First post-COVID cruise ship leaves Venice amid environmental protests

·2 min read

It was no smooth sailing for the first cruise ship to leave Venice since the pandemic hit.

On Saturday, some 1,000 passengers aboard the majestic Orchestra — a 92,409-ton, 16-deck ship operated by MSC Cruises — were greeted at the port in the northeastern Italian city with signs that read “Welcome Back Cruises” and a festive atmosphere symbolizing a new era for the hard-hit cruise industry.

The ship departed for a week-long cruise, with stops in southern Italy, two Greek islands and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

According to The Associated Press, the ship made its way through the heart of Venice “escorted by triumphant water-spouting tugboats and elated port workers as it traveled down the Giudecca Canal.”

However, passengers were also greeted by another armada of boats — as well as hundreds of people on land — who carried out a “No Big Boats” protest.

Local residents and environmentalists showed up en masse to voice their opposition to the passage of large ships through the city’s historic waters.

“We are here because we are against this passage but also against a model of tourism that is destroying the city, pushing out residents, destroying the planet, the cities, and polluting,” Marta Sottoriva, a 29-year old teacher and Venice resident, told Reuters.

According to the AP, the Venice Environmental Association, one of the groups against the passage of the ships, is demanding that port officials immediately ban ships from the lagoon. The group is also threatening criminal action, if nothing happens in the next 15 days.

“It is a great provocation that a ship has passed,” said Andreina Zitelli, an environmental expert and member of the association.

“You cannot compare the defense of the city with the defense of jobs in the interest of big cruise companies,” she added.

Francesco Galietti, the national director for the trade group Cruise Lines International Association, said that the industry is happy to “restart the engines.”

He told Reuters that the association cares “a lot about Venice,” adding that “we’ve been asking for a stable and manageable solution for ships for many years.”