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Int'l - Cruise ships restart in Venice; protesters decry their risks

The first cruise ship since the pandemic wended its way Saturday through the heart of Venice, escorted by triumphant water-spouting tugboats and elated port workers as it traveled down the Giudecca Canal but also protested by hundreds on land and a small armada of wooden boats waving “No Big Boats” flags.

VENICE, Italy (AP) — The first cruise ship since the pandemic wended its way Saturday through the heart of Venice, escorted by triumphant water-spouting tugboats and elated port workers as it traveled down the Giudecca Canal but also protested by hundreds on land and a small armada of wooden boats waving “No Big Boats” flags.

The battle for Venice’s future was stark as the MSC Orchestra set sail with some 1,000 passengers. The voyage heralded the return of cruise ships to the Italian city after more than 18 months, but the vessel reignited an anti-cruise movement that for more than a decade has opposed the passage of the enormous ships through the fragile lagoon city due to environmental and safety concerns.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi’s government pledged this spring to get cruise ships out of the Venice lagoon, but reaching that goal will take time. Even an interim solution rerouting ships away from the Giudecca Canal is not likely before next year. Ridding the lagoon of the ships, which run more than 250 meters (yards) in length and weigh over 90,000 tons, could take years.

Venice has become one of the world’s most important cruise destinations over the last two decades, and in 2019 served as a lucrative turnaround point for 667 cruise ships carrying nearly 700,000 passengers, according to the association Cruise Lines International (CLIA).

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