Venice Plans to Ban Mega-Ships in Late 2014, But Will it Happen?

Cruise ships in Venice // All photos by Susan J. Young

Cruise ships in Venice // All photos by Susan J. Young


After several years of wrangling over the appropriateness of large cruise ships traversing the Venice lagoon, it appears Italy is prepared to limit large cruise ship traffic in Venice.

Reportedly, 96,000-plus, gross registered tonnage (GRT) ships will be banned, starting in November 2014, while additional limits will be placed on the number of 40,000-plus-GRT ships sailing close to St. Mark’s Square, starting in January 2014.

The story was reported here by London’s Globe and Mail:

Environmentalists and historic preservationists have long called for limits on cruise ship traffic in the environmentally sensitive Venice Lagoon. Their rhetoric was further intensified after the 2012 Costa Concordia accident off the coast of Giglio, Italy.

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Limiting Ship Size


According to the London newspaper, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has approved the city's plan to limit or ban cruise ship traffic in parts of the Venice lagoon and near Saint Mark’s Square.

In a statement, Venice’s Mayor Giorgio Orsoni said: “Finally the trend towards gigantic ships in the lagoon has been turned around. We’ve had enough of these mega cruise ships just meters away from San Marco, from now on there will be clear limits on the size of ships that can enter Venice.”

From January 2014, cruise ship traffic in front of the Piazza San Marco in the heart of the city, will be limited. The city apparently will make a 20 percent cut (from 2012 levels) in the number of cruise ships of more than 40,000 gross registered tonnage that are authorized to cross the Giudecca canal.

To put things in perspective, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Whisper, Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Quest, SeaDream Yacht Club’s two vessels and Oceania Cruises’ Nautica, among many others, are all under the 40,000-ton mark. So presumably these and other small ships would likely encounter few, if any, changes.

They should be able to sail by St. Mark’s and dock as usual at the cruise pier.

Even larger ships under 96,000-GRT will likely still be able to dock at Venice’s cruise pier, as a new access channel is being developed with access to the main shipping channel. That includes ships that are, for example, of similar size to Norwegian Cruise Line’s 93,600-ton Norwegian Jade or Royal Caribbean International’s 69,000-ton Splendor of the Seas.

And, it appears some ships of that size will still be able to sail across the Giudecca canal in 2014, just fewer in numbers than in the past. 

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But word out of Italy this week is that mega-ships of a size over 96,000-GRT, such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class or Quantum-class ships, Norwegian Epic, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, Royal Princess of Princess Cruises, or the MSC Preziosa, among many others, will be unable to visit the Venice Lagoon, starting in November 2014. 

Still, questions about implementation remain, and CLIA issued this statement, following discussions with government officials: “CLIA views the outcome of the meeting that took place yesterday in Rome as a positive on-going commitment of the representatives of the Italian Institutions to find a sustainable and long term solution for the city of Venice. This goal is shared by the cruise industry. We are in the process of determining the impact of the decision, and any estimation or evaluation at this time is premature.”

The CLIA statement continued: “Venice is consistently rated as the number one European cruise destination for our industry and we look forward to further strengthening our role as a key contributor to the economic vitality of Venice.”

Celebrity Cruises, which has 26 sailings in 2014 that include a stop in Venice, issued a statement as follows: "Celebrity Cruises is aware of the decision to limit cruise ship traffic in the Venice lagoon. We are reviewing our deployments for 2013 and 2014 to ensure we comply with the new regulation in Venice. We recognize visiting Venice during their cruise is a highlight of our guests’ vacation. We expect to continue with our scheduled port calls to Venice for our 2013 and 2014 itineraries."   

Carnival Corp. told Travel Agent that while it hadn't seen the official ruling yet, the cruise industry is an important economic driver for Venice and other communities around the world. Its statement continued: "While no changes are currently being planned, we will evaluate the ruling and see how it impacts our business in the long run.

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