Please Don’t Take a Cruise to Venice

Just written a note to the Sunday Telegraph (“disgusted Newcastle” doesn’t have the same authentic ring about it as Tunbridge Wells) about the possibility of banning those floating blocks of flats called cruise ships from docking in Venice.
For a start they are completely out of scale with the architecture and dwarf the beautiful palazzi and campanile.
More important, though, is what they are doing to the ecology of the Venetian Lagoon and the fabric of the city. The lagoon is shallow: in many parts only 12 feet deep. Obviously it has to be dredged to make a passage for huge ships to approach Venice. Once the mud is removed, the foundations of the city become exposed to the sea and start to rot. Venice is built on hundreds of thousands of wooden “nails” hammered into the seabed.These posts are preserved by the algae in the mud at the bottom of the lagoon. When it is dredged, the foundations of Venice loose their protective covering and start to disintegrate.
Why can’t these ugly gigantic floating palaces dock further down the Adriatic, at Chioggia, say, or preferably further south, and take passengers by smaller boats into the city? It would be a far more authentic experience to arrive that way. And it might encourage visitors to spend more in Venice to help the economy. At the moment there’s no incentive for passengers to spend on shore because everything is paid for on board – so why for instance would you buy lunch in Venice?
I love Venice and it grieves me to see the big ships there every summer, bringing thousands of uncomprehending people on a whistle-stop tour. Just now the city is ghostly and beautiful, with mists hanging over the canals and icicles hanging from the bridges. Many parts are deserted. Cruisers, take note. It is at its best now, and the whole experience is more authentic if you arrive by more traditional means.

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