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Venice is a wildly popular cruise destination, and few things are as romantic and exciting as you think an Italian cruise would be. However, cruise ships and the throngs of tourists they bring place a major burden on this fragile floating city.

In June of this year, the MSC Opera, a 13-deck cruise ship on the MSC Cruise line, crashed into a wharf and tourist boats along a busy canal, for instance.

The crash, which some said was “foretold for decades,” preceded an announcement that the Italian government had elected to ban giant cruise ships from Venice’s port, and would reroute one-third of them within the next year.

So, what does this mean if you’re planning to cruise to Venice?

Venice’s Tourism Problem: The City is Sinking

Venice, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is gradually sinking. The city was never meant to handle the giant, modern-day cruise ships that dock in its fragile lagoons, and the cruise liners are being blamed for the erosion of its foundation.

During peak cruising season, around 32,000 cruise ship passengers disembark in this tiny city every day. On average, there are more tourists than residents in Venice. Moreover, the vast majority of tourists don’t stay overnight in the city, so spend their time and money in the same small areas.

On the other side of the tourist’s coin, the city also relies on tourism to survive. There is a segment of Venetians arguing for reform that makes tourism of the legendary city more sustainable. Part of this reform is rerouting large cruise ships.

Immediate Solution: Rerouting Currently Booked Venetian Cruises

The Italian minister of infrastructure has announced that the city of Venice will “reroute” some cruise ships to other docks near Venice beginning now.

Rerouting large cruise ships, like the one that crashed in June, will be the top priority. About one-third of cruise ships already booked in Venice will be rerouted by 2020.

Many ships will be rerouted to the Fusina terminal, which is 12 miles from the Venice City Center by car, and five miles over the water. This means that cruisers will still be able to visit Venice. You’ll just need to reach the city by road or in smaller vessels.

Long Term: A Growing Movement to Reform European Cruise Tourism

Venice isn’t the only European city suffering from over-tourism. Popular cruise destinations such as the cities of Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Palma, and Marseille, have also expressed concerns regarding cruises. They may soon join Venice in placing restrictions on cruise lines.

Although cruising is a popular way to vacation, these cities argue that large cruise ships create environmental problems such as excessive smog, acid rain, and damage to aquatic species.

Swarms of cruisers can cause issues with overcrowding and can spread viruses such as norovirus to residents, too.

Additionally, because cruisers only make day trips to the ports of call, they don’t spend as much money as other tourists might, and also frequent limited areas of the cities.

So it may make more sense for individual communities to seek other avenues to boost their tourism revenues altogether.

In order for cruise tourism to be sustainable in the long-term, the cruise industry will need to work closely with its ports of call to make reforms that prevent over-tourism.

This is especially important in historic ports like Venice, which weren’t designed to sustain large cruise ships and the droves of cruisers they bring.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.