Venezia Autentica | Discover and Support the Authentic Venice

Good or bad? The truth about the cruise ships in Venice, Italy

Protests against cruise ships in Venice made it to the world’s largest and most reputable news networks many times between 2010 and 2020.

The relationship between Venice, the Venetians, and the cruise ships docking in Venice is a very sensitive subject, so it is critical to analyze and break it down in order to understand it better.

Three big cruise ships docked at the port of Venice, Italy. The ships' engines are kept on all the time to provide electricity to the amenities on board, contributing enourmously to the pollution of the air in town.

As one might expect, when it comes to Cruise Ships or “Grandi Navi” (literally “Big Ships”), Venetians are divided into two groups: those in favour of Big Ships and those opposed to Big Ships entering the Venetian Lagoon.

Both groups have reasons to justify their positions, so we’ll stick to listing facts as the best way to discuss this difficult issue.

When it comes to cruise ships in Venice, size matters

In most cases, the disparity in size between the ships and Venice creates the most direct and strong impression on onlookers.

Is this perception based on facts? Are cruise ships truly too big in comparison to Venice?

The size of Venice and its Lagoon, and the number of inhabitants

A few things to know to understand the (tiny) size of Venice:

  • The total area of Venice is slightly less than 8km2, roughly twice the size of Central Park in New York.
  • The Saint Mark’s Bell Tower, Venice’s tallest building, stands 99 meters tall.
  • The majority of buildings in Venice are under 20 meters tall.
  • The lagoon in which Venice is located has an average depth of around 1.2 m.
  • Venice has a population of fewer than 50.000 inhabitants.

The size of cruise ships

Here’s some information to understand the size of modern cruise ships:

  • Since the first purpose-built cruise ship in 1970, ship sizes have steadily increased.
  • The first cruise ship, named “Song of Norway,” was built in 1970. It was 188m long, 24m wide, weighed 18.000t, and could accommodate 1.100 people.
  • The “Harmony of the Seas,” built in 2016, is 362.15 meters long, 66 meters wide, and 70 meters tall, with a draught of 9.3 meters, a gross tonnage of 226.963 tons, and a capacity of over 9,000 people. The gross tonnage has increased by more than 1300 percent compared to the “Song of Norway,” or 500 percent compared to the Titanic.
  • 38 of the 47 new cruise ships scheduled to be built by 2021 will weigh more than 100,000 tons.

A first decree, in 2013, prohibited ships with a gross tonnage above 96.000t from passing through the Saint Mark’s Basin.

If you’re wondering how big a ship of 96.000t could be, consider the MSC Magnifica. This ship measures 294 meters in length, 32 meters in width, has an 8-meter draft, can carry up to 4.600 passengers,… and is just under the 96.000 tons limit!

Finally, in 2021, the Italian Government passed a new decree that prohibited ships above 25.000 tons to pass right in front of Saint Mark’s in Venice.

Big Cruise Ship passing in front of Via Garibaldi in Venice, Italy. Cruise ships pass right in the heart of Venice.

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While the size of cruise ships is immediately apparent to our senses, their impact on the local environment cannot be seen with the naked eye but can be measured.

The city of Venice is currently not compliant with EU directives regarding the location and number of air quality control centres. There should be more air quality control centres in Venice than there currently are.

Nonetheless, the data available already provides an idea of the impact and effects of pollution caused by large ships.

Venice background pollution

Consider two important facts to understand many Venetians’ confusios about Venice’s extremely poor air quality:

  • The entire surface of Venice is inaccessible to cars, making it the world’s largest pedestrian city.
  • Venice is the Italian leader in ecological mobility due to its public vs. private transportation ratio: a much higher percentage of people use public transportation compared to the rest of Italy, reducing each individual’s environmental footprint.

Nonetheless, the background pollution in Venice’s air is higher than it should be. The main contributors are public transportation boats and sightseeing boats known as “granturismo”: water transportation regulations are far laxer than those on land!

Indeed, maritime companies are permitted to use low-cost fuel with a high sulfur content (1.500 times that permitted for land vehicles!) and are under no obligation to use a particulate filter. Filters that reduce emissions by 90-99% would cost 5.000 € per boat, a sum that could be repaid with less than 600 one-way tickets.

The impact of cruise ships on the air quality in Venice

According to the Italian Senate, […the regional agency for environmental prevention and protection has demonstrated that the cruise ships traffic in Venice is the major responsible for atmospheric pollution …], [… every ship pollutes as much as 14.000 cars , also while being docked. Moreover, an estimation performed by the Veneto Cancer Institute states that “ in Venice and Mestre there is a statistically significant excess of lungs cancer compared to the rest of Italy “].

This is an extract of Act n. 1-00199, published on the 13th of December 2013 by the Senate of the Italian Republic .

It is worth noting that this refers to fine dust : the situation for other highly polluting elements is even worse!

Official measurements in Venice are performed in Sacca Fisola, a low-populated area upwind of the harbour.

EU directives , however, impose at least two monitoring centres in the heart of populated areas , and Venice doesn’t comply with the law on this matter.

Ambientalists turned towards the environmental organization NABU , to ask for measurements to be performed in the heart of the city, which is downwind the harbour: those values turned out to be  5 to 6 times higher than the already alarmingly high measurements in Sacca Fisola.

NABU’s measurement registered both the background pollution in different parts of the city and the spike concurrently to the passage of cruise ships . The level of PM 2,5 after the passing of a cruise ship Nave reached 150 times the level of PM 2,5 of clean air .

“I know there are regulations out there!”, you might think. Yes, there are, but not for everybody.

Since the enforcement of the standard Euro V in 2009 , the max amount of sulfurs in fuel was reduced to 10 ppm, or 0,001% .

That’s great! This, however, counts only for land vehicles such as cars and trucks.

The fuel allowed on ships at sea can  contain up to 3,5% sulfur : that is 3.500 more sulfur than the one allowed in fuel for land vehicles.

While moored , ships are allowed to use fuel with up to “only” 1,5% sulfur, which is still 1.500 times more polluting than the fuel used by cars and trucks .

Do ships burn fuel while docked in the harbour?

Yes, they do, because the port in Venice (as most ports around the world) can’t provide enough electricity for keeping the services and amenities running onboard the ships. Therefore, ships keep their engines running to produce electricity.

A cruise ship docked in Venice keeps the motor running 24h a day and burning a fuel that is 1.500 (one-thousand five-hundred) times more polluting than car fuel. 

Many nations worldwide, including Italy, lack laws enforcing the use of filers on cruise ships. As a consequence, many cruise ships don’t make use of particulate filters and catalyst converters , which would decrease emissions by (over) 90%.

The cost of filters, called scrubbers, for a medium-sized cruise ship is around 1 million € . Considering that the average cost of a cruise ship is around 350 million, the cost for the purchase of filters would represent just  0,3% of the total cost. 

There are two main reasons for which cruise companies chose not to make use of scrubbers :

  • Filters would take up space that companies prefer to reserve for entertainment instead.
  • The current laws allow cruise ships to approach the coast even without filters if they have “clean” fuel . Clean fuel on ships, however, contains up to 1500 times more sulfur than land fuel does.

In order to answer the concerns raised by Venetians regarding the pollution caused by cruise ships, companies have signed and publicized their “Venice Blue Flag” voluntary agreement , with the promise to make use of BTZ fuel when approaching Venice. BTZ fuel is an oil with less than 0,1% sulfur , far below the Italian national requirement of <1,5% when in urban areas.

We salute with excitement such a of voluntary agreement!

Unfortunately, despite their announcements, upon inspection by the port authorities companies have been fined for not even respecting the national requirements and using instead fuel containing 2,8% sulfur  (Venice, 18/07/2015). How reliable!

Let’s make this last information very clear:

  • Cars fuel has a 0,001% limit
  • The Italian Law imposes a 1,5% limit on ships within 12 miles from the coast (the limit raises to 3,5% beyond 12 miles)
  • Cruise ship companies promised to respect a voluntary 0,1% limit

But upon inspection, companies were found to be using fuel with 2,8% sulfur, a value 2.800 times higher than the one allowed for cars and well above the Italian Law.

Effects on the local environment

Besides the aforementioned air pollution, there are several other effects caused directly by Cruise Ships or human intervention looking to accommodate ever growing cruise ships in the lagoon.

Effects on Venice

Three main impacts of cruise ships in Venice are the displacement of water and the consequent erosion of the lagoon, the corrosion caused by pollutant, and the digging of canals in the Venetian Lagoon which is a very delicate environment.

  • Displacement is the mass of water moved by the submerged part of the ship, and it’s the parameter that allows a ship to float . Gross Tonnage, which is what the Laws refer to, is the measure of the volumes of a ship, not its mass. There is no direct relationship between Gross Tonnage and Displacement. However, the displacement in cruise ships is roughly around 50% of its gross tonnage : a 100.000t ship will move 50 million litres of water. Even though performed relatively slowly, the movement of such a massive amount of water erodes the hundreds and even thousands of years old foundations of the palaces and the streets of Venice. Big ships are not the only cause of this phenomenon, of course. Heavy (and too-fast-moving) motor traffic is to be blamed also for the holes (yes, real holes) being carved in the foundations.
  • The pollution  caused by the fuel used by cruise ships as well as motorboats mixes with the air produces NO2, CO2, and SO2 which damage  severely not only the “natural” environment and the health of living beings but also corrodes severely the works of art and the palaces of Venice.
  • The heavy digging of the canals to let Big Ships into the Venetian Lagoon increases the amount of water that enters and exits the lagoon during tides . The direct and most obvious effect on the city of Venice is the increase in number and intensity of High Waters, or Acque Alte , which partially flooded the city.

Big ships, or cruise ship, passing in the lagoon of Venice, Italy

Effects on the Lagoon

We mentioned above the consequences that digging canals have on the city of Venice. What were the effects of human intervention on the lagoon ?

  • The lagoon used to have an average depth of 40cm until less than 100 years ago. The digging and deepening of canals led to the erosion of 70% of the natural sediments and an increase in depth to an average 1,2m … that’s an increase of +200%.
  • The increased amount of water led to the erosion of the sandbanks of the lagoon. Sandbanks are home to Venetian wildlife : fishes, birds, small rodents, and plants. Since the digging of the canals started, the habitat of local species has decreased drastically .

Dangers and risks of collisions

The most immediate fear of Venetians and Venice lovers when it comes to the passing of Big Ships in the heart of Venice, is the risk of collision .

The rules established to reduce this risk are very strict and applied with great attention:

  • Every cruise ship is halted at the entrance of the lagoon of Venice, is boarded by two captains of the Venice Port and is manoeuvred all the way until it is safely docked in the harbour.
  • Every cruise ship is preceded and followed by two tugboats that can  intervene in the case of an emergency .

These rules have indeed granted great safety to the city of Venice over the years, but have not prevented entirely accidents. Some of them could have been devastating to the city.

Will cruise ships tragedies no longer occur in Venice?

No, only forbidding cruise ships to pass in the basin of Saint Mark will assure Venice to be completely safe from cruise ship related accidents.

Just like everything else, from trains to planes, the risks are calculated, reduced as much as possible, and often prevented . Yet, accidents do happen , it’s a matter of statistics and probability. Whether a mechanical or electrical dysfunction, terrorism, human error or deliberate choice, tragedies are a reality.

In the past years, between 500 and 600 cruise ships docked yearly in Venice. This means that cruise ships cross the Basin of Saint Mark between 1.000 and 1.200 times every year , just in front of the Doge Palace on one side, and San Giorgio on the other side. In 20 years , big ships will have passed 20 to 24.000 times through the heart of Venice . One, only one, single accident in the Basin is one of those 2o.000+ crossings could mean a tragedy from which Venice would never recover.

The possibility of accidents is small , but the consequences would be devastating .

Up to this point, all considerations speak clearly against Big Ships.

Why then, are there people in favor of cruise ships?

Impact of the cruise ship business on the local Economy

The Venice Cruise Ship Terminal employs 4-5.000 workers locally , which is over 4% of the workers of Venice , and a total of 7-8.000 workers in all of Italy. The economic impact of the port represents 3-4% of the Venice municipality GDP .

Venice acts mainly as a homeport . A homeport is a port from which a cruise ships’ journey start or ends. Cities that have home ports benefit from greater economic expenses than cities working as transit ports do since it is more likely for cruisers to be spending one night in town before or after their cruise. In 2015, the port of Venice has welcomed close to  1,6 million passengers.  The above data and its implications were taken from a  report about the benefits of the port , commissioned and funded by the Venetian port itself.

On the other hand, since Venice has experienced a sudden increase of cruise passengers , an overwhelming number of souvenirs shops and low-price-and-quality restaurants have opened , targeting day (or hour) trippers. This kind of business has contributed greatly to the increase of rents and the disappearance of many local shops and activities , as well as artisans’ shops and authentic traditions.

Impact of the Cruise Ships on the National Economy

An important business connected to the cruise ships industry is the making of these big ships . The Italian public company Fincantieri is one of the biggest shipbuilding companies in the world , specializing in cruise ships, warships, and 60+m yachts. It has several construction yards in Italy, as well as in the U.S., Brazil, Norway, Romania, and Vietnam. One major construction point is in Marghera (Venice), and it gives work to thousands of workers and 350 businesses. The number of subcontractors increases this industry’s relevance even further.

Fincantieri in 2015 employed directly 7.700 people in Italy and over 22.000 people all around the world, generating revenues of 4,2 Billion €. 

It is clear that a part of Italy’s economic interests and job opportunities are tightly bound to the cruise ships business .

Current situation and Government interventions

Laws and decrees.

Technically, since 2013 a Decree called Clini-Passera prohibits big ships over 40.000t to pass by the basin of Saint Mark . Only technically though, since the decree also requires the presence of alternative routes for ships over 40.000t, in order to be effective . As long as the city of Venice will  not provide alternatives , this limit is automatically increased to 96.000t . Before 2013, the upper limit used to be 130.000t.

This situation, however, is probably better than if the 40.000t limit would be respected since, currently, the only ships small enough to respect that limitation are  old ships with obsolete engines . These “small” big ships might indeed look less invasive to the eye, yet they pollute the air more than bigger and more modern ships do .

Until early 2021, the only limitations to cruise ships passing through the basin of Saint Mark are the use of fuel with less than 1,5% sulfur (1500 times higher than the percentage allowed on land) and a gross tonnage below 96.000 tons .

That did not satisfy civil society groups who demanded cruise ships be banned from passing through the heart of Venice. Indeed, ships up to 96.000 tons still represent a massive size compared to the city’s dimensions.

At the same time, the 96.000t limit did not satisfy cruise companies, since most of the new ships being built were over 100.000 tons and wouldn’t be allowed to pass in front of Venice . Seeing Venice from above was considered to be the highlight of the cruise ship journey, and is, therefore, the strongest cruise ship ticket selling argument .

Finally, in 2021, things changed: From the 1st of August 2021, ships weighing with a size above 25.000 tons can no longer pass in front of Saint Mark’s Square!

In 2021 some things changed for Cruise Ships in Venice

A new Italian Law passed in July 2021 stated that ships above 25.000 tons can no longer pass in front of Saint Mark’s Square starting August 1st 2021!

This, however, does not mean that cruise ships can no longer enter the Venetian Lagoon.

On the contrary, the local and national administrations are considering increasing the width and depth of an existing canal inside the Venetian Lagoon to let much bigger cruise ships dock in Marghera, nearby Venice.

Therefore, while we welcome the new Law, it only solves one problem: the risk of collisions.

The huge impacts of cruise ships on our delicate local environment and the enormous pollution caused are not addressed at all.

Projects and proposals

Despite the new law of 2021, the Italian Government is taking into account three proposals to improve to the current situation.

Two of them, called Contorta Project and Trezze Project , focus on the digging of existing canals in the Venetian lagoon ; The third, called the Venis Cruise Project , focuses on building a new docking terminal at the entrance of the Lido channel connecting the Adriatic sea to the lagoon.

Increasing the width and depth of canals in the Venetian lagoon is fiercely opposed  by environmental groups since it will alter and worsen, once more, the fragile state of the Venetian lagoon . In order to make big ships pass, the canals would be dug a dozen meters deep, allowing a much greater amount of seawater to enter or exit the lagoon during tides. The digging of one of these canals would result in the destruction of even more sandbanks , or “barene”, and an  increase in the frequency and intensity of High Water , or Acqua Alta, in Venice.

The creation of a new docking terminal is opposed for several reasons. From a logistic point of view , the common remark is that it will be necessary to create yet another means of transportation for millions of people from the cruise terminal to the centre of Venice. Cruise ships oppose this project. A new docking terminal would prevent companies to sell the view-of-Venice-from-above , and would spoil the investments made during the past decade to become the majority shareholder of the Venice Port.

A further project suggests cruise ships should make use of the already existing “oil canal” or “Canale dei Petroli”, which is used since 1969 by mercantile ships to reach the industries of Marghera. This project would require no intervention on the Venetian Lagoon, but the making instead of a new Port in Marghera and the conversion of the current Port into social housing. The Marghera Port would be the only location adapt for cold-ironing, or   shore connection , providing enough electrical power to docked ships, making it possible for their main and auxiliary engines to be turned off, dramatically cutting the cost of air pollution.

We tried to provide you with plenty of information to describe the relationship between Venice and the Big Ships. Whichever is your position on this matter, we respect it.

The opinion of others

We understand the problems that would be caused by posing a limitation to cruise ships, and we understand that several people are bound to this business and depend on it. We respect those who strongly support the cruise ship business as it currently is.

We are aware that many people depend on the activities coming from the Venice Port , and that the ever-growing protests of the local communities are felt like a great threat and danger to their jobs.

In a land where unemployment is high, pay is low, and social help is less-than-ideal, this is exactly the leverage used by those who could make a change but wish instead to keep things as they currently are,  only to increase their profit despite damaging severely the health of the local population and the environment.

Our Opinion

We are very critical of the current situation.

We just can not and will not accept the great, constant and terrible pollution caused by these ships and the promotion of mass tourism that contributes to the disappearing of local businesses and authentic shops in favour of mass-produced plastic souvenirs that target day-trippers.

We understand and respect the importance of this business and the jobs it generates  but we believe it must change in order to respect something that matters more than the profit of a few: the health of all the Venetians, the protection of Venice, and the respect of the environment.

We have a dream

We wish for the preservation of the current jobs , but we also wish for some major changes that will respect Venice, the lagoon, and the Venetians.

Which changes do we believe should absolutely be undertaken ?

  • Ships should be obliged to use filters .
  • Close to cities, fuel allowed on ships should respect the same parameters as the one allowed on land .
  • Once docked , ships should switch off their motors and receive electrical power from the Port itself.
  • Ships should not pass in front of Saint Mark . Entertainment and profit should not win over safety.
  • No new canals should be dug or enlarged . The Venetian Lagoon is delicate and should be preserved.

We believe in our dreams, and we will try to push for a change in every way we can.

Congratulations on making it through this long and technical article!

If you’re eager to learn more about Venice as well as to find great information to plan your visit to the city while making a positive impact on the local community, check out the following resources:

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Plan The Best Seven-Night European Cruises From Venice

Begin or end your cruise in stunning venice.

By Robert Schrader | Published on February 16, 2024

Venice, Italy Rio Marin Canal

Take A Mini Cruise To Burano And Murano

W hen in Venice, you don't have to travel far from St. Mark's Square to have an adventure. One of my favorite ways to shake up an ordinary Venice trip is to set my GPS for Fondamente Nove pier, where "vaporetto" — water taxis — depart for several secondary islands in the Venetian Lagoon. My first stop is always Burano, a small place that packs an outsized travel punch.

Venice, Italy Canals and Gondolas

The first thing you'll notice about Burano as you're walking along its canals is how colorful the houses are here. This aspect is what makes it one of my favorite Venice excursions. Beyond snapping selfies in front of whichever buildings match the outfit you're wearing, you can explore the 7th-century Torcello Basilica, learn about the history of Burano lacemaking at a small but informative museum and have lunch waterside. All of Venice's best specialties are on offer, including my personal favorite, spaghetti al nero di seppia — black spaghetti with squid ink.

From here, board any Venice-bound vaporetto, all of which stop at Murano on the way back. Although its name sounds similar to Burano's, there are some key differences. While Murano, too, has canals, its architecture is a bit more muted in tone and resembles what you'd find in Venice more closely than it does Burano.

Venice, Italy Glass art

Murano is also home to an important crafting tradition: glassmaking. Now, if you're getting ready to embark on a cruise from Venice to Greece , the idea of buying fragile souvenirs might not appeal to you, and I have two things to say about that. First, you don't have to buy anything here. You can pay a few euros to support the shop owners and, in exchange, watch the fascinating glassmaking process, bringing home photos and videos as your primary keepsakes.

Second, most shops can ship gifts all the way home and wrap them to make sure they survive the journey. This is nice even if you'll be heading directly home after your time day-tripping from Venice. The fewer items you have to pack when traveling, the better — particularly if they're something fragile such as a box full of Murano glass. The hardest part about this is limiting yourself to just a few pieces. You'll want to buy them all!

Visit Romeo And Juliet's Hometown

Bronze statue of Juliet and balcony by Juliet house, Verona, Italy. Casa di Giulietta is nothing more than a romantic fantasy. Romeo and Juliet never lived in Verona, Italy. Architecture of Italy.

One reason I love exploring Italy so much is that every Italian city has its own story and cast of characters. In the case of Verona (which is located about 90 minutes from Venice via trains that depart at least twice an hour) this is literally true. Verona was the setting of "Romeo and Juliet," a love story so famous I don't think it needs any introduction.

Visiting Juliet's Balcony itself and the charming courtyard it looks out over would be an alluring destination even without such a famous literary history. Like many of the Italian cities you'll have visited on your seven-night Europe cruise, Città Antica is full of storied architecture, including the Torre dei Lamberti bell tower and Iglesia de Santa Anastasia.

Ancient amphitheater Arena di Verona. Italy.

Of course, Verona's culinary world is something to be explored on cruises of Italy. While you can enjoy more typical Italian pasta and pizza offerings throughout Verona's old town, you also owe it to yourself to try the city's most famous dish, risotto con tastasal. Flavored and thickened with tastasal — a minced pork heavily seasoned with salt and pepper — this hearty rice dish will make you fall in love with Verona.

Another of my favorite ways to appreciate the beauty of Verona is to ascend to Castel San Pietro — and not just to explore its Romanesque interior. The view of Verona rising above the aqua-green waters of the Adige River is postcard-perfect and is particularly great to enjoy after exploring the city's narrow streets for yourself. Afterward, you can head back down, cross over Ponte Nuovo Bridge and reward yourself with an aperitivo. I love a Campari spritz, but your mileage may vary.

If you want to enjoy another body of water after being out at sea on cruises from Venice, you can take a second local train from Verona to Lake Garda. Enjoy an afternoon in the peninsular town of Sirmione, which juts nearly a mile out into the lake and provides an amazing view of the mountains rising behind its waters. Or, rent a car (either in Verona or back in Venice) and move toward the horizon instead of just gazing at it.

Do A Dolomites Road Trip

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The Dolomites are one of the most accessible and interesting parts of the Italian Alps. Well, they're technically Italian. In fact, the storybook villages that dot the twisty roads winding through their foothills are arguably as Austrian in appearance (and sometimes in cuisine, culture and language) as they are Italian. But that makes this pan-European region, known as South Tyrol, all the more exciting to explore.

Unless you decide to stay in a smaller town or village, you'll probably set your GPS for Cortina d'Ampezzo, the hub of the Dolomites — and host city of the upcoming 2026 Winter Olympics — which is just two hours from Venice by car. The hand-carved wooden balconies, inviting eateries or friendly locals will be sure to charm you.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo is the most recognizable landscape of the Dolomites. Named for the fact that it appears to be three chimneys, this towering landform boasts relatively easy trails that encircle its base. Or, if you're more adventurous, climb high above it to take in stunning views. However, the parking lot fills up fast, so plan your free days accordingly before or after your seven-night western Mediterranean cruise  — you'll ideally come here first thing in the morning.

Travelers couple look at the mountain lake. Travel and active life concept with team. Adventure and travel in the mountains region in Dolomite alps, Italy

Next, make a beeline for Lake Sorapis, whose sapphire waters collect in a bowl-shaped reservoir at the bottom of several glacier-topped peaks located roughly halfway between Tre Cime and the center of Cortina. The two-hour hike here isn't especially difficult, but it can be harrowing at times with only a narrow railing separating you from the valley below. My advice? Hang on tight if you need to, walk as far from the edge as possible, and don't think too much about it. Literally hundreds of people hike this trail every day.

Now, even if you decide not to drive all the way into the more Austrian part of South Tyrol to photograph the iconic Church of St. John in the Val di Funes, don't be fooled: When it comes to day trips from Venice, the Dolomites may call for a little more time. In order to enjoy this part of Italy, you really need to spend at least a night here, even though you could technically drive to Cortina and back in a single day with a few hours to spare. This would make a perfect two- to three-day add-on after your cruise ship brings you back to Venice!

See Why Everyone's Talking About Slovenia

Slovenia Koper Town Coast

Thanks to Italy's impressive high-speed train network, you could theoretically use Venice for a jumping-off point to anywhere in the country. Alternatively, you can board a bus bound for Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, Italy's underrated neighbor. Depending on how long you have here, you can potentially see the entire country in one go.

I usually like to base myself in the capital the entire time. This way, I can spend a day or two exploring Ljubljana, whether I'm looking down on the city from medieval Ljubljana Castle or strolling (and dining alfresco) along the Ljubljanica River and the fairy tale buildings that line either side of it.

At this point, I head for the hills — or mountains, more accurately. Slovenia's Julian Alps are an oft-overlooked part of Europe's most-famous mountain range, but one of my favorites regardless. First up on the itinerary is Lake Bled, whose electric blue waters surround an island church you can rent a canoe and paddle to. Or, as is the case back in Ljubljana, you can ascend Bled Castle and take the whole scene in from a bird's-eye view.

Ljubljana Landmark - Tromostovje in the city center, Slovenia

A second lake, Bohinj, features clearer waters than Bled and doesn't have any landmarks as obvious as Bled Church, but it is nonetheless refreshing, especially during the summer. It's also usually pretty calm on the tourist front. Part of what makes Slovenia one of my favorite Venice excursions is that it's an authentic, low-key destination where most of the other people you encounter are local Slovenians.

If you have more than a couple of days to spare, you could also head to Slovenia's own short but beautiful coastline. The town of Piran, in particular, is amazing, and from some vantage points almost seems like a lost Italian port. If admiring its terracotta roof tiles from various viewpoints doesn't unlock your inner photographer, head down to its quiet, understated rock beaches where many sun worshipers will have set up their own umbrellas and laid down their own towels.

Venice, Vidi, Vici!

Venice, Italy Grand Canal

Written By ROBERT SCHRADER

Robert Schrader is a writer, photographer and one of the web's original travel bloggers. In 2009 he launched his blog   Leave Your Daily Hell , which has taken him to nearly 100 countries, and has since spun off niche sites focused on Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and Italy. Robert seeks to inform, inspire, entertain and empower travelers through his work, which has been featured in in-flight magazines and digital media outlets around the world. He's excited about travel's post-pandemic rebirth, and in particular the cruise industry's comeback!

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Gondolier punting gondola through green canal waters of Venice. Italy.

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Venice Italy Cruise Port Guide: Everything You Need to Know

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Wondering about the Venice Italy Cruise Port?

You’ve come to the right place! As a travel advisor, who specializes in cruise travel, I have taken many hours of courses on cruise ports, and have booked numerous clients on cruises with stops at the Venice Italy Cruise Port.

Nestled within the Venetian Lagoon is Venice, an Italian city famed for its numerous scenic canals and beautiful historical architecture. It’s one of the most romantic cities in the world and a popular destination for cruisers.

In this article, I will delve into everything you need to know about Venice Cruise Port including tips and recommendations for shore excursions.

Where is Venice Cruise Port Located?

The official Cruise Port of Venice, also known as Terminal Venezia Passeggeri, is located to the west of the historic city, 4 km south of the causeway that links historical Venice to the mainland.

The cruise terminal consists of two parts: the Stazione Marittima cruise terminal which houses the largest cruise ships and the San Basilio cruise terminal.

Stazione Marittima

However, as of 2021, the Italian government has placed a ban on large cruise ships which weigh over 25,000 tonnes, docking inside the Venetian Lagoon. Only smaller ships below this weight can dock in the official Venice Cruise Port.

Large cruise ships are being rerouted and instructed to dock in the industrial port of Marghera which is on the mainland, just below the causeway to Venice.

However, some large cruise ships are now stopping in Ravenna Cruise Port (a 2- hour drive south of Venice) and cruisers are journeying by bus to Venice.

Despite cruise ships docking in Marghera industrial port, cruise passengers will still be shuttled to and from the main Venice Cruise Port for both logistical health and safety reasons, as Marghera does not have the infrastructure to act as an official cruise port.

As the majority of cruise ships will be docking in Marghera industrial port, this will be the focus of our article rather than Ravenna Cruise Port.

⭐️ Purchase Venice Shore Excursions at a Discount Here

Venice Italy Cruise Port

Getting around venice from the cruise port.

Although your cruise ship will dock at Marghera industrial port, shuttle services will likely be provided by your cruise liner from the passenger terminals to the official Venice Cruise Port.

This could be via bus or private water taxi.

If shuttle services are not available, Marghera Port is conveniently located beside a train station. It’s a quick 7-minute train journey from this station to Santa Lucia station, nestled in the heart of Venice. Trains are frequent, several journeying each hour, and cost €2,90 per person each way.

Another way to reach Venice from the cruise port is via bus. The bus stop in Marghera is right beside the train station. The journey takes 8 minutes and will drop you at Venice Piazzale Roma . You can book a day pass online in advance of your visit.

Water Taxi in Venice

There are also water buses available that travel between Venice and the cruise port. This service is offered by ACTV. If you wish to travel by water bus, then I’d recommend booking your day pass online in advance.

Private water taxis are also available. They’re significantly more expensive than the waterbuses (around €90) but you will have the boat all to yourself.

Alternatively, it’s an 8-minute taxi ride to journey from Marghera Cruise Port to the center of Venice.

Are There Free Shuttles From Venice Cruise Port?

Your cruise liner should offer you a free shuttle service to and from the cruise ship in Marghera to Venice Cruise Port which is on the edge of Venice.

I’d recommend checking with your cruise ship in advance to clarify if they offer this service.

If your cruise ship doesn’t offer this service, trains, buses, and water buses are all available between Marghera and Venice.

✅ You can book a private water taxi from Venice to the cruise port here

Can You Walk into Venice from Your Cruise Ship?

It’s very easy to walk into Venice from Venice Cruise Port (which is where your cruise liner should drop you) as it is perched on the edge of the city. It will take just a few minutes for you to be engulfed by the beautiful city.

If your cruise liner doesn’t offer a shuttle service to Venice Cruise Port, Marghera Port (where your cruise ship will be based) is too far away from Venice for you to easily walk into the city.

It’s located on the other side of a lengthy causeway which, although does have a pavement, isn’t convenient.

It would take over an hour to walk from the cruise terminal into Venice, and that doesn’t include all the further walking you will then complete around the city.

I’d recommend taking public transport or a taxi instead.

Water Taxi Parking at Marco Polo Airport

Are there Taxis Available from Venice Cruise Port?

Yes, you can grab a taxi from Venice Cruise Port which you can take to Venice Marco Polo Airport.

A taxi isn’t necessary to journey between Venice Cruise Port and Venice City as the cruise port is so close to the city and the city doesn’t have any roads for motor vehicles beyond Piazzale Roma.

✅ Book a shuttle from Venice to the airport

Best Shore Excursions from the Venice Cruise Port

There are a number of fantastic things to see and do during your time in Venice. Below are some of my favorite Venice shore excursions.

1. Gondola Ride

By far one of the most popular and unique ways to view Venice is by gondola . These charming small boats without a motor are able to navigate down quiet canals, allowing you the opportunity to soak up the fantastic architecture from the comfort of your traditional boat.

Man in black and white striped shirt paddles a gondola in venice

Being one of the more popular activities in Venice, there are a host of gondola tours available, from private to small group tours. Your excursion can be booked in advance online or you can just turn up on the day.

➡️ Book ahead for this top rated Gondola Ride

2. Basilica San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica)

Nestled in the heart of St. Mark’s Square is a magnificent cathedral called St. Mark’s Basilica. It’s one of the most famous and iconic landmarks in the city, as well as a prime example of Byzantine architecture.

St Marks  with pink and blue sky

The cathedral is incredible to marvel at from afar. It’s also worth paying a visit inside. In order to beat the queues, I’d recommend booking a tour which includes skip-the-line tickets, such as this one .

If you’d like to visit several of Venice’s key attractions then it may be worth booking a walking tour that visits St Mark’s Basilica as well as other magnificent sights.

➡️ This is a great skip the line tour !

3. Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square)

No visit to Venice would be complete without soaking up the vast historical monuments which call St Mark’s Square home. As well as housing the majestic St. Mark’s Basilica, this vast square is also the refuge of St Mark’s Campanile, a 16th-century cathedral tower.

St Marks Square Venice

The corner of Doge’s Palace is also visible from this beautiful square.

Within the square, you can find a number of cafes and restaurants, the perfect place to enjoy a coffee or some lunch whilst enjoying fantastic views of the square.

4. Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)

Doge’s Palace is a magnificent palace located in St. Mark’s Square. It served as the residence of the Doge, the chief magistrate and ruler of the Venetian Republic, as well as the seat of the government for close to 1000 years.

Doges Palace Venice

Today this historically significant landmark is a museum. You can visit Doge’s Palace along with the neighboring St Mark’s Basilica as part of a skip-the-line walking tour.

➡️ See Doges Palace, St Marks and a Gondola Ride with this incredible tour!

5. Food & Wine Walking Tour

Italy is a country renowned for its delicious cuisine and locally-produced wines. One of the best ways to try the local dishes is to take a food and wine tour.

This food and wine tour has exceptional online reviews and specializes in allowing you to sample Venetian appetizers known as Cicchetti.

White table cloths on round tables

Alternatively, this tour allows you to sample some lovely sweet treats such as traditional Venetian cookies and homemade gelato.

6. Rialto Bridge

Spanning the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge is the oldest and most renowned bridge in the city. Designed by Antonio da Ponte, it features a single stone arch that spans the Grand Canal, supported by two inclined ramps on either side.

Rialto Bridge at night

Rialto Bridge can be viewed either from the water on a boat tour or you can walk over the top of it. The bridge is so large that it even houses shops! Alternatively, you can admire the bridge from the streets on either side of the canal.

7. Teatro la Fenice (Opera House)

Teatro La Fenice is an internationally renowned opera house that’s nestled in the heart of Venice. It’s in fact considered one of the most prestigious and historic theaters in the world. The original opera house sadly burnt down in 1996 and has since been rebuilt.

Inside of Teatro la Fenice

Teatro la Fenice is an active opera theater. You can book tickets to view operas that are performed there. If you would like to view a performance, I’d recommend booking in advance as tickets can quickly sell out.

Even if you don’t plan on viewing an opera, Teatro La Fenice is still worth viewing from the exterior.

8. Grand Canal

The largest canal in Venice, the 4-kilometer (1.5 mile) Grand Canal cuts through the city of Venice and houses some of the city’s most beautiful buildings.

With barely any walkways beside the canal, the best way to view it and absorb the colorful atmosphere is to take to the water.

Venice Grand Canal

This wide waterway is a little too big for gondola rides to take you the whole way but there are plenty of other boat tours available, which journey down this long and majestic canal, passing under the canal’s 4 bridges, including the famous Rialto Bridge.

Getting From Venice Airport to the Cruise Port

There are a number of ways to journey from Venice Marco Polo Airport to Venice Cruise Port.

The quickest and easiest way to journey to the Venice cruise terminal is via water taxi . Being located right on the water, taxi boats are conveniently available just outside the airport. Although this is the quickest way to reach the cruise terminal, it’s also the most expensive way.

You can alternatively take a land taxi between Venice Marco Polo Airport and Venice Cruise Port. The journey is typically between 15 and 20 minutes in length.

Finally, you can journey by bus to Piazzale Roma which is just a short walk away from the cruise terminal.

Places to Stay Near Venice Cruise Port

There are a number of fabulous hotels that are located in Venice’s city center, just a stone’s throw away from the cruise terminal.

Cinqueteste Luxury Home is one of the best-reviewed hotels in the area. It’s a 25-minute walk from St. Mark’s Square and a 20-minute walk from Venice Cruise Port. The hotel is perched right on the canal so if you choose a canal-facing room you will have exceptional views.

Cinqueteste Luxury Home at night

Another fantastic option is Hotel Cipriani , a luxurious hotel on an island to the south of the main city which looks across the waterway to Doge’s Palace.

Hotel Cipriani

Hotel Moresco is one of the closer hotels to the cruise port, only a 20-minute walk from it. It’s a charming boutique hotel and rooms are dressed in a combination of 19th-century and modern design.

Hotel Moresco

Venice Quick Facts

Best time to visit venice.

The best time to visit Venice in terms of weather is between May and October .

Venice is an extremely popular city and so during the holiday season, you will no doubt be contending with crowds.

In order to get the best balance between beating the crowds and having lovely weather, May, September, and October are the best times to visit.

What kind of currency is used in Venice?

The currency accepted in Venice is the Euro. It was previously the Italian Lira, but is no longer in circulation.

A Cruise ship in front of buildings in Venice

Cruise Liners that Visit Venice Cruise Port

As of the 2021 changes to Venice Cruise Port, which doesn’t allow large cruise ships to dock in the port, a reduced number of cruise liners now dock in Venice at Marghera industrial port.

Some of the cruise ships that still stop in Venice are:

  • ● MSC Cruises
  • ● Norwegian Cruise Line
  • ● Silversea Cruises
  • ● Seabourne
  • ● Azamara Cruises
  • ● Fred Olsen
  • ● Viking Ocean

Other cruise ships such as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises now dock in nearby cities such as Ravenna.

Grand Canal in Venice

Venice Cruise Port FAQS

Where do the cruise ships dock in venice.

Cruise ships to Venice now must dock in Marghera industrial port, on the mainland, across the lagoon from Venice. This is a result of a 2021 ban on large cruise ships from docking in Venice.

Cruise passengers however will be shuttled by their cruise liner to and from the official Venice Cruise Port which is right next to the city of Venice.

Why is Venice closed to cruise ships?

The reason for closing Venice to cruise ships is to preserve the Venetian lagoon. Venice had been put on the UNESCO World Heritage’s blacklist as a Heritage Site in danger and the large numbers of cruise ships that visit the fragile city were listed as part of the reason for this.

How long does it take to get from the Venice cruise terminal to the airport?

It takes between 15 and 20 minutes to journey between Venice Cruise Port and Marco Polo Airport via taxi. Journeying by water taxi boat takes a similar amount of time.

Final Thoughts on the Venice Cruise Port

Venice is a very beautiful city that’s unlike anywhere else in the world. Famed for its picturesque canals lined by historic buildings, a day spent in this Italian city is never anything short of magical.

The new regulations for cruise liners do make a cruise visit to Venice a little more complicated than it used to be. Different cruise liners now dock at different cruise ports so it’s important you check with your cruise line exactly where you will be docking and if a free shuttle service to Venice city center is included.

If you need any help at all planning your European Cruise, please reach out ! I help at no additional cost to you!

Things to do in Venice

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Cruises To & From Ravenna (Venice), Italy

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Ravenna (Venice), Italy Cruise Port Guide

Once you arrive in picturesque Ravenna on an Italy cruise, you have some options: Head north to Venice, west to Bologna, or explore the history and beauty of Ravenna itself. Ravenna is famous for its spectacular mosaics from the 5th and 6th century that are found in cathedrals, palaces, and public buildings everywhere. 

In Venice, you’ll find a canal-filled city that is equal parts gritty and romantic, known as a fishermen’s town turned cultural hub. Venice is popular for honeymooners and international tourists alike, filling the elaborate, sinuous system of canals with the buzz of activity. Like Rome and Florence, there’s a magic to the city’s energy that sweeps you up in it, whether you’re exploring St. Mark’s Square on foot or enjoying a gondola ride along the Grand Canal before sailing on one of our cruises from Ravenna.

Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, is considered the gastronomic center of Italy. It’s here that you’ll find some of the world’s best wines, prosciutto, cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Stroll the medieval town’s many photogenic porticoes until you arrive at Piazza Maggiore, the huge and charming public square where you can stop for a gelato or an espresso and people watch. 

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Ravenna (Venice) City Stays

Embark on an in-depth experience in the city where your cruise starts. Stay in accommodations we’ve carefully selected. Enjoy tours guided by experts to see the must-sees and do the must-dos. Take private transportation between your airport, hotel, and ship.

Guided Tour Highlights:  Feel the love in Venice, one of the most romantic cities in Italy. Visit must-see sites, including St. Mark’s Square and Doges Palace. There’s so much to experience, from the local culture and cuisine to the breathtaking art and architecture. All this makes Venice one of the most unforgettable cities in Europe.

Top Sights & Attractions for Cruises To & From Venice

St. mark’s square.

You’ll immediately recognize St. Mark’s Square when you arrive in Venice. After all, it’s one of the city’s most iconic vistas, whether you’re stopping along the Grand Canal, visiting its namesake basilica, or strolling the area’s variety of eateries and shops. St. Mark’s Square is the heart of the city, so you can’t miss it while you’re here on a Venice cruise.

Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge crosses the Grand Canal, and it’s one of Venice’s most enduring landmark sights. Built in the 16th century, the bridge is a magical place where you’ll truly feel like you’re living in an Italian postcard.

Doge’s Palace

The Venetian Gothic legacy is intact because of the architecturally stunning Doge’s Palace, filled with Italian art, high ceilings, and religious iconography that art history buffs can’t miss. You can take an audio tour of the museum or simply stroll the courtyard. 

Learn More About Venice Shore Excursions

Top things to do in venice, take a gondola ride.

To skip a gondola ride in Venice is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. It’s an unmissable experience no matter if it’s your first time in Venice or you’ve seen the city many times. After being on cruises from Venice, there’s nothing more charming than seeing the city from a nimble, tiny gondola.

Head to Burano

On the island of Burano, just a short boat ride away, is a fishing village lined with colorful houses where the area’s lace-making has earned an international reputation. Come for the shopping, meet local artisans, and stay for a casual lunch at one of the island’s many quaint restaurants.

Explore Bologna

Located between Venice and Florence, Bologna is a must-visit on your Italian cruise. This city has it all—spectacular food tours, museums, art galleries, medieval towers, and the world’s oldest university, built in 1088. Stroll through its charming Piazza Maggiore, home to the impressive Fountain of Neptune. Visit nearby Motor Valley, where the finest Italian cars are made—Lamborghini, Ferrari, Ducati, Pagani, and Maserati. Or, simply enjoy a spectacular meal in the gastronomic center of Italy.

Top Food and Drink Spots in Venice

Venice is a foodie’s destination through and through. Restaurants and bars wind along the canal, and an unhurried approach is what makes a long lunch so satisfying here. Like the rest of Italy, you’re better off eating dinner a little later in the evening as the Italians do. Grab a spritz or a tall glass of wine and taste the region’s typical pasta entrees and plates of fresh Adriatic fish. Enjoy raw fish, crudo, as the Italians say, if you’re feeling daring. The coffee culture here is just as strong as in Rome or Florence, and you shouldn’t leave Italy without enjoying a coffee or espresso for just a euro or two. Remember—no coffee with milk after 11am. The Italians consider it bad for digestion.

Culture & History of Venice

Venice has historically been Italy’s most romantic destination, and its geographic quirks and peculiarity of how the city developed over the centuries only add to its photogenic charm. Its winding streets, built around the canals and lagoons, predate human impact on the area. Historic basilicas date back to the Middle Ages, when the city became a cultural touchstone and trade hub. 

Ravenna (Venice) Port Facilities & Location

The departure port of Ravenna is located approximately two hours and 30 minutes south of Venice and only one hour from the beautiful city of Bologna, known as the culinary capital of Italy.

Transportation in Venice

Getting around in Venice is romantic in any setting, but a gondola ride along its intricate system of canals is a must during your time here. Boats and water taxis are a popular mode of transportation and taking a traghetto, or gondola ride, only costs a couple of euros per person. Public transit in Venice is also an option, including boats and a monorail system. If you’re sticking around the central sights, walking will do, too.

Shopping in Venice

Shoppers will find that Venice is a pretty paradise for retail, artisanal goods, boutiques, and high-end glasswares. It’s not hard to get a feel for Venice’s shopping scene, which includes leather goods like purses, belts, and more. There are, of course, the standard tourist shacks and shiny items highlighting Venice’s attractions, like the Grand Canal and the Bridge of Sighs.

Local Currency & Tipping Customs

While traveling to Italy, you’ll use the euro as the official currency. You’ll notice Visa and Mastercard are the two most commonly accepted credit cards during your Venice cruise. A servizio, or tip, is typically included in your bill at restaurants. If you take a gondola ride, be sure to tip the gondolier or water taxi provider. When you’re enjoying a coffee in Italy, leave behind a few cents as a tip.

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Venice (Italy) Cruise Port Essential Guide

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Photo of Gondola on the Canal Grande close to Venice cruise port

Venice overview for cruise passengers: where ships dock, what to do, top attractions, and shore excursions; dining and shopping.

By: Editor-in-Chief Date: February 26, 2021

Venice is one of the most visited cruise ports in Italy and Europe. Built upon 117 separate islands and held together by wooden beamed structures below water, Venice is as strong today as it was when first inhabited over 1500 years ago.

The maze of tiny cobbled streets and courtyards, where you bump into history around every corner, seems to go on forever. Not surprisingly, Venice remains a city that all cruise passengers must have on their bucket list.

  • Where is Venice

Where cruise ships dock

  • Things to do in Venice
  • Top attractions
  • Shore excursions (Shorex)
  • Lunch and quick bites

Shops and shopping

There is so much to do and see in Venice that cruises calling at the port for one day will force passengers to choose carefully. The good news is that most cruise lines stay at least two days in Venice, allowing more time to explore this unique city.

Venice is both a port of call and a homeport in Italy for cruises in the eastern Mediterranean. However, the overwhelming majority of cruise ships dock in Venice to embark and disembark passengers.

Embarking and disembarking in Venice

Cruise passengers embarking in Venice cruise port, especially those traveling from the US or Canada, should fly at least one day ahead. Arrive in Venice before noon and stay in a hotel overnight to fully enjoy the city.

If you are disembarking a cruise in Venice, you should also consider staying an extra day to explore the city, although you should have in mind that hotels tend to be very expensive but worth every penny.

Where is Venice and the cruise port

Venice is on the northern tip of the Adriatic sea, formed by the Italian peninsula on the west and coasts of Croatia, Albania, and Greece on the east side. Trieste and Ravenna are another two cruise ports nearby and also visited by cruise ships to explore Venice. Trieste is 68 miles (110 km) to the east, and Ravenna is 66 miles (107 km) to the south.

The cruise port is inside the Venetian Lagoon, on the west side of the city. For over one century, cruise ships have been sailing in and out of the lagoon, offering spectacular vistas of Venice but damaging the wooden structure underwater. There have been many complaints by residents and, sooner or later, there will be inevitable restrictions on cruising.

There are 2 cruise terminals in Venice where ships may dock:

  • Venezia Terminal Passeggeri
  • San Basilico

With very few exceptions, all cruise ships dock at the Venice Passenger Terminal. This main cruise terminal is in an area connected to the mainland by road and train. It has excellent access for all cruisers embarking or disembarking in Venice.

Photo Cruise Port in Venice.

Cruise Port, Venice

Photo: Public Domain

The terminal also has good connections to the historical center - namely by Vaporetto or Water Taxi -, and is less than 3/4 of a mile (1 km) from Piazzale Roma. This large square is the primary transportation hub of Venice. Within walking distance of the Piazzale Roma, there are quite a few impressive highlights.

► Explore: At The Pier and Terminal in Venice The Cruise Terminal and the San Basilico pier, amenities and services, Vaporetto, Taxis, Getting to Piazzale Roma and more ... Read the full review ►

Things to do on a cruise to Venice

Whatever you want to do and see in Venice, be aware that the historical city is exclusively pedestrian. So, make sure you wear comfortable footwear.

Photo of Gondolas in Venice.

Photo © IQCruising

To visit the top attractions, you will always walk a lot. And there are many highlights and different areas to explore on foot in Venice. Inevitably, you need to choose carefully what you want to do, which sites to visit, and which to skip. Here are the top things for cruise passengers to do in Venice:

  • Visit the highlights around St Mark
  • Enjoy top museums and art galleries
  • Visit churches with stuning art
  • Walk around the Jewish Ghetto
  • Explore Murano and Burano
  • Take a Gondola Ride
  • Discover Verona
  • Go on a tour to Padua
  • Enjoy beach time in the Lido
  • Go on a shopping spree
  • Lunch al fresco in a secluded piazza

Top attractions in Venice cruise port

St Mark Square is, undoubtedly, the top highlight of Venice. Besides the fact that this is one of the most beautiful squares in the World, here you will find some other highlights: Saint Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco), the Bell Tower (Campanile), the Clock Tower (not to be confused with the previous one), the Correr Museum.

Photo of St. Mark's Square in Venice.

St. Mark's Square, Venice

Photo © IQCruising.com

The magnificent Doge's Palace and the famous Bridge of Sighs (Ponte de Sospiri) are literally around the corner. In St Mark Square, the cruise passenger will also find three famous cafe-restaurants: the Cafe Florian, the Ristorante Quadri, and the Cafe Lavena.

► Explore: Top Highlights and Main Attractions Reviews of St Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs, Rialto Bridge, Accademia, and more ... Learn More ►

Landmarks beyond St Mark's square

But there is much more to see in Venice beyond the Piazza San Marco. The Rialto Bridge is an iconic landmark - and the walk from San Marco to Rialto a must-do.

The Teatro La Fenice , the Jewish Ghetto (and Museum), the Arsenale, the Riva degli Schiavoni (Waterfront Promenade), the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, the Ca' D'Oro , are among the top landmarks to enjoy. Finally, visiting Venice would never be complete without a tour to Murano, Burano, or the Lido.

► Explore: Top Landmarks (Squares, Streets and Monuments) Reviews of Canal Grande, La Fenice, the Jewish Ghetto and more ... Learn More ►

Churches and Museums

Once upon a time, Venice became famous for being a magnet for some of the most famous artists ever gathered in the world. Their masterworks are on display in the countless churches of Venice. And in excellent museums. A look inside churches is always an eye-opening experience as, in most cases, the exuberant interiors do not match the humble exteriors.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo are two examples of modest facades with exuberant interiors.

Amongst the many art exhibits, the Galleria dell’ Accademia and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco are two must-see museums. Museums like Peggy Guggenheim Collection , the Ca’ Rezzonico, or the Museum of Naval History should also be on your to-do list.

► Explore: Top Religious Sites not to be missed in Venice. Reviews of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, San Zanipolo, Santo Stefano, Gesuati and more ... Learn More ►

Cruise shore excursions and tours

Obviously, all cruise lines visiting Venice offer many and diverse shore excursions of the city and other destinations close by. Royal Caribbean offers 11 shore excursions , and Norwegian Cruise Line has available 9 shore tours .

Celebrity Cruises offer as many 8 shore explorations , Holland America lists 25 cruise excursions and Princess has available 18 excursions in Venice cruise port.

The upper-premium cruise lines like Oceania and Viking visit Venice cruise port on many itineraries. Oceania Cruises organizes 23 shore excursions in Venice. Although most luxury cruise lines include shore excursions with the cruise fare, Regent, Seabourn and Silversea offer unique and diverse explorations ashore in Venice. Regent lists 27 excursions , and Seabourn has 12 excursions .

Dining, quick bites, and local cuisine

One thing cruise passengers must-do in Venice is to have lunch, a quick bite, or at least grab a snack as you explore the city. The cruise terminals are too far from top attractions and to walk back to the cruise ship for lunch is a waste of precious time.

Yet, be aware that Venice is famous for not having as good restaurants as you would expect. There are, obviously, excellent restaurants in the city. But you have to be in the know to find the best gourmet cuisine. However, there are lots of places to have a quick bite or grab a snack. And the settings are unbeatable.

Photo of Cafe Florian in Venice.

Whether it's by a canal, under an arcade, on a side street, or an off-the-beaten-track square, the cruise visitor will stumble upon great scenic choices. You may want to follow your instinctive nose (if you have one) or read our review of the best places to have lunch, a quick bite, and learn about the local cuisine.

► Explore: Restaurants, Cafes and Bars Reviews of Bistrot Venise, Co Vino, Oliva Nera, Rosa Rossa, Tratoria Al Cugnai and more ... Learn More ►

Very few people live in Venice (population rounds fewer than 40,000), which means that most shops the cruise passenger will come across target the 20 million tourists that visit the city every year. However, this doesn't mean that shops are tourist traps but that most are very high quality.

In Venice, you will find boutiques with all the high fashion designers ranging from famous Italian names like Salvatore Ferragamo to international brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, or Tiffany.

Photo of Murano Glass Shop in Venice.

Murano Glass Shop, Venice

Cruise passengers looking to buy a nice souvenir to take a bit of Venice home should look for handcrafted glass made in nearby Murano. There are shops all over Venice with beautiful glass designs. You will also find art galleries with famous contemporary artists. Like most in Venice, even souvenir stores are of exceptional quality.

Photo of Carnival Costume Shop in Venice.

Carnival Costume Shop, Venice

Some of these shops are just a delight to look at, in particular, the stores selling Carnival costumes and masks.

► Explore: Shopping Areas, Streets and Best Shops Reviews of Unique Shops, Italian and International Design, and more ... Learn More ►

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The information on this page was accurate when last updated but changes may have occurred without notice. It is advisable to confirm details with local tourist information before planning your cruise, tour or excursion of Venice. If any inaccuracies are found or if there are any suggestions to improve the content of this page please let us know.

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By Durant Imboden

  • Also see: Venice for Cruisers

V enice, Italy used to be the largest cruise port in the Eastern Mediterranean, thanks in part to its long history as a maritime republic and shipbuilding colossus. That changed in 2021, when the Italian government responded to political pressures by banning all but the smallest passenger ships from central Venice .

Today, a "Venice" cruise embarkation, disembarkation, or port call could take place at any number of small cities and industrial areas along the northern Adriatic coast between Trieste and Ravenna.

In this article, we'll show maps and give brief descriptions of these port locations. Read your cruise documentation carefully and confirm your ship's exact location with the cruise line if you're uncertain about where your ship will be berthed.

CroisiEurope's MICHELANGELO near the San Basilio cruise pier in Venice, Italy.

ABOVE: A river vessel, CroisiEurope's Michelangelo , cruises from the San Basilio pier in Venice's historic center.

Note: Even though medium-size and large ships are often moored far from central Venice, the cruise lines may use central Venice's cruise terminals as check-in and arrival points. If that's the case with your cruise, you'll be taken to or from your ship by shuttle bus. (However, if the pier is a couple of hours away--in Ravenna or Trieste, for example--you may need to book a paid transfer with your cruise line or get to the port on your own.)

Below are maps and brief descriptions of the ports that are now being used for cruises that begin, end, or include a port call in "Venice."

Venice, Marghera, & Fusina

In the map above, you can see three locations inside the Venetian Lagoon:

Venice's Marittima cruise basin and San Basilio/Santa Marta cruise terminal (at the edge of Venice's historic center, near the right side of the map).

The industrial port of Marghera , on the Venetian mainland (about a 15-minute ride by taxi or shuttle bus from Venice's Piazzale Roma ).

Fusina , to the south of Marghera, which serves the Anek car ferries to Greece but is also has facilities for cruise ships.

In most cases,  check-in and other formalities for larger ships are handled at terminals in the Marittima basin, with shuttle buses whisking passengers to and from the piers.

Small ships (typically below 25,000 GRT), including river vessels from Uniworld and CroisiEurope, continue to moor at either the Marittima basin or the adjacent San Basilio/Santa Marta piers in central Venice.

The town of Chioggia (pop. 50,000) lies at the southern end of the Venetian Lagoon, alongside one of the lagoon's three inlets from the Adriatic Sea. Chioggia has been nicknamed "Little Venice" because its old town has canals like its larger neighbor to the north.

Chioggia welcomes river vessels (Uniworld and CroisiEurope) and a hotel barge, La Bella Vita . In the wake of Italy's 2021 embargo on most cruise ships in Venice, Chioggia has also served a handful of oceangoing vessels. Ships normally tie up at a pier in the northwest corner of Chioggia's Centro Storico or old town (see map).

Chioggia is slightly more than an hour from Venice by car, taxi, coach, or  bus. If you don't mind schlepping your luggage or hiring a cab from the end of the line to the pier, you might try ArrivaVeneto's frequent and reasonably priced bus service to Chioggia Sottamarina from Venice's Piazzale Roma , the Venezia Mestre train station, and Venice Marco Polo Airport .

Ravenna (pop. 160,000) is best known for its Byzantine mosaics , which date back to the 5th and 6th Centuries. However, the city does have a port on its northern outskirts, and a new cruise terminal is becoming the Eastern Mediterranean hub for Royal Caribbean and its subsidiary, Celebrity Cruises.

From Venice, a cruise transfer by bus or private car takes about 2-1/2 hours. (There's no direct train, although you can get from Venezia Santa Lucia railroad station to central Ravenna with a change of trains in Ferrara.)

In the map above, you can see the port to the northeast of the city. Cruise ships moor at the Porto Corsini, just inside the port entrance from the Adriatic Sea.

  Click here for advice on transportation between downtown Ravenna and the pier. If you're cruising with Royal Caribbean, see the Royal Caribbean Blog's article on shuttles from Venice and Bologna.

Monfalcone is northeast of Venice on the way to Trieste (see below), about an hour and a half from Venice by bus, car, or train. The town is mostly known for shipbuilding and other heavy industries, but MSC Cruises occasionally uses Monfalcone as a turnaround port.

On the map, you'll see the cruise quay just inside the port entrance.

Trieste is a major international port at the far northeastern corner of the Adriatic, close to Italy's border with Slovenia. It was an important city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and still has a Central European vibe.

Cruise ships aren't newcomers to Trieste, but the number of ships has increased after the banning of large cruise vessels from Venice.

Trieste is roughly 165 km or 100 miles from Venice, but getting there is easy:

Fast trains from Venezia Santa Lucia take just over two hours to reach Trieste's central station.

Flixbus offers several connections per day from Venice, Mestre, and Venice Marco Polo Airport. Travel time is about 2-1/2 hours.

From the train or bus station, you can walk or hire a taxi to the cruise pier, which is located on the downtown waterfront near the Piazza Unità d'Italia.

About the author:

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I've lived in Venice for 8 years. Why are cruise ships still stopping here when they’ve been banned?

A cruise ship transits in the Giudecca canal in front of St. Mark's Square, in Venice, Italy, 2014.

In 2021, large ships were barred from entering Venice - but the ban is yet to be enforced.

Before the pandemic hit, I remember eating lunch at a canal side restaurant in Venice when a colossal, multi-story cruise ship sailed past.

The vessel towered over the fragile mediaeval palaces and leaning bell towers. I wondered what might happen if it ran off-course.

In June 2019, a giant 13-deck cruise ship did exactly that. It crashed into a wharf in Venice, injuring five people. 

he incident, captured in an alarming video, was dramatic enough to prompt the city mayor Luigi Brugnaro to ban big ships from passing through the centre of Venice.

For anti-cruise ship activists like me, though, it was just another example of the negative effect of mammoth vessels to add to a long list.

Two years later, in 2021, ships weighing over 25,000 tonnes were barred from entering the lagoon down the Giudecca canal. This canal passes directly in front of St Mark’s Square and leads to the Marittima port on the western edge of Venice ’s historic centre.

Though this may have seemed like a victory for residents who oppose big ships, the reality is proving more complicated.

Why has Venice banned cruise ships?

Large cruise ships have long imperilled Venice ’s fragile natural and built environment.

As heavy-weight ships travel through canals in the lagoon, they suck in sediment which has to be regularly dredged from channels . The sediment, which contains precious animal and plant life, is then discarded rather than returned to the lagoon’s ecosystem.

Even when moving slowly, large vessels also displace vast quantities of water.

“The movement of such a massive amount of water erodes the hundreds and even thousands of years old foundations of the palaces and the streets of Venice ,” explains Valeria Duflot, co-founder of social enterprise Venezia Autentica.

Cruise ship pollution is another issue. While there are strict regulations on sulphur levels of road vehicles, ships are exempt. Their fuel can contain up to 3,500 times as much sulphur as cars and trucks.

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This affects “not only the natural environment and the health of living beings but also severely corrodes the works of art and the palaces of Venice,” says Duflot.

Oversized vessels have also become a metonym for overtourism as they pour thousands of travellers all at once into Venice’s narrow alleys. In summer, I avoid touristy areas like St Mark’s Square completely as you can get stuck behind crowds of cruise passengers trying to cram in the sights in one day.

As passengers tend to eat and sleep on the ship, they contribute relatively little to the historic city’s economy while weighing heavily on its infrastructure and resources.

Along with daytrippers, cruise passengers have been dubbed ‘hit and run’ tourists. “It’s not the type of tourism we want for the city,” tourism councillor Simone Venturini said after the cruise ship ban was announced.

‘Hit and run’ tourists represent around 73 per cent of visitors to Venice, but they only contribute to 18 per cent of the tourism economy (those who stay at least one night in a hotel are responsible for nearly 50 per cent).

JC Viens via AP

Not all Venetians support the cruise ship ban

The evidence of environmental damage may be overwhelming, but giant cruise ships aren’t vilified by all of Venice’s residents.

Following the ban in 2021, a counter-protest was held by Si Grandi Navi, a group representing the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the cruise industry.

Prior to the pandemic, the sector employed 4,200 people in the area, according to the Port Authority. The cruise industry also brought revenues of €280 million (although most of this income did not benefit businesses in the historic centre).

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After Venice ’s economy was badly bruised by the pandemic travel bans, some Venetians were keen to welcome back the liners.

Interviewed just after the ban was announced, Filippo Olivetti, managing director of the Bassani port services agency in the city, said Venice wouldn't survive without cruise ships , adding that it made its fortune thanks to port activities.

“4,000 workers have lost their jobs and are waiting for support that may not arrive,” Alessandro Santi, president of national shipping lobby Federagenti, said in a statement.

Why are there still cruise ships in Venice?

Despite the cruise ship ban existing in legislation, the reality of the situation is not so simple. Only months after being barred, a 92,000 tonne ship MSC Orchestra docked in the historic city’s port.

The reason? The city authorities are yet to build a suitable cruise ship hub outside the lagoon.

The port at the industrial zone of Marghera was proposed as a temporary solution, but it lacks the infrastructure to be a permanent passenger terminal.

What’s more, Marghera is still within the lagoon so the cruise liners redirected here continue to be a disaster ecologically for Venice .

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At the end of last year, an agreement was signed that could allow cruise ships to homeport at Fusina on the mainland side of the lagoon. Upmarket cruise line Azamara, for example, will dock here this year as well as in the nearby city of Chioggia.

Two years on from the ban, there is still no definitive plan for a new Venice port. Many cruise companies have therefore abandoned the lagoon altogether and now dock in Ravenna.

The coastal city is around two hours by car from Venice and the transfer time has frustrated passengers who were sold an itinerary including the canal city.

In addition, the Italian government had to pay €22.5 million in compensation to the Venice terminal operator and related companies in 2022 because of the ban.

"With Venice, the iconic and most important home port in the Mediterranean disappears," Santi added in his statement.

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Venice bans cruise ships from historic centre

  • Published 1 April 2021

A cruise ship passes through the lagoon in Venice

Italian authorities have approved a ban on cruise ships entering the historic centre of Venice.

The country's culture minister said on Wednesday that the decision came in response to a request from UN cultural body Unesco.

Large ships will now have to dock at the city's industrial port until a permanent solution is found.

Critics argue the ships cause pollution and erode the foundations of the city, which suffers from regular flooding.

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On Wednesday, Italian ministers agreed that large cruise and container ships would no longer be able to enter the city's Giudecca canal, which leads to the historic St Mark's Square.

A cruise ship seen from a Venice canal

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini hailed the move, which he described as "a correct decision, awaited for years".

The government will hold a "call for ideas" for an alternative cruise terminal in the city.

Cruise ships are currently unable to enter Venice due to coronavirus restrictions but their absence since has been credited with improving water quality in the lagoons.

A cruise ship in Venice (file photo)

Pressure to pass a ban on large vessels mounted in 2019 after a cruise ship crashed into a harbour in the city, injuring five people. However, no permanent solution was found.

Previous initiatives to stop cruise ship traffic have also failed. In 2013, the government banned ships weighing more than 96,000 tonnes from the Giudecca canal, but the legislation was later overturned.

Other plans to divert cruise ships from the centre of Venice were announced in 2017 but were never fully implemented.

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Venetians are trying to find solutions to stop the exodus from their city (from 2018)

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Cruises out of Venice

We found you 170 cruise s

Seabourn Encore

Adriatic & Greek Treasures

Port: Venice • Sibenik • Kotor • Corfu • Sami • Nafplion • Athens

cruise ships venice

Greece, Croatia & Turkey Cruise

Port: Venice • Split • Mykonos • Kusadasi • Santorini • Athens

Mediterranean Odyssey

Port: Venice • Split • Dubrovnik • Corfu • Ionian Sea • Naples • Rome • Florence • Villefranche • +2 more

cruise ships venice

Mediterranean Cruise

Port: Venice • Opatija • Zadar • Split • Dubrovnik • Kotor • Sibenik • Venice

cruise ships venice

More Moments on Us

  • Up to US$2,200 shipboard credit per suite on select 2025-2026 voyages
  • Indulge in more adventures, more spa time and more shopping
  • Offer ends 3rd September 2024. T&Cs apply

cruise ships venice

Port: Venice • Koper • Split • Dubrovnik • Kotor • Corfu • Katakolon • Santorini • Mykonos • +1 more

cruise ships venice

Port: Venice • Split • Kotor • Rome • Valencia • Sardinia • Rome • Florence

Greece & Adriatic Cruise

Port: Venice • Bay of Kotor • Kotor • Athens • Santorini • Split • Venice

Port: Venice • Ravenna • Koper • Split • Kotor • Dubrovnik • Corfu • Santorini • Mykonos • +1 more

Port: Venice • Koper • Zadar • Dubrovnik • Kotor • Corfu • Katakolon • Santorini • Mykonos • +1 more

Port: Venice • Split • Kotor • Rome • Valencia • Sardinia • Rome • Florence • Marseille

Italian Sojourn

Port: Venice • Sibenik • Bari • Crotone • Sicily • Naples • Rome

Greek Isles Cruise

Port: Venice • Santorini • Mykonos • Athens • Split • Venice

Port: Venice • Split • Mykonos • Athens • Katakolon • Venice

Ancient Adriatic Treasures

Port: Venice • Split • Dubrovnik • Kotor • Corfu • Katakolon • Athens • Agios Nikolaos • +4 more

Port: Venice • Split • Dubrovnik • Kotor • Corfu • Katakolon • Athens • Agios Nikolaos • Rhodes • +3 more

Mediterranean - Eastern Cruise

Port: Venice • Dubrovnik • Kotor • Corfu • Zakynthos • Bari • Venice

Common Venice Cruise questions

What cruise lines depart from venice.

Popular amongst many cruise lines including Crystal, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International.

What cruise trip options do I have from Venice?

Most commonly, cruises from Venice go to exciting destinations such as Caribbean - All, Caribbean - Eastern, Europe - All, Europe - Eastern Mediterranean and Europe - Western Mediterranean.

How many days are cruises from Venice?

Venice cruises often range from 10-14 nights providing cruisers with a variety of different entertainment and dining options.

How much do cruises from Venice cost?

Starting at just A$571, choose the perfect cruise from Venice that fits your traveling desires.

Northern Italy. Half the cost with limited choice.

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Viking Saturn - Venice to Athens

Amazing cruise on Seabourn Encore

Adriatic Viking Ocean Cruise

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‘Little Venice’ Finally Gets its Moment

With a ban on large cruise ships in the waters surrounding Venice, nearby Chioggia is one of the new go-to ports. While many welcome the new visitors, some worry that the tourism boom could turn sour.

A large cruise ship is docked outside the Italian town of Chioggia, with a blue expanse of water in the background, and old, red-roofed buildings in the foreground.

By Anna Momigliano

On Aug. 4, the Viking Sea, a 930-passenger cruise ship, docked in Italy’s Venetian Lagoon. At first sight, the scene looked familiar: a towering white vessel, loaded with tourists, most of them from North America, making its way past centuries-old buildings and narrow canals. But this time the destination wasn’t Venice, but Chioggia, a smaller, lesser-known city built on a separate cluster of islands about 15 miles away, in the same lagoon.

Following a series of protests from environmental groups last year, the Italian government recently started enforcing a ban on large cruise ships weighing more than 40,000 tons from the San Marco basin, the portion of the lagoon surrounding Venice’s historic center. The ban, originally approved in 2012 , was conditional: In order for it to be enforced, alternative ports for cruise lines that promote Venice on their itineraries must be close enough that tourists can actually make an excursion to Venice.

“If you take Venice away, that will kill the entire Adriatic route,” said Francesco Galietti, the national director for the Cruise Lines International Association. It took Italian authorities nine years to allocate the 157 million euros (about $159.7 million) needed to upgrade other nearby ports so they could host the cruises, which, finally, were rerouted beginning this summer.

Most of them went to Trieste , a city in northeastern Italy outside the Venetian Lagoon, about 72 miles away, while others went to Marghera, the commercial port on Venice’s mainland. About a dozen were rerouted to Chioggia, and twice as many are expected next year, the city’s mayor, Mauro Armelao, said, with a hint of pride.

For Chioggia, anything taken away from Venice has the taste of an underdog’s redemption.

For centuries the town, often called Little Venice — a name that infuriates the locals, who insist that it’s Venice that should be described as a bigger Chioggia — has lived in the shadows of its more famous neighbor. When Venice was a maritime power, from the 10th to the 17th century, Chioggia fell under its domination, and that legacy led to a power imbalance that can still be felt today. A working-class town traditionally relying on fishing and agriculture, famous both for its radicchio and beets, it has long provided workers for wealthier Venice, where, even today, many of the vaporetto conductors and hotel staff commute from Chioggia.

Looking down on the locals is part of Venice’s folklore. The Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni famously depicted them as quarrelsome, if good-hearted simpletons, getting into brawls for trivial reasons.

Authentic and a bit rough

But Chioggiotti take great pride in being “veraci” — authentic and a bit rough — in contrast to Venetians’ sophistication. Each year, in early August, a local theater company presents Goldoni’s play “Baruffe Chiozzotte” in the streets, and tickets get sold out quickly. Venetians mock Chioggia, by calling the city symbol — a lion, the same as Venice’s symbol — “ el gato ,” the cat. Chioggia has recently acquired a majestic, full-scale bronze lion statue, from the sculptor Davide Rivalta , partly to “make sure people finally get it’s not a cat,” the mayor said.

And unlike Venice, which is plagued by overtourism, Chioggia enjoys the extra visitors. “We’re so proud that many people are coming. You hear people speaking English in the streets, we weren’t used to that,” said Alessia Boscolo Nata, a teacher in the local high school. “We used to be the lagoon’s children of a lesser god and now we’re not,” jokes Teresa Bellemo, a Chioggia native who works in the publishing industry in Milan, but returns every summer.

It’s not just pride. The arrival of cruises fits into the overall growth of tourism that Chioggia has experienced in the past five years — a trend that seems to have found the right balance, even helping revitalize the city’s historical center.

Chioggia is hardly new to tourism. But it used to be confined to two satellite towns, Isola Verde and Sottomarina, which relied on turismo balneare, family beach vacations. The city’s main island, with its fish market, its 17th-century cathedral and the medieval clock tower, was overlooked by tourists.

But in the past few years, a new kind of tourist started showing up: “They weren’t just interested in the beach, they saw Chioggia as a città d’arte,” an art city, said Giuliano Boscolo Cegion, the head of the local hotel association. That had a positive effect, driving an urban renewal that has become popular with millennial and Gen Z Chioggiotti.

“Just five years ago, everything was so run down and boring, there was nothing for young-ish people to do,” said Ms. Bellemo, 39. “Now it’s full of life, a great place to hang out.”

This renaissance is best embodied by the flourishing of bacari, or cicchetterie, the typical bars that serve wine and fish-based finger food on the Riva Vena, the central canal. Mattia Perini, who runs one of them, the Bacaro Altrove, said that half of its clients are tourists and half of them habitués: “It’s the best mix. I have the critical mass to keep this place going and can keep a community alive.”

Diego Ardizzon, who runs the Cicchetteria da Nino Fisolo, one of the oldest bacari, said it took years of hard work to make the canal livelier and finally it’s paying off.

Bed-and-breakfasts are springing up in the old center. And, for the moment at least, they seem to have a positive effect. “Many of the old buildings were empty, because young people prefer to live in new houses with elevators and other amenities,” said Mr. Perini.

Sounding a note of caution

But many in Chioggia realize that they’re walking a fine line, that the same tourism boom that is helping to revitalize the city, if uncontrolled, could turn sour.

Mr. Armelao, the mayor, said that if the number of vacation rentals grows too much, he might follow the example of Venice , which recently obtained permission from Italy’s central government to put a cap on rentals, which were making it harder for locals to find a home.

A dozen bed-and-breakfast managers have founded a group, Vacanza in Calle , aimed at self-regulating for an ethical tourism: “We put a lot of effort in meeting visitors in person, talking to them, explaining how to live in Chioggia as the locals do, not as intruders,” said one manager, Giorgia Santaterra.

Cruises are also a delicate issue. The environmental group that organized the anti-cruise protests in Venice, the No Big Ships Committee, wants cruises out of the Venetian Lagoon altogether, to protect its frail ecosystem, and thus opposes the rerouting of ships to Marghera and Chioggia, both of which are inside the lagoon. The grassroots group has recently organized new protests in Marghera, which is part of Venice, but not in Chioggia, because it is outside of its jurisdiction.

In Chioggia there’s no visible opposition to cruises, partly because the city enjoys the economic benefit, and partly because the ships that come here are on the smaller end of the spectrum, raising less concern about their environmental impact: The average cruise ship has around 3,000 passengers, while all the ships that are scheduled in Chioggia have less than 1,000.

But some of its residents are cautious. “Let’s see how this evolves,” said Ms. Bellemo. “For the time being, we’ve found a good balance, but if people start chasing too much of the easy money, it won’t stay this way.”

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram , Twitter and Facebook . And sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places list for 2022 .

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Alaska considers new limits for cruise ship visitors in this popular port city

The visitor limit agreement would go into effect in 2026.

The pristine natural beauty of Alaska boasts breathtaking landscapes with vast national parks, glaciers and 6,640 miles of coastline that makes the destination particularly popular for cruises.

Now, the capital port city of Juneau, where crowds have been sailing in in record numbers, is considering a limit on large cruise ships with 250 passengers or more that would cap the number of daily visitors starting in 2026 to help combat overtourism.

New agreement in Alaska to limit cruise ship visitors

cruise ships venice

Last month, cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian signed an agreement with Juneau tourism officials to help manage the thousands of passengers getting off the boats at the same time and visiting the area.

While the numbers are subject to change, Sundays through Fridays, cruise crowds are expected to be capped at 16,000. That number will be limited to 12,000 on Saturdays.

The new agreement expands on last year's decision to implement a limit of five cruise ships per day in Juneau.

cruise ships venice

Juneau is home to some amazing outdoor attractions, such as whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier, but some local residents said they've had enough of the post-pandemic crowds.

"I personally came to the realization that Alaska was being sold as a friendly place and that my friendliness was a commodity for the cruise lines," resident Karla Hart told ABC News. "The idea is just one day every week to just take a pause -- to have our community back."

In 2023, a record 1.6 million cruise passengers visited Juneau, including Sarah Grathwohlwent, who was there for the first time earlier this spring and documented her journey on social media.

"It was beautiful to go and see a glacier -- was my first one," she said. "I'm not against limiting the amount of cruise ships, I think it would make it nicer for the locals who live there year round."

Overtourism around the world prompts new crowd management systems

cruise ships venice

Scott Keyes, travel expert and founder of Going.com, said that the challenges of overtourism are not isolated to Juneau.

"We have been setting new travel records every month so far in 2024, and there's no reason to think that's going to stop," he told ABC News.

In the U.S., Mount Rainier is among the National Parks that have begun implementing timed entry reservations to help manage large crowds. In Europe, hotspot destinations like Venice and Barcelona have implemented day trip fees for visitors .

Over the weekend in Barcelona, thousands of locals protested in the streets with water guns to take a stand against tourism, which they say has resulted in a higher cost of living for residents.

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Due to increased demand in Athens, Greece, the city is also studying limits on tourist capacity.

Experts believe that as more destinations see surges in visitors, local officials may implement restrictions to deal with crowds diplomatically.

"I'm all in favor of steps taken to try to make sure you're managing that properly and respecting the local environment and everything," Keyes said.

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I sailed on Carnival's new cruise ship. See all of its amenities — and why some are better than its pricier competitors

  • I spent four nights on the new  Carnival Firenze cruise ship  in May.
  • The ship has plenty of free activities alongside enticing up-charged options.
  • Take a look at all the amenities on Carnival's new Italian-themed vessel.

Insider Today

Carnival's new Firenze cruise ship is filled with upcharged options. But if you look past them, you'll be pleasantly surprised by their complimentary activities.

The company's second Italy-themed ship came highly anticipated. In early April, Firenze's naming ceremony "triggered a step up in bookings," Josh Weinstein, the president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Line's parent company, Carnival Corp, told analysts in late June.

Two weeks after the ceremony, Carnival Firenze set sail on its maiden voyage from its homeport in Long Beach, California, marking the 27th vessel to join the cruise line's fleet.

This boost in bookings might not come as a surprise after seeing its prices.

cruise ships venice

New cruise ships generally command an inflated fare. But it seems the new 5,245-guest Firenze ignored this tradition, with 2024 fares currently starting at almost $360 per person for a four-night cruise.

Not too bad , given all of its amenities.

Firenze is more than just another towel animal-toting Carnival cruise.

cruise ships venice

In 2022, Carnival acquired Firenze and its sister ship from Costa Cruises. Firenze then underwent a two-month refresh to be outfitted with the "Carnival Fun Italian Style" theme.

If you're an American who loves campy European-themed venues — think a cheaper version of the Venetian in Las Vegas — Firenze could feel like an Italian getaway. The theme is hard to miss, from the white statues to the giant photos of Florence, Italy.

I went on Firenze's four-night cruise about two weeks after its maiden voyage.

cruise ships venice

I previously wrote a less-than-glowing review of Carnival Firenze , although I was impressed with the vessel's complimentary activities, a rarity on many popular cruises.

Norwegian's newer ships, for example, have $10 mini-golf courses and VR arcades that cost $29 for an hour of play. Similarly, Royal Caribbean's new ultra-giant, ultra-popular Icon of the Seas has a $49-per-person ropes course that can be completed in less than a minute.

Carnival Firenze also has a mini-golf and ropes course — but they're both free, albeit not as exciting or modern as the cruise line's competitors.

Unfortunately, the arcade isn't free. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a complimentary one anywhere.

Like Icon of the Seas, brave guests must be harnessed in before walking Firenze's ropes course.

cruise ships venice

But unlike Royal Caribbean's adrenaline-pumping walkway, Firenze's course takes several minutes to complete. And while it's less showy and dramatic than Icon's, it is free to go on as many times as you'd like — and for that, a better deal.

Want to keep the adrenaline going? Carnival's new ship has waterslides near the children's water playground.

cruise ships venice

Nearby, there's also cornhole, a giant chess set, and an outdoor sports court for an afternoon of shooting hoops. If you're lucky, you can also claim one of the open-air foosball tables.

If not, there's an indoor foosball table near the ping pong table and a collection of board games and books.

cruise ships venice

Speaking of indoor-outdoor options, Firenze has two pools, one outside and another under a glass roof.

The latter is also home to the makeshift nighttime movie theater, so long as viewers are OK with paying $4 for popcorn and the background sound of screaming children at the pool.

If you want to escape the kids, Firenze has the obligatory cruise ship spa, casino, and boutiques.

cruise ships venice

Or go to the adult-only outdoor lounge outfitted with rows of lounge seats, two hot tubs, and, most importantly, no children in sight. It's also where you'll also find the ship's salad bar — one of Firenze's 15 dining options.

Of the 16 restaurants, nine venues are complimentary

cruise ships venice

But there are some caveats.

Some included options, like the pizza kiosk and buffet, have up-charged items. Others, like the aforementioned salad bar and grill stand, remained frustratingly closed until the last day of my cruise.

But if you don't consider these stipulations, Firenze's free-to-upcharged restaurant ratio isn't abnormal. About half of competitor Icon of the Seas' 21 dining venues also cost extra.

Carnival Firenze's specialty options include an empanada stand and classics like sushi, teppanyaki, and Italian restaurants.

cruise ships venice

Travelers ready to splurge on food could pay as little as $1.50 for an empanada or almost $50 for a steakhouse dinner.

Dining at the free buffet but eyeing the up-charged chicken wings? They'll be $5 for six pieces. Having breakfast at the free main dining room? A fresh juice will be $5.

Want a dinner lobster roll from the seafood shack? It'll be another $18.

During the day, the seafood shack serves as a complimentary chicken stand, joining eight other free options.

cruise ships venice

Cruisers can live out their "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" dreams at the Guy Fieri-branded burger counter, where heavy accouterments like fried mozzarella slabs and onion rings are commonplace.

Or, head up a deck to Il Mercato for grab-and-go Italian sandwiches.

Firenze has two main dining rooms for a more formal sit-down dinner. Just note that the dinner buffet serves the same menu as these restaurants. And while the food is fine, it's not great — and I did find a piece of plastic hidden in my pasta.

As with any mass-market cruise ship, alcohol isn't free.

cruise ships venice

Cocktails are about $13, while beers and seltzers are about $9. But if you can't cruise without booze (it is Carnival, after all), the new ship has plenty of venues for your needs.

Bars like Piano Bar 88 and Tuscan Lounge have live music.

cruise ships venice

Amari offers options that fit the ship's Italian theme, like aperitifs, digestives, and Negroni sbagliatos ("stunnin'!").

Meanwhile, Heroes Tribute Bar and Lounge is great for guests who want to sip a beer, watch sports, and surround themselves in American military garb.

If you enjoy doing karaoke, you'll love karaoke night at the stylish and contemporary Moda Bar and Lounge.

cruise ships venice

And if you crave Aperol spritzes the moment the sun comes out, you could find yourself frequently visiting the bubbly-forward, new-to-brand Frizzante.

While not technically a bar, the coffee shop also sells boozy milkshakes and floats for almost $12.

cruise ships venice

But then again, everything at JavaBlue Cafe has a price tag, from the $4.50 latte to the icy $7.25 frappe. And if you want a sweet treat with your pick-me-up, it'll be $4 for a doughnut or cupcake.

(If you don't want to pay for caffeine, the buffet has free black coffee, Bigelow's green tea, and Lipton tea.)

It wouldn't be a cruise without live entertainment, either.

cruise ships venice

The atrium hosts musicians and singers dressed in Venice Carnival — or "Eyes Wide Shut" — style masks, while the smaller Limelight Lounge is the go-to for stand-up comedy. There's also an interactive "Deal or No Deal" game show, although participation costs $25.

But if we're talking about traditional theater shows, my four-night cruise included the cheesy "Dear Future Husband" song-and-dance production and the interactive "What's Age Got To Do With It?" game show.

If laughter from the crowd indicates success, the game show — which sources participants from the crowd — was a hit.

cruise ships venice

A show where half the players are children is sure to be entertaining.

Is the entertainment better on Norwegian and Royal Caribbean’s newest ships? Yes.

cruise ships venice

Does Carnival Firenze have as many pools as its competitors' latest vessels? No.

But is Firenze's mini-golf and ropes course free? Yes.

Plus, with four-night voyages starting at almost $90 a night, Firenze's 2024 itineraries are both shorter and cheaper than several other new cruise ships on the market. (Norwegian Viva's cheapest 2024 itinerary is more than $1,520 per person for an 11-day sailing, while Icon of the Seas starts at almost $1,770 per person for eight days.)

So, if you can resist the enticing upcharges, Carnival's new Firenze could be a great pick for families looking for a cheap and fun vacation at sea .

cruise ships venice

  • Main content

cruise ships venice

The best time to cruise the Mediterranean

Melinda Crow

You might think the best time to cruise the Mediterranean would be summer because that's when the most ships are cruising in Europe. However, I'd argue that other times of the year are better.

Ships cruise in the Med year-round, so there's never a time when you can't cruise at all. You'll find the most ships and itinerary choices in summer during peak season and the fewest during winter's offseason. Spring and fall are considered the shoulder seasons when the Mediterranean cruise season is gearing up or winding down.

Considering price, weather, crowds and choices of ships and ports, I believe the best time to cruise the Mediterranean is during the shoulder season. Specifically, I prefer April. As your decision might be based on entirely different factors, let's dive into the variables to determine the best time for you to head to the region and hop on a cruise ship.

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Introduction to Mediterranean geography

cruise ships venice

The Mediterranean Sea consists of 11 smaller seas. Shopping for Mediterranean cruises can be confusing because some cruise lines like to label their itineraries according to the smaller sea names.

You might find cruises to the Adriatic, between Italy's east coast and the central European countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania; these will take you to ports such as Venice, Italy, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Aegean cruises traverse the large open sea between Greece and Turkey and go as far south as Crete, with stops in Athens and Santorini in Greece and Istanbul in Turkey. Sailings through the Ionian Sea, located between the sole of Italy's boot and western Greece, bring you to the Italian island of Sicily and the Greek island of Corfu.

All of these cruise destinations are considered Mediterranean, along with Monaco, the southern coasts of France and Spain and even Israel (note that some cruise lines have canceled port calls to Israel for 2024 due to the conflict in Israel and Palestine). Ports in Portugal are also included in Mediterranean cruise itineraries. Even though it doesn't have any coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, Portugal is considered part of the Mediterranean region.

Related: Best Mediterranean cruises in 2024 and 2025

The best time to cruise the Mediterranean based on choices of ships and itineraries

cruise ships venice

Cruise lines that sail the region all year include Viking , MSC Cruises , Costa Cruises , Celestyal Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line . But while you might be able to cruise the Mediterranean in winter, your choice of ports is somewhat limited. We found no sailings to the popular ports of Corfu, Dubrovnik or Koper, Slovenia, in December or January.

Most of the winter offerings cruise the western ports of Italy, plus France and westward to Barcelona. A handful of longer itineraries sail from Athens or include Istanbul, western Turkey, Israel and even Alexandria, Egypt. Among popular cruise lines, only Viking includes stops in Santorini in winter, and only Costa offers cruises that include Venice in winter. Norwegian's winter Mediterranean itineraries are focused on Spain and Portugal.

Spring and early summer bring more ships and more port choices. Beginning in March, we found dozens of ships scheduled to visit Venice, Corfu and Santorini. Holland America , Princess Cruises , Seabourn , Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises all have ships ready to sail the Med in March. In April, the list of mainstream, premium and luxury lines cruising Mediterranean waters grows larger and includes Windstar , Royal Caribbean , Silversea and Celebrity Cruises .

By June, the choice of cruise lines and itineraries is at its peak. Among the mainstream lines, only Carnival Cruise Line is still absent in June, opting instead to sail a short season of nine- to 11-night cruises in September and October.

Most ships stay in Europe through summer before beginning a global dispersion between October and November. Disney Cruise Line is the first to leave, with its last summer Mediterranean sailing usually falling in July. Celebrity is among the last to leave, often continuing its Mediterranean cruises well into December and even January, incorporating the holiday season.

If your dream is to see Venice or Santorini or to cruise with one of the mainstream lines, you can rule out winter but should find ample choices between March and October. By the end of November, the number of ships calling at Mediterranean ports has dropped to winter levels.

Related: Best Mediterranean cruise tips to enhance your European vacation

The best time for a Mediterranean sailing based on prices and crowds

If your ideal Mediterranean cruise doesn't include crowds, winter is a good choice, other than December holiday weeks. But most travelers will prefer a little more warmth and a larger choice of ports while still prioritizing a good price and lighter crowds.

Across the board, from mainstream to luxury, Mediterranean cruise fares peak in June, July and August. Prices for big-ship cruises varied by as much as $60 per person, per night between spring and summer sailings. On luxury lines like Silversea, spring cruise fares were hundreds of dollars cheaper per person, per night compared to summer fares. March sees an upward tick in rates due to spring break travel. The best deals we found outside of winter fell in April and November.

To decide what crowds would look like in various months, we looked at two popular ports where the effect of multiple ships is felt the most — Santorini and Venice. Visit Santorini in June or July, and you will find yourself fighting for breathing room among as many as 15,000 other cruise ship passengers.

Compare that with an April or November stop there, where the daily cruise passenger load tops out at around 3,000. We found days in April when only one or two midsize ships were scheduled to be in port.

cruise ships venice

I've been to Santorini when four midsize ships (approximately 5,000 passengers) were in port and found it challenging to walk through the narrow maze of shops, restaurants and hotels. It was crowded enough that I was concerned about returning to the ship on time because the lines at the cable car that takes cruise passengers down the cliffs to the tender dock were so long. With 15,000 people in port, I don't know how you'd be able to walk through town at all. Santorini is a decent-size island, but most of the things cruisers want to see are perched on the narrow rim of the cliffs.

Venice has recently cut back on its cruise tourism capacity, in part by forcing some ships to dock in alternate ports and bring guests to the city by bus. We included passenger counts from Venice, Trieste and Ravenna, Italy, and found June numbers as high as 6,000 passengers arriving but as low as 4,000. Cruise passenger arrivals in April are typically below 3,000 per day. The numbers are lower than Santorini — but then, Venice has a far more complicated crowd control scenario.

If avoiding high prices and crowd congestion is your priority, rule out the summer months and stick with either winter or the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.

Related: Best Mediterranean cruise shore excursions

The best time to cruise the Med based on weather

Temperatures remain moderate across most of the Mediterranean year-round, but even Istanbul can be chilly, with an average high temperature of 48 degrees in January. Athens, Rome, Barcelona and most of the Greek islands see temperatures in the mid- to upper 50s in December and January, warming slightly in February.

Summer temperatures can be brutal in the larger cities. Athens regularly reaches 90 degrees and higher in July and August. Rome and Barcelona average roughly 2 degrees cooler than that in summer.

Rain is more common across the Mediterranean in October and November than most other months, but the average monthly rainfall, even in fall, is 3 inches or less. The northern ports in the Adriatic see a bit more rain than most of the Med. Don't forget the famed Acqua Alta, or mega-tides in Venice, which will leave you sloshing through St. Mark's Square in rubber boots. Though a genuinely rare occurrence, the high tides are most likely to happen in November and December, making them a concern when booking a cruise on one of the handful of ships with November stops in Venice.

If chilly, hot or wet weather is a deciding factor for your Mediterranean cruise, rule out January, February and December for the chill, July and August for the heat and October, November and December for rain and tides. That leaves March, April, May, June and September as the best weather months for cruising in the Mediterranean.

Related: When is the best time to book a cruise?

Bottom line

Everyone has their own reasoning for the timing of a cruise. Yours might include traveling while school is out or maximizing time at the beach. Perhaps you are loyal to one particular cruise line or have your heart set on cruising on a newly launched ship.

Whatever your reasons, there is not a bad time to cruise the Mediterranean. My favorite is April for the confluence of reasonable fares, pleasant weather, manageable crowds and an abundance of itinerary and ship choices, but I have loved sailings in other months as well.

My advice is simple: Even if I think shoulder season months are the best time to cruise the Mediterranean, go when it works best for you and your travel partners. Because a dream cruise in Europe, even with less-than-ideal weather or annoying crowds, is better than no cruise at all.

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USA TODAY

Venice announces its tourist tax will increase in 2025. Here's how the trial went.

R OME − Venice's experimental  payment system  for tourists only had a limited impact on reducing crowds in the lagoon city, meaning prices will almost certainly be hiked next year, a politician who led the project said on Friday.

In a world first, the famed Italian destination introduced a 5 euro (about $5.45) charge in April for daytrippers arriving on particularly congested days, hoping the levy would deter some people from visiting.

The pilot scheme, which has been watched closely by other European tourist hotspots, covered just 29 days and will end on Sunday, opening the way for a period of consultation to decide how to proceed with the project in future.

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Simone Venturini, the city councilor responsible for tourism and social cohesion, said the initial assessment was positive and confirmed the system would be renewed in 2025 but acknowledged that there were still large crowds.

Destinations behind a paywall? What to know about the increasing tourist fees worldwide.

"On some weekends there were less people than the same time last year ... but no one expected that all the day trippers would miraculously disappear," he told Reuters, speaking by telephone from Venice.

"It will be more effective in the coming years when we increase the number of days and lift the price," he added, without saying how much visitors might have to pay in 2025.

The city council is looking to discourage daytrippers, especially during weekends and holidays when visitors can top 100,000 - double the number of local residents. People with hotel reservations have not had to pay the levy.

Not everyone in Venice, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thinks the scheme should continue.

"It has been a total failure. The city is still packed with tourists," said opposition councilor Giovanni Andrea Martini, adding that the number of people paying the charge had fallen as word spread that the threatened fines were not materializing.

Venturini acknowledged there had been "very few, or probably no fines" but said it had been a deliberately soft start. "In this experimental phase, rather than fining people, we have focused on informing them," he said.

Martini advocated instead for a free booking system for visitor slots to prevent lower-income families from being priced out, but that could track prospective tourist arrivals.

"We need to be able to warn people that if they come on certain days, they are not going to have a good time," he said, adding that the long-term goal should be to draw back full-term residents who have drained away from the city in recent years as short-term lets increasingly dominate the housing market.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Venice announces its tourist tax will increase in 2025. Here's how the trial went.

A view taken on July 31, 2023 shows tourists taking a souvenir group photo at St. Mark's square in Venice. Unesco is recommending that Venice be placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger, due to mass tourism and climate change.

Venice nets $2.2 million with five-euro tax charge for day-trippers

Crowds of people in Venice, Italy.

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Venice on Sunday wraps up a pilot program charging day-trippers an entrance fee , more than $2.2 million richer and determined to extend the levy, but opponents in the fragile lagoon city called the experiment a failure.

Several dozen activists gathered outside the Santa Lucia train station overlooking a teeming canal on Saturday to protest the 5-euro ($5.45) levy that they say did little to dissuade visitors from arriving on peak days, as envisioned.

“The ticket is a failure, as demonstrated by city data,” said Giovanni Andrea Martini, an opposition city council member.

Over the first 11 days of the trial period, an average of 75,000 visitors were recorded in the city. Martini said that is 10,000 more each day than on three indicative holidays in 2023, citing figures provided by the city based on cellphone data that tracks arrivals in the city.

Stewards check tourists QR code access outside the main train station in Venice, Italy, Thursday, April 25, 2024. The fragile lagoon city of Venice begins a pilot program Thursday to charge daytrippers a 5 euro entry fee that authorities hope will discourage tourists from arriving on peak days. The daytripper tax is being tested on 29 days through July, mostly weekends and holidays starting with Italy's Liberation Day holiday Thursday. Officials expect some 10,000 people will pay the fee to access the city on the first day, downloading a QR code to prove their payment, while another 70,000 will receive exceptions, for example, because they work in Venice or live in the Veneto region. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

World & Nation

Venice tests 5-euro entry fee for day-trippers as the city grapples with over-tourism

The 5-euro or $5.36 entry fee, authorities hope, will discourage visitors from arriving on peak days and make the city more livable for residents.

April 25, 2024

Venice imposed the long-discussed day-tripper tax on 29 days this year, mostly weekends and holidays, from April 25 through mid-July. The project, delayed by the pandemic, was heralded by UNESCO member states when they decided against a recommendation to place the city on its list of world heritage sites in danger.

Over the last two and a half months, nearly 438,000 tourists have paid the tax, raising revenues of some $2.4 million, according to AP calculations based on data supplied by the city. Officials said the money would be used for essential services, which cost more in a city traversed by canals, including trash removal and maintenance.

The levy was not applied to people staying in hotels in Venice, who are already charged a lodging tax. Exemptions also applied to children under 14, residents of the region, students, workers and people visiting relatives, among others.

The city’s top tourism official, Simone Venturini, has indicated that the levy will be continued and reinforced. A proposal to double the fee to 10 euros is being considered for next year, a city spokesman said.

Officials promised steep fines for scofflaws, but in the end none were given during checks at entry points, which varied from a low of 8,500 to a high 20,800 a day over the period. City officials say that is because they wanted a soft launch. Critics say it resulted in a downward trend in payments as visitors understood there was no risk in avoiding the payment.

FILE-- In this Sept. 27, 2014 file photo a cruise ship transits in the Giudecca canal in front of St. Mark's Square, in Venice, Italy. Declaring Venice's waterways a “national monument,” Italy is banning mammoth cruise liners from sailing into the lagoon city, which risked within days being declared an imperiled world heritage site by the United Nations. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the ban will take effect on Aug. 1 and was urgently adopted at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

UNESCO calls Italy’s ban on cruise ships in Venice ‘good news’

The chief of the United Nations culture agency hailed Italy’s ban on big cruise ships in the heart of Venice.

July 14, 2021

Opponents of the plan say it failed to make the city more livable for residents, as intended, with the narrow walkways and water taxis as crowded as ever. They want policies that encourage repopulation of Venice’s historic center, which has been losing residents to the more convenient mainland for decades, including placing limits on short-term rentals.

There are now more tourist beds in the canaled historic center than official residents, whose numbers stand at an all-time low of 50,000.

“Wanting to raise this to 10 euros, is absolute useless. It makes Venice a museum,” Martini said.

Many of the banners at Saturday’s protest also indicated growing concern about the system of electronic and video surveillance that the city introduced in 2020 to monitor cellphone data of people arriving in the city, which is the backbone of the system to control tourism. Placards included warnings about use of personal data and a lack of data privacy.

“The access ticket is a great distraction for the media, which only speaks about this 5 euros, which will become 10 euros next year,’’ said Giovanni Di Vito, a Venice resident active in the campaign against the tourist tax. “But no one is focusing on the system for surveillance and control of citizens.”

Barry writes for the Associated Press.

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L.A. officials continue to stall homeless housing project in Venice, new lawsuit claims

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VENICE-CA-MAY 31, 2024: Venice resident and artist Mary Klein is photographed at the Venice Canals where she was attacked last April, on May 31, 2024. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

2 women are brutally attacked on Venice Canals, forcing debate on crime, homelessness

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Editorial: Mayor Bass has no more excuses for delaying Venice Dell homeless housing

June 3, 2024

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After water pistols in Barcelona and hunger strikes in Spain, cruise ships may avoid European hotspots where ‘passengers will not be well-treated’

Hilltop houses and Greek Orthodox church dwarfed by cruise ship anchored offshore, Gialos (aka Yialos), Symi (aka Simi), Rhodes, Dodecanese Islands, South Aegean, Greece, Europe.

The European head of the world’s largest cruise trade body has warned that its members may need to avoid some of the world’s most famous destinations to protect passengers amid a backlash against overtourism. 

Several European cities have vented their frustrations over rising tourist numbers and its impact on the price of everything from food to accommodation and the local ecosystem. Tourism’s environmental footprint is a complaint usually levied at giant carbon-emitting cruise ships. 

In Barcelona, a popular setting-off point for cruise liners, locals have taken to squirting tourists with water pistols . Protestors in the Spanish Canary Islands started a hunger strike in April to protest overcrowding. 

Last October, cruise passengers were greeted by protesters dressed as polar bears and sea lions as they disembarked at the French port of Brittany, in a nod to the industry’s penchant for pollution. 

A study from the campaign group Transport & Environment found Europe’s luxury cruise ships emitted as much toxic sulphur as 1 billion cars. 

A rising tide

As protests have become increasingly hostile, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has suggested that it may have to divert ships to protect passengers from violence.

“There will be some consideration of adapting the itineraries if for some reason we feel that all passengers will not be well-treated,” Marie-Caroline Laurent, European director of the CLIA, told Reuters . 

Laurent didn’t specify which cities were liable to be axed from itineraries, but it’s easy to join the dots after a wave of protests across the continent in recent months. 

The mayor of Barcelona, Europe’s most popular port for cruise ships, said the city couldn’t take more passengers than the 3.5 million it accepted in 2023.

The CLIA defended its presence in Barcelona, saying only 4% of the city’s visitors were cruise passengers.

Venice, which banned cruise ships from the center in 2021, introduced a so-called “ tourist tax ” to deter or make extra money from day-trippers to the city this summer, months after moving to limit the size of groups that could congregate in the city.

Amsterdam, meanwhile, plans to nearly halve the number of cruises that can stop in its port every year by 2026 and ban them altogether by 2035.

And in Greece, locals have taken to using drones to police new rules on sun loungers in a bid to stop overcrowding on the country’s beaches.

Despite grumbling about a rising lack of hospitality, the global cruise industry is set to carry 10.7% more passengers in 2028 than in 2023, when 31.7 million tourists boarded the liners. 

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Protect Your Trip »

10 top christmas cruises for 2024 & 2025.

Set sail for the holidays on your next cruise vacation.

Top Christmas Cruises

Laughing Azamara crew members in Christmas attire walking arm-in-arm on deck.

Courtesy of Azamara

If you're ready for a break from holiday traditions and family gatherings at home, consider booking a Christmas cruise. What makes a better present than the chance to leave all the planning, cooking, cleaning and decorating behind – and celebrate the holidays in beautiful destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean or other countries around the world?

If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, you can book a festivity-filled river cruise along Europe's iconic waterways and bundle up in your winter gear to explore the Christmas markets in the snow. If you prefer sunshine and warm temperatures, celebrate the holidays in an exotic locale in the South Pacific Ocean, sailing crystal-clear turquoise waters and relaxing on white sand beaches surrounded by palm trees.

Whether you prefer to stay close to home or jet off for a bucket list adventure, one of these cruises may just be the perfect gift to celebrate your holidays in style.

Find your perfect cruise

Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise

Christmas on beach -chair lounges with Santa hats at sea beach

Getty Images

Put your name on the waiting list for November 2024 if you want to set sail on what Hallmark touts as the "jolliest vacation ever." The Hallmark Channel – known for its year-round holiday-themed programming with Christmas in July, Countdown to Christmas and Christmas Fridays – will host the first-ever Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise sailings in November 2024 from Miami to the Bahamas . Lucky fans of the television channel will travel with their favorite Hallmark stars on one of two four-night cruises on Norwegian Cruise Line 's Norwegian Gem during the 2024 holiday season.

Highlights of the Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise include photo opportunities and panels to meet the stars. Attend Christmas craft workshops or tastings with Hallmark's winemaker – the wines have names like Jingle (cabernet sauvignon) and Joy (sauvignon blanc). Guests can also look forward to "carol-oke" singalongs, cookie decorating, an ugly sweater contest and a world premiere viewing of the new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie "Countdown to Christmas."

AmaWaterways

A Christmas market stand at an AmaWaterways cruise destination.

Courtesy of AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways offers more than a dozen itineraries to visit the Christmas markets in 2024 and 2025 along the Rhine, Moselle, Main, Danube and Rhone rivers – and to see the holiday splendor of Europe's grand cities, such as Vienna , Budapest, Amsterdam and Prague. Travelers can stroll through snow-dusted medieval squares and fairytale markets. Enjoy the chalet-inspired stalls, thousands of colorful lights, festive decorations, ice skating rinks, whimsical handmade gifts, Christmas carolers, carousels and more.

The river cruise line's seven-night Iconic Christmas Markets itinerary sails from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary , along the Danube. It features a visit to Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt – one of the world's oldest and most famous Christmas markets. Sip hot mulled wine or feuerzangenbowle (a red wine and rum punch) and sample savory specialties like Nuremberg bratwurst, flammkuchen (pizza) and kartoffelpuffer (fried potato pancakes). Be sure to save room for sweet delights like schaumkuss (also known as schokokuss), a chocolate-covered marshmallow, or lebkuchen, a traditional spiced cookie.

While on board the ship, guests can participate in festivities like tree-trimming, cookie decorating, caroling and "Shoes for St. Nick." This European tradition encourages passengers to leave their slippers outside their stateroom door before bed. In the morning, they wake up to slippers filled with tasty treats like children in Europe find on Saint Nicholas Day.

Celebrity Cruises

The Celebrity Infinity ship on the Celebrity Cruises' Canaries, Morocco, Spain Holiday itinerary.

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Celebrate Christmas Day at sea in the South Pacific Ocean during Celebrity's 2024 New Zealand Holiday cruise on board Celebrity Edge. This round-trip 13-night itinerary embarks on Dec. 20, 2024, from Sydney . It includes seven ports of call and five sea days. After ringing in the new year sailing between the Bay of Islands, New Zealand and Sydney, guests will disembark the ship on Jan. 2, 2025.

If you'd prefer to travel to the Canary Islands to celebrate Christmas and usher in the new year on the Mediterranean Sea in 2025, then reserve a stateroom or suite for Celebrity Cruises ' Canaries, Morocco & Spain itinerary. The 12-night voyage sails round-trip from Barcelona , embarking a few days before Christmas 2025 on Celebrity Infinity. The festive voyage features eight ports of call, including island of Gibraltar; the Moroccan cities of Casablanca and Tangier; three destinations in the Canary Islands; and Malaga, Spain.

On the ships, guests can revel in the joyous spirit of the season with festive Christmas trees, traditional holiday meals created by a Michelin-starred chef, themed shows and pop-ups, carolers, gingerbread winter villages, and even a visit from Santa. The onboard bars serve up holiday-inspired cocktails along with other seasonal favorites, including spiked apple cider and classic mulled wine. On New Year's Eve, plan to join in the merriment with fellow cruisers during the big countdown bash.

Christmas carolers on the Azamara Onward cruise ship.

If you want to cross South Africa off your list of must-visit destinations , consider spending Christmas and New Year's Eve sailing round-trip from Cape Town on Azamara 's 15-night South Africa Intensive Voyage. The 2024 voyage departs Dec. 20 on Azamara Quest and includes stops in Port Elizabeth, home to one of the densest elephant populations in the world, and Richards Bay, which is teeming with exotic wildlife and stunning landscapes. For a once-in-lifetime experience, reserve a spot on the Safari 4X4 Hippo Cruise in the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park. This protected park is a white rhino sanctuary, home to South Africa's "big five": lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and leopards.

If the Land Down Under is at the top of your list of places to visit, plan ahead for next year to spend the holidays aboard Azamara Pursuit in 2025. The line's 21-night Australia Intensive Voyage will set sail on Dec. 14, 2025, from Singapore . This extended sailing features 10 ports of call in three countries, with two overnight stays, before travelers disembark in Melbourne, Australia , on Jan. 4, 2026.

Guests on board the holiday cruises will be treated to Christmas performances, including singalongs and carols performed by the crew. There will be special menus in the restaurants, holiday-themed buffets, religious services and a tree-trimming party. Festive treats like hot chocolate, cookies and snacks are provided throughout the cruise. The New Year's Eve White Night party, where all the guests don their best white attire, will take place throughout the ships and on the pool deck with entertainment, music and light bites.

People stand on the front deck of a Viking Christmas cruise on the Rhine.

Courtesy of Viking

Viking's 12-day Christmas on the Main & Moselle cruise sails between Paris and Prague in 2024 and 2025. The adults-only sailing affords passengers 18 and older the opportunity to visit four European countries: France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. In addition to browsing the chic boutiques in Paris and a variety of Christmas markets in Germany, you'll want to explore iconic landmarks like Reims Cathedral in France and the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Don't miss the famed wines produced in the regions, including Champagne, Moselle, riesling, Müller-Thurgau and gewürztraminer. In Cochem, Germany, you'll want to sample white mulled wine and regional delicacies produced from the red vineyard peach.

The holiday spirit continues on board the ships with Christmas-themed cooking demonstrations in addition to festive decorations with garland, lights and gingerbread houses. Guests will also taste regional cuisine, enjoy cultural performances on board the ship and ashore and learn about the history of the Christmas markets and local holiday traditions.

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Disney Cruise Line

Goofy, Mickey and Minny characters on a Disney Cruise Line Very Merrytime cruise.

Kent Phillips | Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line offers dozens of Christmas-themed cruises from November through December in 2024. Cruisers looking to celebrate the holidays with Disney's cast of characters can book a Very Merrytime cruise as short as a three-night sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida, to the Bahamas . For a weeklong getaway, consider the line's seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyage on board Disney Fantasy that sails round-trip from Port Canaveral. Ports of call on the itinerary include Tortola in the British Virgin Islands; St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and the cruise line's private island , Disney Castaway Cay.

On the first evening of every sailing, guests can gather around the 24-foot-tall Christmas tree for the tree lighting ceremony, a holiday singalong and the introduction of Santa Claus. Other festivities on Disney Cruise Line include the fun-filled Mickey and Minnie's Holiday Party, themed Very Merrytime activities for children of all ages, carol singers, and Christmas-inspired food and beverages. Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be sporting jolly new holiday attire during the special voyages.

Windstar Cruises

Christmas tree next to a winding staircase on a Windstar Cruises ship.

Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Celebrate the holidays with a bucket list getaway to the sun-drenched islands of Tahiti . On this voyage, you'll set sail a few days before Christmas 2024 aboard the 312-passenger, all-suite yacht Star Breeze for Windstar's seven-day Dreams of Tahiti cruise. The round-trip sailing from Papeete, Tahiti, includes stops in the islands of Moorea, Raiatea, Motu Mahea (Tahaa), Bora Bora and Huahine. In Bora Bora, guests will be treated to a special evening Windstar Destination Discovery Event with dinner under the stars and traditional Polynesian fire dancing.

For an extended European holiday in 2025, the line's Star Collector: Winter in Spain and the Rivieras cruise sails from Malaga, Spain, to Rome on Dec. 13 aboard the intimate Star Legend. The 14-day itinerary includes ports of call in Spain, France, Italy and Gibraltar. During the cruise, you can visit must-see attractions like Michelangelo's sculpture of David in Florence and explore the historic Roman theater ruins in Cartagena, Spain. Cruisegoers will also have a chance to sample wines from the famed appellations of Tuscany in Italy and Andalusia in Spain, and taste culinary specialties like bouillabaisse in France.

On board the ships, guests can join in the holiday spirit with festive Christmas trees and decorations as well as holiday-inspired cocktails and treats. Special programming for the voyages includes a Christmas movie, a gala tea, an interdenominational Christmas service and a Christmas Eve dinner. Christmas morning brings more celebrations throughout the day, with holiday meals, a Yuletide afternoon tea and a Christmas dinner followed by a variety show in the evening.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Gem on open water.

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Grab the swimsuit, flip-flops and sunglasses – and check the Panama Canal off your must-visit list – for a tropical holiday aboard Norwegian Cruise Line 's Norwegian Gem. The line's 11-day cruisetour begins Dec. 9, 2024, and includes three days to see the canal that some consider the "eighth wonder of the world" and visit vibrant Panama City. After embarking on Dec. 11, you'll transit the canal and then sail to ports in Costa Rica; Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; and Norwegian's private island, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, before disembarking in Miami on Dec. 20.

Plan ahead to Christmas 2025 by reserving accommodations on Norwegian's newest vessel – and the first in the Prima Plus class – Norwegian Aqua. The seven-day Caribbean round-trip voyage from Miami on the new ship (scheduled to launch in April 2025) will set sail on Dec. 21, 2025. The cruise includes tropical ports of call in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and Great Stirrup Cay. For a special celebration, splurge on luxurious suite accommodations in The Haven. The ship-within-a-ship retreat features a private restaurant, a lounge, a sundeck, a concierge desk and 24-hour butler service.

Holiday-themed activities on Norwegian's vessels vary by itinerary and ship. Still, guests will find plenty of festive fun on board, including traditional holiday fare and holiday-inspired musical sets, trivia, and family and youth programming. Guests are invited to offer interdenominational services for fellow passengers during the sailing. You'll also find Hanukkah services listed in the Freestyle Daily Program.

Holland America Line

Christmas trees and other decor on a Holland America Line cruise ship.

Courtesy of Holland America Line

Celebrate the Christmas holidays in Hawaii during Holland America Line 's round-trip Circle Hawaii Holiday voyage from San Diego on the ship Zaandam, embarking on Dec. 18, 2024. Guests aboard this voyage will sail to Honolulu, Hilo and Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii as well as Kahului, Maui . You'll also get to enjoy scenic cruising at the Kilauea Volcano; visit Ensenada, Mexico; and join in the holiday festivities on the ship during relaxing days at sea.

If you've been dreaming of visiting far-flung destinations in Asia, such as Halong Bay, Vietnam, or Bangkok, Thailand – or seeing Komodo dragons in the wild in Indonesia – the 28-day Far East & Indonesian Holiday Collector itinerary will be an adventure of a lifetime. The voyage on board Westerdam embarks in Hong Kong on Dec. 7, 2025, with exotic ports of call in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. On Christmas Day, guests will visit the picturesque port town of Probolinggo on the coast of East Java in Indonesia. On New Year's Eve, the ship docks in Semarang, Indonesia; here, you can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobudur, home to an impressive Buddhist temple site dating back to the eighth and ninth centuries.

Back on board the ships, holiday celebrations include a Christmas tree lighting, Santa's arrival, a midnight mass, a Christmas concert, special menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and a New Year's Eve Party and countdown. There are Hanukkah festivities with candle lightings and latkes served in the Lido. Guests will also enjoy viewing the holiday villages around the ship created by Holland America's culinary team.

Silversea Cruises

Penguins on an iceberg seen from a small excursion boat from the Silversea Cruises Silver Cloud cruise ship.

Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

For a life-changing experience and the merriest Christmas of all, spend the holiday with several species of waddling penguins, giant seals and majestic whales while visiting the ice-covered shores of the White Continent. The 10-day round-trip expedition from Puerto Williams, Chile, on Silversea 's Silver Cloud sets sail a week before Christmas in 2024 for the Antarctica Peninsula. Five days of excursions allow travelers on this Antarctica cruise to explore this surreal and magical part of the world. Weather permitting, guests will even take a Zodiac cruise with the expedition team in the South Shetland Islands the day after Christmas.

If you're planning ahead to 2025, consider a longer adventure where you'd fly the infamous Drake Passage one way from Puerto Williams (saving two days at sea) and land on King George Island in Antarctica. This 15-day expedition aboard Silver Cloud begins on Dec. 21, 2025, and features four days of excursions in Antarctica and three days in the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. You'll also spend three days in the Falkland Islands, where you'll have more chances for unforgettable wildlife encounters with black-browed albatrosses, fur seals, Commerson's dolphins, imperial cormorants, and adorable rockhopper and Magellanic penguins.

Festive touches on the ship include Christmas trees and lights, gingerbread houses, holiday arts and crafts, caroling, religious services, and musical performances by the crew and professional entertainers. Guests will also enjoy a traditional holiday dinner on Christmas Day.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has sailed to destinations around the globe on nearly every type of cruise ship built, including the newest megaships, luxury yachts, expedition vessels, and river ships in Europe and on the Mekong River. She used her extensive knowledge and experience with the cruise industry to write this article. Pratesi covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications, including U.S. News & World Report.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Top River Cruise Lines
  • The Top Cruises on Small Ships
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Rome’s airport is named for da Vinci, Venice’s for Marco Polo. Milan’s Malpensa? Silvio Berlusconi

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FILE - Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi waves to reporters as he arrives at the Chamber of Deputies to meet Mario Draghi, in Rome, Feb. 9, 2021. Berlusconi, a cruise-ship singer, media mogul and three-time premier who dominated Italian politics for three decades, is getting a new act following his death last year. Milan’s Malpensa Airport, Italy’s second-busiest passenger airport, is being renamed for the billionaire businessman-turned-politician, Italy’s transport minister announced Thursday July 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

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ROME (AP) — Silvio Berlusconi , a cruise-ship singer, media mogul and three-time premier who dominated Italian politics for three decades, is getting a new act following his death last year.

Milan’s Malpensa Airport, Italy’s second-busiest passenger airport, is being renamed for the billionaire businessman-turned-politician, Italy’s transport minister announced Thursday.

Italy’s civil aviation authority approved the proposal, and Transport Minister Matteo Salvini said the new name will be Milan-Malpensa Silvio Berlusconi international airport.

The proposal had generated opposition, with Milan’s center-left Mayor Beppe Sala firmly opposed and unions launching a counter-proposal to name the airport after La Scala’s famous prima ballerina, Carla Fracci.

But Salvini, a longtime ally of Berlusconi on Italy’s center-right, announced the decision had been made officially. “A great satisfaction for a great Italian,” Salvini said in a social media post.

Some of Italy’s other big airports are named for historically famous Italians, such as Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, Venice’s Marco Polo airport and Verona’s airport, named for the Latin poet Valerio Catullo.

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Berlusconi, who died last year at age 86 of chronic leukemia, was Italy’s longest-serving premier, admired by some as a charismatic statesman who put Italy on the world stage but reviled by others as a populist who used political power for personal gain.

Malpensa is Italy’s second-busiest passenger airport, with 26 million passengers passing through last year, compared to the 40 million passengers who transited Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, according to Assaeroporti, the Italian association of airport operators.

Located in Italy’s industrial heartland, Malpensa far outpaces Rome in terms of cargo transport, moving 672,000 tons last year compared to Rome’s 190,000 tons, the association said.

cruise ships venice

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