In 2013 it was announced that Italian government officials had come together to discuss the ongoing situation regarding the cruise industry’s impact on Venice. The city is no stranger to environmental protests, which have been rife in recent years, especially in the last six months. Protests against cruise ships allowed through Venice have been regular features on daily news updates and due to the strong objections and demonstrations of the local population, as well as the overall environmental factors, the Italian government took the decision to limit the number of cruise vessels passing through Venice from January 2014.
In place now, the amount of cruise ships that are permitted to enter Venetian waters and pass through Venice has been cut by 20%. This decision commenced at the close of 2013 and revolves around current volume. Ships of 40,000 tons or more are limited in their access, causing cruise lines to begin re-evaluating their itinerary schedules.
Why has this decision been made?
The new regulations have been brought in following excessive environmentalist protests in respect to large cruise ships sailing parallel to the Grand Canal causing irreversible destruction to the lagoons ecosystem. Not only was it believed that the ecosystem was under substantial threat, the protests also revolved around the history and heritage of the city itself. Historical landmarks, famous buildings and culturally enriched developments that have been the heart and soul of Venice for so many years have become under increased pressure and suffered damage. Protesters placed sole blame for these occurrences on the impact the cruising industry was having on quintessential Venice and believed that the ever increasing size of the ships entering the lagoon waters were provoking substantial concerns for the future.
Who made the decision and what does it mean?
The decision was made by a special commission put together by Italy Premier Enrico Letta. A plan was formulated to eradicate the historic centre of Venice of all cruise ships by 2016 but has since been amended in order to accommodate multiple factors. The initial concept was to divert cruise ships away from the city centre, primarily away from historical landmarks such as St. Mark’s Square and from the central Giudecca Canal. At present, although the volume has been reduced, cruise ships still travel in close proximity to such landmarks on their way to the Venice cruise terminal, usually passing within 300 metres of St. Mark’s Square. The route has become famous over the years for it’s incredible vantage point for cruise passengers and been a regular feature of feedback from guests on board as to why they love visiting Venice so much on a cruise; a stunning view is provided of the spectacular scenery, complimented by the backdrop of Venice’s remarkable Byzantine architecture.
Venice has always been considered a wonderful port of call aboard any cruise itinerary but over the last decade has become one of the most world’s most attractive destinations. As such, the city has on occasion seen as many as nine different cruise ships entering and departing the city cruise terminal in one day, during the peak summer season. Cruise lines also now often use the city as a turnaround port for embarkation and disembarkation purposes to both commence and conclude their itineraries. The new restrictions will see a maximum of five ships docked at the port at one time with the primary focus being to restrict cruise ship passage to sunrise and sunset periods.
The commission put together to make the decision consisted of government ministers and local officials and the idea of creating a new canal for ships to enter the Venetian lagoon from the west was derived. Such access would avoid potential damage to the city’s historical centre. Although a decision was crucial in order to both appease and emotively understand the concerns of the environmental protesters, as always, there are two sides to every story. The commission had to consider the thoughts and opinions of ‘The Venice Port’ who campaigned significantly to preserve the existing terminal due to the dramatic success it has achieved in attracting such high scales of cruise passengers over the years and for it’s wonderful close proximity to many city attractions.
The pros and cons were weighed up before a decision was made. The new canal idea was approved and will take approximately two years to complete. Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni said the decision “finally inverts the tendency toward gigantism in the lagoon.”
Whilst this new canal project is a somewhat victory for those opposed to large amounts of cruise traffic passing through the current route into the city, it has not appeased everyone. Many believe that the environmental factors, although limited by the development of the new canal, will still be prominent and cause future damage to the city.
For now, smaller ship traffic such as ferries for example have been banned from entering the current passage and re-directed. This has reduced the overall vessel traffic by one quarter and the cruise ship traffic reduction by 20% is now in effect.
The next stage will commence in November 2014. Cruise ships larger than 96,000 tons will no longer be permitted access to Venice. These ships usually have a passenger occupancy of between 3,000-3,500 passengers, which will see a hit to the tourism industry of the city but protect the environment and landmarks against substantial damage caused by the larger vessels. Cruise operators are desperately hoping not to have to remove Venice completely from their itinerary offerings to passengers. Proposals and ideas are in the pipeline to still give passengers the chance to see this magical city but with nothing set in stone just yet, if you’re considering a cruise to visit Venice, now is the time!
Reasons to see Venice now!
Ask the majority of people the destinations that would be on their cruise bucket list and you can guarantee that the majority if not all would say Venice; such is the attraction of this incredible city. The Eastern Mediterranean on a whole continues to rise in popularity with cruise passengers and with so many exciting destinations to see, it’s not hard to see why. We covered the Eastern Mediterranean in our winter edition of our quarterly magazine ‘Into The Blue’ and this region is certain to win the hearts of many more cruise passengers in 2014 but if you want to be certain of your itinerary including Venice, the time is now!
An Introduction to Venice
Welcome to the magic of Venice! At present, the city is one of the most perfect cruise destinations imaginable. Not only does this World Heritage city boast a fascinating array of sightseeing opportunities, it’s also fantastic because they are all so easily accessible. The city is simply stunning with 500 historic bridges within the centre alone. Romance is everywhere in Venice. From the stunning scenery to the choice of getting around, nothing beats a gondola ride for two down the Grand Canal. Alternatively, jump aboard the Vaporetto, a water bus network in service that will allow you to see all the glory of Venice.
There is nothing quite like sailing parallel to the Grand Canal as you arrive into the cruise terminal. Manouvering through vivacious lagoons is an experience you will never forget. From majestic scenery to captivating history, this city exudes charisma. A magnificent destination and a must see, Venice is the outstanding choice for any cruise itinerary.
What is there to do?
If we answered that question fully we’d be writing forever. One thing is for certain, you will not get bored, the word doesn’t exist in Venice, there’s too much to see and too much to do. This phenomenal city is a storybook just waiting for you to come and turn the pages.
Here’s our list of must see sights in Venice:
Doges Palace – See this superb landmark and marvel at the marble façade and gothic architecture. The golden staircase is stunning and the lavish interiors are always a big hit with visiting cruise passengers. Plus a visit here allows guests to see the Palace Prisons and the famous Bridge of Sighs.
St Mark’s Square and Basilica di San Marco – A visit here is a must. You cannot go to Venice without seeing this beautiful part of the city. An incredibly animated and charming part of Venice, St Mark’s Square is a world renowned attraction in particular for the historical clock tower. The tower is topped by two bronze Moors who hammer out the time and you cannot miss the Campanile gazing out over the city at the 300 feet tall. There’s a real buzz about this location and you’ll get a real sense of why Venice is so popular. There are words of wisdom we can pass on though. The cafes and restaurants are fantastic here but they are also expensive. If you want to sample exquisite cuisine with a view to match, this is the place but if it’s just a quick bite or a stop off drink you’re looking for to break up your day, head around the corner and the price will at least halve.
Basilica di San Marco is also a wonderful sight to behold. Gold mosaic arches welcome visitors, adorning the spectacularly carved Romanesque entrance and 5 histrionic domes. Inside you’ll discover treasurable items as well as marvellous statues and of course the Paka d’oro, made completely of gold.
Ponte de Rialto – St Mark’s Square often steals the show when sailing into the city but the Rialto Bridge is considered by many to be the heart of Venice. This beautiful landmark bridge is renowned for its 24 foot arch. Not only is the bridge easy on the eyes but its incredible stability is extremely impressive. 12,000 wooden pilings were used to support the bridge into place and over 400 years late, the same pilings remain. The shop lined bridge is always busy so choose your times wisely but it’s definitely worth braving the crowds. The view along the Grand Canal is exceptional and the chance to say you’ve stood on the oldest bridge in Venice is something you just can’t afford to miss.
Experience a Gondola Ride – When we think of Venice, our minds are almost instantaneously drawn to the thought of sailing down the Grand Canal on a Gondola with a loved one, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the view. Gondolas are synonymous with this city and are still one of the best ways to experience all Venice has to offer. Not only do you get to see the major attractions but you can also enjoy the hidden gems of the city as you are manoeuvred through narrow water passageways. They say gondolas are the ultimate romance experience but it’s not just about the person you are with; a gondola ride will make you fall in love with the city as well.
Sample the Local Cuisine – The food here is out of this world. Italian cuisine is always wonderful to think about when day dreaming of your upcoming holiday but actually tasting it here is something truly special. San Marco Square is lined with world class restaurants and café’s serving the most stunning cuisine imaginable but as we mentioned, as impeccable as the food is, there is a price tag to match. The best way to feel better about it is to remember your on holiday; you deserve it, then taste it and forget about the cost…simple! You’re on holiday after all.
The fresh pizzas are amazing and can only be truly understood when you have sampled them yourself. There are numerous famous restaurants here and along the Grand Canal, one of the finest we can recommend is the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal Restaurant. The prestigious Grand Canal Restaurant is situated close to San Marco Square and offers remarkable views of the Venetian lagoon. The creation and expression of Venetian flavours here goes hand in hand with the scenery and the master chefs never fail to impress. You’ll enjoy a refined, elegant atmosphere, impeccable service and attention to detail and of course, extraordinary cuisine. We particularly recommend the seafood selections. If your cruise ship is docked in Venice overnight, pre-book a table here and for a little tip, request a table on the veranda, the atmosphere is perfect.
Retail Therapy – Venice is renowned for its shopping opportunities and the diverse range of unique souvenirs to be purchased here has cruise passengers returning time and time again. You’ll find everything from quaint boutique stalls to global fashion brands, not forgetting the always pleasurable tourist shops. The city is full of life and the shopping is fantastic, it’s a retail lovers paradise so enjoy whilst you can.
See it while you can!!
With just a short time left until the new regulations come into place, if you’ve always wanted to cruise into Venice but never done it, the time is now. With that in mind, here are a few example itineraries to look at for you to experience the best of Venice in 2014. Click here for more the best Venice cruise deals. A wide range of cruise lines visit Venice. P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Cunard, Norwegian Cruise Line and many more operators can provide you the chance to see Venice before the changes are made…don’t miss out!
There has never been a better reason to book a cruise to Venice. All that’s left to say is Ciao and hanno un grande momento (have a great time).