Cruising in Venice: What's changing in 2021-2022
The Italian government has just banned the majority of
cruise ships from central Venice. In the future, most ships are supposed to dock
in the industrial zone of Marghera (on the Venetian mainland), but it remains to
be seen if the new "temporary" port will be ready by 2022.
ABOVE: A small ship,
La Bella Vita of
European Waterways, cruises in the Venetian Lagoon with Marghera's industrial
waterfront as a backdrop.
Updated July 23, 2021
The Italian government announced on
July 12, 2021 that all
cruise ships (except small boutique ships and river vessels) are being banned from central Venice, including the existing cruise
The Draghi government's stated goal is to create a new
artificial harbor and cruise port on the Adriatic at some unspecified time
in the future, with ships using the mainland industrial and petrochemical
port of Marghera (opposite Venice's historic center) until a new port is
There are at least five major problems with this decree:
The Canale di Petroli or "Oil Channel" that leads
to Marghera isn't deep or wide enough for large cruise ships, and
dredging it will cause environmental damage to the Venetian Lagoon in
two ways: (1) It will accelerate tidal flows within the lagoon, and (1)
it will stir up heavy metals and other toxic sediments that have
accumulated in the industrial channel over the last 50+ years.
The Marghera industrial port will require a new terminal
infrastructure to support cruise ships.
Italian law forbids operating passenger services in
polluted or high-risk industrial areas such as Marghera's petrochemical port.
The Draghi government has not actually committed to funding a new port
on the Adriatic. Talk is cheap--especially in Italy, where various
political and NIMBY groups have been fighting over the port for more than a
Italian governments are notorious for being short-lived,
governments won't necessarily abide by the current government's
announcement. (Italy has had more than 65 governments since World War II,
with an average lifespan of 13 months.)
Side note: Proponents of a new cruise port want to locate it on
the Lido di Venezia, Venice's beach resort.
This idea is nothing short of idiotic, since the Lido is an island that can
only be reached by passenger boat or car ferry, making it impractical for
provisioning large cruise ships.
What's happening in 2021 and 2022:
Cruise lines' plans in general are in flux right now, due to the
COVID-19 pandemic. The latest word is that medium-size and large cruise ships won't pass through
St. Mark's Basin and the Guidecca Canal after August 1.
The new rule applies
ships that (a) are larger than 25,000 GRT, (b) are greater than 180 meters in
length, (c) are taller than 35 meters, or (d) have "a production exceeding 0.1% of sulfur."
So what does this mean for you if you were hoping to cruise
from Venice on a medium-size or large passenger ship in 2021 or 2022? As far as we can tell, you'll be out of
The Italian government backs down in the face of
opposition from the Port of Venice and from Venetians who depend on
cruising for economic survival;
The Italian government changes, and the 2021 decree by
the Council of Ministers is rescinded;
The supposedly temporary cruise port at Marghera is
operating sooner than most journalists and locals expect, or...
Your cruise line comes up with a temporary or permanent alternative port. (For
example, Royal Caribbean has shifted its home port in the region from Venice to Revenna--more
than two hours from Venice by road or rail. Costa has moved its Venice sailings
to Trieste for the remainder of 2021. Norwegian has no 2021 departures from
Venice and has made no alternative plans for 2022.)
Our advice, if you're planning a cruise to or from
Don't panic. As we said above, "Talk is
cheap--especially in Italy, where various political and NIMBY groups have
been fighting over the port for more than a decade." Although cruise
passengers represent only about 7 percent of the city's tourists, the
industry contributes millions of euros to the local economy.
in Venice: The economic impact in 2017," a PDF research report from
October, 2018.) With thousands of jobs at stake, strong opposition by
locals--not just by cruise lines--seems inevitable.
Keep in touch with your cruise
line. If you've booked an itinerary to or from Venice on anything other
than a small oceangoing ship or river vessel, check with the cruise line
to learn the status of your voyage and what arrangements are being made
for existing Venice passengers.