Venice’s first cruise ship since the pandemic departs in a sea of protest

The first cruise ship to dock in Venice since the start of the pandemic more than a year and a half ago has left the Italian port city amid vocal protests.

Protesters drove up to the cruise ship in small boats, brandishing flags and posters, and shouting slogans like “Large ships out of the lagoon.”

The movement No Grandi Navi (No large ships) had called for a demonstration at the beginning of the week to protest against the route the cruise took through the lagoon.

The protesters don’t want large ships passing through anymore, after months of being free of cruise ships entering Venice, a World Heritage site, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Locals oppose the Cruise Ship MSC Orchestra. Photo: Getty

The topic has even mobilised support from stars like Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger and actor Tilda Swinton, who in an open letter to the Italian government called for a halt to cruises in the lagoon.

Before the pandemic, Venice was hounded by millions of tourists every year, with cruises being especially controversial among locals.

“It was like an April Fool’s joke,” No Grandi Navi wrote in the call to protest, alluding to a regulation that came into force on April 1 that recognises the issue but allows for ships’ passing until a solution has been found.

Tugboats escort the MSC Orchestra past the Bell Tower and the Doge’s Palace as it leaves Venice. Photo: Getty

The Italian government has called for ideas on where large ships could dock outside of the lagoon. No concrete plans have been presented yet.

Meanwhile, the cruise industry body Clia was also surprised the ships could dock in Venice again, but said it was a positive signal for the billion-euro industry.

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