Hundreds of people rallied on land and small boats fluttering flags saying "No big ships" surrounded and followed the 92,000-tonne MSC Orchestra as it departed Venice port en route for Croatia and Greece.
Port authorities, workers and the city government welcomed the departure of the Orchestra, operated by MSC Cruises, seeing it as a symbol of business kicking off after the health crisis that hit hard at the cruise industry and the wider travel sector.
Residents still want a blanket ban
Some residents have been urging governments for years to ban large cruise ships and other big vessels from passing through the lagoon and docking not far from the famed St. Mark's Square. Campaigners worry about safety and the environment, including pollution and underwater erosion in a city already in peril from rising sea waters.
Change is coming!
Italy's government ruled in April that cruise ships and container vessels must not enter Venice's historic centre but rather dock elsewhere. But the ban will not take effect until terminals outside the lagoon have been completed, and a tender for their construction has not been launched yet. Part of the traffic might be diverted to the nearby port of Marghera starting from next year.
The Orchestra received a mixed welcome
The Orchestra was escorted outside the port not just by small vessels protesting but by tugboats that saluted it with water sprays, a sea tradition reserved for special occasions. The CLIA estimates that the cruise business represents more than 3% of Venice's GDP.