While cruise ships have been outlawed from docking in Venice in a bid to curb overtourism, Norwegian Cruise Line seems to have found a loophole.

Norwegian Gem anchored itself a bit out of Venice and then put all 1500 passengers into motor boats that took passengers straight into St Mark’s Square and came back to fetch them in the evening. 

While the Venice port authority have banned ships over 25,000 tonnes from docking, they did authorise NCL’s move to bring people in on motor boats. This allows passengers to still soak up the beauty of Venice, without large cruise ships damaging the lagoon. 

No other NCL ships are porting at Venice over the rest of this summer, despite three being stationed in the Mediterranean. 

Most ships docking recently have been porting in Trieste or Ravenna, about a two hour bus ride from Venice. Some other ships have been docking at Porto Margera, which is closer to a 45 minute drive from the town.

Francesco Alietti, direct of the Italy unit for the Cruise Lines International Association said the ban had left the cruise industry “in limbo”.

“Venice used to be a home port, which meant people would come one or two days in advance and spend time in Venice [before beginning a cruise], book a hotel and eat in the local restaurants. That was the old world.

“The Norwegian episode shows that there is an ongoing struggle for Venice to remain a home port. Everything is in a state of flux and we are trying to understand what the new normal looks like.”

However, on the other side of the coin, Simone Ventuirin, the city’s tourism councillor told local press that he isn’t a fan of “hit and run” tourism. 

“It’s not the type of tourism we want for the city.”

Currently about 80% of tourists visit Venice just for the day, with 19 million day trippers visiting Venice in 2019.

If tendering in Venice does become the norm, cruise tourists may become subject to the tourist tax, where day visitors have to pay between $5 and $15 dollars depending on the amount of tourists in the city that day.

Public opinion has long been split over cruise ships in Venice, with many wanting them to stay away for reasons regarding environmental impact and many others warning of the effects on tourism operators and local business if the plethora of tourists that cruises bring are no longer visiting the city.


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