Venice Travel Guide

Crash Proves Cruise Ships Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Dock in This Popular Destination

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It’s time for cruise ships to sail into the sunset—and away from Venice.

A towering, out of control cruise ship blares its horn. Bystanders flee. Said cruise ship crashes into the dock and a smaller ship in its way. You’d be forgiven for mistaking the scene that unfolded on Venice’s Giudecca Canal early Sunday morning for the climax of a certain 1997 action sequel starring Sandra Bullock.

The MSC Opera suffered a mechanical failure that left it unable to stop while attempting to dock. Though two tugboats attempted to guide and slow the ship, they were ultimately no match for the momentum of the 177-feet-tall, 902-feet-long, and 65,591-ton ship. The MSC Opera crashed into the dock as well as the River Countess, a much smaller riverboat. Five of the riverboat’s passengers were injured as a result of the crash.

The Trouble With Cruise Ships

The crash is emblematic of an issue that’s plagued Venice for years: the damage and chaos caused by large cruise ships. “Today’s accident in the port proves that cruise ships shouldn’t be allowed to pass down the Giudecca anymore,” said Danilo Toninelli, Italy’s transport minister.

Indeed, the incident is just the latest (and most visually dramatic) issue caused by cruise ships for the perennially popular Italian city. Not only do the ships block views of the destination’s sights and bring in large, concentrated numbers of people that overwhelm the city, but the vessels themselves damage the city’s fragile infrastructure and pollute the ecosystem of the lagoon. The collision has renewed calls for bans on cruise ships, which may sound dramatic at first blush but considering that the city’s very survival is on the line (UNESCO will make a decision in July on whether or not to classify it as an endangered heritage site).

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Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Venice has struggled to implement bans on cruise ships in the past so it’s difficult to say when or even if such vessels will be effectively regulated. But you can always help by voting with your wallet. Of course, one way to avoid contributing Venice’s over tourism problem is simply not to go. But if you’re overcome by your burning desire to visit the City of Canals definitely don’t go as part of a cruise. (And if you decide that you prefer the ease and simplification of seeing the Mediterranean via a cruise ship don’t book one that includes Venice on the itinerary.)

The most direct option is to fly into Venice Marco Polo Airport and then transfer to the heart of the city via a private water taxi or the Alilaguna water bus (which costs 15 euros and can be purchased in advance or at the airport). Or, if Venice is just one of your planned stops, Santa Lucia Station is easily accessible from all over Italy and Europe. Coming from London? Nothing matches the old-fashioned, Romantic style of traveling aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.

Is this the last straw? Will you still consider taking a cruise to Venice? Tell us in the forums.