Venice welcomes massive MSC Orchestra cruise ship, reviving concerns about safety, overcrowding

SOAVE, Italy — Early risers in Venice were surprised Thursday to see a cruise ship nosing down the Giudecca canal for one of the first times since the start of the pandemic, despite repeated government pledges to reroute such huge vessels due to safety and environmental concerns.

The 92,409-ton MSC Orchestra passed through the basin in front of St. Mark’s Canal around 6 a.m. under tugboat and port authority escort, ahead of a departure from Venice, scheduled for Saturday.

Its arrival comes two years and a day after the MSC Opera struck a dock and a tourist river boat in the same canal, an event that underlined safety concerns among anti-cruise ship campaigners.

Protests are amping up against the renewal of cruise traffic, just 2 ½ months after Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, vowed a definitive stop to the passage of big ships through the heart of the city. They include an open letter by the Venice Heritage non-profit organization, signed by celebrities including musician Mick Jagger, actress Tilda Swinton, filmmaker Wes Anderson and director Francis Ford Coppola.

“Venice is suffering, and we, citizens of the world, cannot remain deaf to her cries,″ read the open letter — addressed to Italian officials including Premier Mario Draghi, members of his Cabinet, the Venice mayor and the Veneto governor.

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