplied with supplies by its on-board crews, who also took the opportunity to refine the safety protocols governing daily life on these giants of the seas.

“We are delighted to make our contribution to the restart of this city, which has suffered so much during these 17 months,” said AFP Francesco Gallietti, leader of the International Association of Cruise Companies (CLIA). “In one year, the sector has lost a large number of passengers, about 800,000, which means the economy has lost about 1 billion euros”.

The debate over the presence of giants of the sea is not limited 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.

On Tuesday, a plethora of international artists, from Mick Jagger to Wes Anderson through Francis Ford Coppola and Tilda Swinton, made an open call to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Venice’s mayor among others to ask for a “permanent stop”. sent the letter “of cruise ship traffic.

The letter, titled “A Decalogue for Venice”, signed by Fran├žois Nissen, the former French Minister of Culture, calls for better management of tourist flows, protection of the lagoon ecosystem and the fight against real estate speculation to protect “material integrity”. invokes. but also the cultural identity of the city of dogs”.

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