On Wednesday, Financial Times reported that cruise ships would be diverted away from Venice’ city center. Following several incidents in the last months, including the infamous MSC Opera crash, Venetians have seemingly succeeded in banning cruise ships. The reputable newspaper cited Italian minister of transportation, Danilo Toninelli, stating that this measure would be taken to “to avoid witnessing more invasions of the Giudecca by these floating palaces, with the scandals and risks that they bring”. Although the Italian minister announced a plan to divert ships, not a single cruise ship is affected so far. In this article, we hope to explain why the mentioned plan will not solve overtourism problems in Venice. In fact, Venice will see a massive increase in cruise passengers in 2020.
Despite massive media attention, Toninelli didn’t actually ban a single ship. He voiced nothing more than plans during a transport committee meeting. There is no law that bans ships. There is no ‘executive order’ that bans ships. According to CNN, the minister said nothing more than that he ‘aims to reroute’ ships while a ‘public consideration would be held to solve the problem in the longer term’, CNN writes. So far, Toninelli has done nothing more than making a statement.
The plan itself is also not addressing overtourism. This plan would only have an impact on Venice’s passenger terminal, the Venezia Terminal Passeggeri, and the ship route currently used to get there. It is unclear if the announced plan would restrict larger ships from arriving at this terminal or only limiting the chosen route. If cruise ships are actually banned from arriving at the terminal, they will be forced elsewhere but will remain in the area. Cruise passengers will continue to find their way to Venice’s center.
Toninelli’s plan consists of moving or forcing cruise ships to dock in other terminals. All the alternative terminals mentioned by Toninelli or media will be in or around the Venice lagoon. Even if the transport minister proves to be successful in moving the ships away from the city center, Venice will not see less passengers. Cruise ships that have Venice on their itinerary will still arrive in Venice.
The minister named several possible alternatives. A frequently mentioned alternative is Fusina. Fusina is so closely located to the city center that passengers will arrive in Venice within no time. Fusina terminal is currently marketed as a parking area for day trippers (!) going to Venice. Fusina Terminal offers quick boat transfers that carry passengers within 10 minutes from San Marco square.
Meanwhile, other options mentioned in the news such as Lido, Chioggia or Lombardia (?). All these alternatives are all within or at the outskirts of the Venetian lagoon. Any tourist that has ever visited Lido or Chioggia knows that these are not viable alternatives and far from ready to receive even a medium sized ship. None of these locations is ready to welcome cruise passengers in 2019. Large investments need to be made to make this possible. Even if these ‘alternatives’ are developed into cruise ports, cruise passengers will simply be transported to the city of Venice by other means of transportation. Either by boat or over land.
When the city of Amsterdam spontaniously started levying a cruise tax, cruise ships opted for alternative ports. Some cruise ships chose to use the port city of IJmuiden as an alternative. We previously noticed that this didn’t lead to less cruise passengers arriving in Amsterdam. Although ships weren’t actually docking in Amsterdam anymore, IJmuiden was now marketed as destination Amsterdam. Important to note is that, unlike Choggia or Lido, IJmuiden already had a cruise terminal.
No matter where ships can actually dock, none of the alternatives are outside the metropolitan region of Venice. Cruise lines will be able to market all mentioned alternatives as destination Venice. Not a single cruise line will be negatively affected by the measure. Overtourism will not be addressed by this measure.
Although English tabloid Daily Express is seemingly hinting on heavily impacted vacation plans, nothing will change. Cruise ships have not (yet) been diverted and all mentioned alternative locations are within the metropolitan region of Venice. The chance of your ship being diverted in 2019 is probably close to 0%. Is your cruise booked in 2020, there is also no reason to panic. Not only is nothing formally announced yet, cruise lines will make sure you will get to Venice’s city center. Most likely in the cruise terminal within the city.
Keep in mind, this is Italy: there is also a big chance nothing will change at all.
Photo credit: The photos provided by Alexander Araya López were documented as part of the RIGHTS UP project funded by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 792489.