Norwegian Gem, which is just under 300-m long, anchored outside the Venice Lido early Saturday morning, July 23. She then launched a number of small motor boats which between them dropped ~1,500 passengers off in Saint Mark’s Square prior to picking them up again in the evening.
The move, authorized by Venetian port authority, is part of an experiment after the Italian government in 2021 banned ships with volumes 25,000+ GT-tons from docking in downtown Venice City/UNESCO world heritage site.
This followed years of protests as environmentalists saw the vessels as damaging to the fragile lagoon of Venice.
Most companies have since rerouted to Trieste and Ravenna (Porto Corsini), from where tourists who want to see Venice City can make a bus trip of ~2 hours. A handful are making use of the nearby industrial area Marghera, which was repurposed for passenger liners as a temporary measure.
Norwegian Gem was transiting through Venice when she dropped cruisers off for the day on boats provided by the port authority.
Governors had no influence over the matter, but the city’s tourism councilor, Simone Venturini, warned against “hit and run” tourism and hoped that the Norwegian Gem tactic would not set a precedent.
At the same time, the government of Italy issued a call for bids for the building of a terminal outside Venice lagoon equipped to accommodate vessels weighing 40,000+ tonnes.
If NCL's experiment becomes the norm, it is still unclear whether cruise tourists would be obliged to pay a landing charge that the city enacts from January 16, 2023.