Saturday, June 5, saw the first cruise ship depart Venice Italy after nearly one and a half years' suspension because of the pandemic, reinflaming the war between opponents and supporters of the huge floating hotels.
With the MSC Cruises' MSC Orchestra ship looming over Saint Mark's square, demonstrators in motorboats waved banners reading "no to cruise ships".
Concerned for the environment and the cultural heritage of Venice, opponents of the liners say they cause large waves that undermine the city's foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.
However, the UNESCO site has fans of the massive ships, many organized in the movement "Venice at work". They say that stop-offs by tourist cruises create jobs in a city dependent on tourism.
~650 people boarded MSC Orchestra in Venice after a negative COVID test less than 4 days old and passing another on the spot. Just 50% of the MSC Orchestra's 3,000 accommodations will be filled for the journey taking in destinations in southern Italy, Croatia, and Greece.
The economy of Venice lost ~EUR 1 billion (USD 1,2 billion) in the space of a year from the ~800,000 fewer cruisers visiting, CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) director Francesco Galietti revealed, calling the call of Orchestra "our contribution to the restart of this city".
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Venice's cruise ship debate resonates beyond the borders of Italy. On Tuesday, international artists including Mick Jagger, Wes Anderson, Tilda Swinton, wrote to the mayor of Venice, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, and Prime Minister Draghi. They called for a "final stop" to visits by cruise ships and better management of tourist flows, limits on property speculation, and protection of the lagoon ecosystem to protect the "physical integrity but also cultural identity" of the port city.