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We need to talk about Cruises & Venice

I just read the latest article from Sarah Murdoch. As many of you know Sarah is an Italy guide. Her passion and convictions shine in this article. I too have had concerns with the increase of ships/tourists in Venice. Sarah makes some valid points on how this impacts the environment, etc. Thanks Sarah! www.adventureswithsarah.net

Posted by
1334 posts

24 million tourists visited Venice last year, only 1.4 million came via cruise ship. Ecological damage by the ships-yes, are cruise ships to blame for all the tourists-no.

Posted by
6251 posts

Even the air onboard is polluted, which is not something I would have guessed (see link to study below). Per a non-related NYT article published yesterday, "even the most efficient cruise ships emit 3 to 4 times more carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than a jet".
https://www.stand.earth/latest/protect-arctic/carnivals-cruise-pollution/investigation-air-quality-carnival-corp-cruise
Unfortunately, human greed and "tragedy of the commons" mentality (what's rational for an individual can still cause immense collective damage) will prevail over public health and preserving unique places like Venice which are already struggling with all sorts of ecological challenges (pollution, human overconsumption, water level rising, etc).

I think "talking" about this is insufficient, it's time to actually do something. On my end, I'm not going to leave my footprint on Venice at all. I'm ok with that. I know it sounds weird but I think advances in virtual reality/travel will make it possible to "see" some fragile places without actually spoiling them (360 degree imagery is already out there for the interior of some spaces and for navigating around, for example). It's not perfect substitute, but it may be the right approach. I feel the same about the Galapagos, I don't want my presence to help kill them.

Posted by
31076 posts

I also have to wonder if "human greed" is part of the problem. The cruise lines are all trying to outdo each other with bigger and bigger ships and better passenger experiences to maximize profits as much as possible. They're in business to make money so there's nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn't be at the expense of fragile historic places like Venice. To paraphrase the words of John Fogerty.....

And when you ask them, "How much should we pay?"
Ooh, they only answer "More! More! More!"

I've been in Venice when one of those behemoths passes by Piazza San Marco and it's a grotesque sight, and somewhat sad. In the short term, perhaps they could ban large ships from the Grand Canal and ferry passengers in using tenders. That would keep the tourist dollars flowing for the people of Venice, but minimize the damage to the foundations of the buildings.

Posted by
5937 posts

Those ships should be banned and sent to dock by the industrial mainland.

Posted by
8293 posts

“i’ve been in Venice when one of those behemoths passes by.”

And I have been on one of those behemoths arriving in Venice, as it passed St. Mark’s square. It was a shock to the system. I had been to Venice a couple of times before this arrival by cruise ship, and viewing San Marco from the deck of a Holland America liner was a heart breaker. It looked not small, but very ordinary and not all that interesting. I wondered what any fellow passengers who had not been to Venice before would make of it. It really is not the best way to arrive in lovely Venice. So if the powers that be choose to ban cruise ships on the Giudecca, many cruise passengers will be saved that disappointing first impression from the top deck with a glass of wine in hand.

Posted by
6119 posts

I think its been talked to death.

I agree Sam, it's been dead for some time now. Please, let's bury it before it stinks up the place.

Posted by
8293 posts

Well, I guess that is the end of that discussion.

Posted by
2603 posts

Interesting perspective Norma. I’d never thought about how much like a miniature city Venice must looked from the deck of a tall ship. That really is a sad image to ponder.

Posted by
6251 posts

I wonder what Valletta, Malta must look like from one of those ships (maybe even more disappointing, since I think it's best seen from above - eg. the Saluting Gallery and other viewpoints). That is such a neat place. I'm happy I saw it even if I never see Venice.

Posted by
2997 posts

I am not a cruiser. However, I think that there could be a more balanced approach to this issue than all the cruise-bashing so far. There is a physical problem with the size of the ships and Venice. I get that. That doesn't mean that all cruises should be banned or that all cruises are horrible.

Rethinking the size of the cruise ships, rethinking where the cruise ships docks, and the number of cruise ships is a great idea.
There are many people, for whatever reason, that find taking a cruise matches their vacation needs. Perhaps they have limited mobility. Perhaps they enjoy having their hotel move with them. There is no reason to say that these people "lack imagination" or to make derogatory remarks.

The solution is one where everyone works together for the goal of sustaining Venice as a community, allowing others to enjoy that community, and maintain a quality of life for those living and visiting there. Working together doesn't mean raining insults on those with a different travel style.

Posted by
3116 posts

Well, I am a cruiser as well as a land traveler, as well as a bit of a "greenie" and it isn't uncommon for these to be in conflict. At times, cruising wins. I will be cruising into Venice region next May on a ship of 1500 and then staying a week. San Marco is not on the itinerary.
On a cruising forum there was talk that building of a new port IS underway on the mainland near Mestre. However, I haven't been able to find anything about it....in english, at any rate. I challenged Sarah M to ask her activist friends to confirm or deny it. Unfortunately, politics and bigger fists are holding fast to the money making cruise ships, so improvement is slow.
If we want to throw stones, think tour groups. Have we not seen the repercussions of a place arriving in Rick's and other travel recommendations? (land) Day trippers are just as guilty as the cruiser with only a day in a port. It will be interesting to see if there is any reduction of them when they have to pay a 'day visit' charge to enter Venice. Better yet, I want to see that the money actually went to some good to sway the balance back to improving Venice for the locals.

Carol had said it well.
Agnes is putting her ethics into practice (good on you Agnes. I am still too selfish to boycott some places. Others, yes). You have the same choice.

Posted by
3351 posts

Carol from Washington: As one who loves Venice, I say "Here, here!". You could not have stated it better.

Posted by
187 posts

Isn’t Venice implementing a visitors tax for day trippers and planning to make day trippers reserve ahead to even enter Venice?

Posted by
6251 posts

Rethinking the size of the cruise ships, rethinking where the cruise
ships docks, and the number of cruise ships is a great idea.

It's not just that. These ships need to literally clean up their act - or they need to pay the full environmental cost of their business. Their pollution emissions are much higher than other transport modes for tourists, even as jets and buses are getting cleaner and more energy efficient. What does it say if the most efficient cruise ship still emits 3-4 times the carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than a jet? Their customers should demand better, as should regulators. And, yes, as consumers, cruisers should take some responsibility for these emissions too instead of ducking and comparing themselves to other tourist groups (classical "whataboutism"). Every traveler leaves a footprint based on how they arrive/depart and what physical impact they make on the infrastructure, services, and ecology of a place - how much of a footprint do you want to leave?

Posted by
3116 posts

@roubrat, yes. It was supposed to start in May, but I think was deferred to September 2019. Not sure the amount or whether it will be deferred again. Some articles say it will be 10E and a hefty fine if you don't pay it, others say 3.50E and it will be blended into costs of other services - like vaporreto tickets, or even as part of your cruise price.
https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/venice-tourist-tax-day-trippers/index.html
https://www.cntraveler.com/story/venice-to-charge-day-trippers-a-fee-to-visit

Posted by
187 posts

Some articles say it will be 10E and a hefty fine if you don't pay it, others say 3.50E and it will be blended into costs of other services - like vaporreto tickets, or even as part of your cruise price.

Hmm, interesting. It doesn't sound like it will be much of a deterrent in any case.

Makes me imagine a turnstile entrance at St Mark's Square with a Disneyland type stamp on your hand.

Posted by
3116 posts

yes, barely a deterrent, I guess. But if you multiply it by the millions of tourists, it could be a hefty source of income.
I am trying to figure out what happens with those who stay for multiple days? Will it only be added to the per trip vaporetto fare? Will a multi-day card be exempt? Will I need to pay every day? Will my AirBnB host collect it with the nightly city sleep tax?
Clearly more solid information required.

Posted by
187 posts

My understanding was if you stay multiple days you're exempt since you're not a day tripper and you're presumably spending money at hotels, restaurants, stores, etc. From what I read this was to collect some income from those who come for the day and barely spend any money at local businesses.

Posted by
1667 posts

The article does a good job describing the problem.

Our Walks of Italy guide for our Rome evening stroll has been in the business 30 years. She said that when the huge cruise ships started coming to Civitavecchia, she noticed a huge increase in tourists in Rome. She said that in the summer it is wall to wall.

She also said cruise ship passengers are easy to spot. They are in a dead run, trying to see as much as possible, but terrified they’ll be late getting back to the ship. They are often pushy and aggressive.

We have never been on a big cruise ship, but dear friends invited us to join them on a Viking River Cruise. I saw plenty of examples of the pushiness she described.

I think the overcrowding of popular tourist attractions is partly but by no means completely caused by cruise ships. I think Boomers like me are a big cause of the increase. We are reaching retirement age and taking trips we postponed while raising families and pursuing a career.

I consider us lucky. We’ve had the chance to see most of the major attractions in Europe before things got crazy. We are now concentrating on traveling to out of the way destinations, mostly in the shoulder or off seasons. The “authentic” Europe still exists if you know how to find it.

Posted by
145 posts

The words "cruises" and "Venice" used in the same sentence hurts my heart. We are loving these places to death.

But what to do? Stay home? How sad.

I'm thinking that spreading the money (and people) a little thinner should be our new travel goal. Where can I go on vacation that needs my money? A little challenging, but a good idea.

Maybe it's time for RS to branch out and start producing books about Zimbabwe, Mongolia or the Marshall Islands?

I might also make a donation to Planned Parenthood...

Posted by
3116 posts

I might be wrong but if it wasn't profitable to Venice, I think they would have forced changes before now.

Posted by
745 posts

@Maria...

Well, I am a cruiser as well as a land traveler, as well as a bit of a "greenie" and it isn't uncommon for these to be in conflict.

That describes me to a tee as well. :)

Very insightful conversation. We did a bike and barge - our barge left from Giudecca so we got to watch some of the large cruise ships come through that area... WOW is all I can say. I think parking the ships in another area is a good thought as well as the thought that if Venice didn't see the financial benefits the government would more quickly to make changes but I wonder what the relationship is between the powerful people and the cruiselines.

Posted by
3116 posts

@Donna, when the comments are that the city doesn't react or action the concerns of its citizenry, then I would say the relationship between the port, cruise ships and powers that be are pretty strong. Which is a sobering thought.
As a cruiser, I am concerned for every port that receives these megaships. The cruise companies build them for the return clients that want to go on board and be entertained 24/7 with no input from themselves to be responsible for their own entertainment. The companies earn a lot from the hard drinking, hard playing group of travelers....moving them from port to port. For the cruiser desiring smaller ships, there is a concern that they won't be replaced when they become too old to sail. Alternative sizes are either luxury or river cruising which for the solo traveler becomes a budget issue. Of course, that falls back to travel being an opportunity rather than an entitlement :-) So, I cruise the smaller ships while they are available and affordable.
Pretty much every port and its citizens hate the size and numbers of ships. As more and more cruise countries build their own docks, then the only way to restrict them is to refuse to rent or sell them land - which for a poor island or region is a difficult decision to say 'no' to.