Venice hosted a cruise ship Saturday for the first time since the pandemic began, drawing celebration from port employees thrilled at the return of business and demonstrations from those concerned about the damage the large ships cause. Hundreds of people on land and in small boats, displaying "No big ships" flags, encircled the MSC Orchestra, escorting the 16-deck ship out of port on its way to Croatia and Greece, Reuters reports. At the same time, tugboats alongside spouted water in celebration, and the Orchestra blasted its horn. "We are here because we are against this passage," a protester said, "but also against a model of tourism that is destroying the city, pushing out residents, destroying the planet, the cities, and polluting." The chairman of the Federlogistica business group said, "It's an important day for us, for 4,000 workers and many others who work in this sector."
Opponents said Italy's government deceived them, per the Guardian. They weren't expecting a liner to sail in after the government had said months ago that cruise ships would no longer be allowed to docking in the historic center and instead would be sent to the industrial port of Marghera. Just last month, the culture minister said ships "as tall as apartment buildings" had been stopped from arriving in the center of Venice permanently. But much infrastructure work has to be completed first, including dredging of the canal. "The government knew it was impossible," an activist said. Also, he said, the dredging will cause more damage. The issue has received global attention, and the protesters want an explanation from the government. "It's shameful," the activist said. The opposition has been working on the issue for more than a decade, per the AP. (Two years ago, a cruise ship slammed a tourist boat and a dock in Venice.)