Venice tests ferrying cruise passengers from ship to land

The port of Venice and Italian authorities are continuing to look for a solution to the city’s desire both to benefit from the tourist cash that cruise ships bring to the city without the cruise ships damaging the sensitive Venice Lagoon and fragile canals.

Last weekend the port approved a test of anchoring a large cruise ship outside the lagoon, and then ferrying passengers ashore by tender for a day-long visit.

Norwegian Cruise Line received permission from port officials to anchor the 93,500 gt Norwegian Gem (IMO 9355733) near Venice on Saturday, July 23 on the last day of a seven-day cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean and Greek Islands. The cruise ship reportedly had some 1,500 passengers on board. It arranged for three excursion boats from Venice to shuttle passengers to St Mark’s Square, picking them up in early evening

Last year Italian government banned ships weighing more than 25,000 gt from docking in the port of Venice. It was hoped that a larger industrial area that is some distance away, Marghera port, would be used, thus maintaining the economic benefits for the city, but instead most cruise companies rerouted to ports in Trieste or Ravenna, which have facilities for cruise ship passengers. From there any passengers who want to see Venice have to take a two-hour bus journey.

The Norwegian Gem was only transiting through Venice when it dropped passengers off for the day on boats provided by the city’s port authority.

Under the pilot tested with the Norwegian Gem, embarkation and disembarkation for the cruise continues to happen on Sundays in Trieste, while on Saturday they made a port call on the last full day of the cruise so that passengers could tour Venice. This approach only works for cruise ships making port calls, not for homeporting cruises.

Simone Venturini, the city’s tourism councillor told local reporters that, “it’s not the type of tourism we want for the city.” His faction seeks to focus on tourists that visit the city for days and stay in hotels. Venturini has warned against what he calls “hit and run” tourism – i.e. day visits.

Starting in 2023 Venice will impose a variable daily fee for all visitors to the city, based on the number of people booked to visit the city that day. Officials said that it would help to control crowds and would provide an important source of revenue for the maintenance of the city. In 2019 it was calculated that 19m people visited the city, with as many as 80% staying only for a single day.

2007-built, Bahamas-flagged, 93,530 gt Norwegian Gem is owned by Norwegian Gem Ltd care of NCL (Bahamas) Ltd of Miami, Florida, USA. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (Americas Syndicate) on behalf of NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.