Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sailing into Venice an experience like no other

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Where else can you look down on The Doge's Palace, and St. Mark's Square? While overlooking this iconic city is special, so is the short time it takes after you port to reach the heart of Venice, where a stroll turns that initial thrill into seeing the place in its full magnificence.

Idyllic, isn't it?

In the current era, two to three ships enter the port every day. Many of the smaller ships, and a few of the bigger ones, dock for more than one day. That's today. The future could be radically different.

Italy's environment committee is reviewing a bill that could give the city council of Venice powers over its surrounding waters. That's important to a variety of committees that want to keep the ships out of the San Marco Basin and the Giudecca Canal.

If passed, the bill will ban ships of 40,000 tonnes but Felice Casson, a senator from Venice, wants to reduce that to 30,000 tonnes. An example of ships just a couple of hundred tonnes over 30,000, and holding 700-plus passengers, are Azamara's Journey and Quest.

Even if local officials announced a ban on the ships, it probably wouldn't go into effect until there was an alternative port.

Keep in mind the two biggest cruise lines in Europe -- Costa and MSC -- are based in Italy.

In the end, it could come down to money. Right now, each large ship entering the port pays approximately $49,000. That money goes to the federal government. If Venice were to control the waterways, that would wind up in city coffers.

While there are groups protesting the entrance of cruise ships, the other side has its supporters. Last week a flash mob of 600, the Cruise Venice Committee, launched a strong appeal to show support for the 3,000 jobs tied to the industry.

The bill is at the review stage and I would assume each side will have a long list of interveners.

Meanwhile, if you're sailing into Venice this summer -- enjoy.

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Some 16,000 kilometres away in Sydney, Australia, the government's announcement that a naval base will be used as a dock for large cruise liners has also stirred some controversy.

Sydney is running out of space for cruise ships and some, such as the Queen Mary 2, are too big to fit under the Harbour Bridge. Last year, 214 ships ported there, up by almost 40 per cent from 2010.

The national government said no to the idea in March but apparently Prime Minister Julia Gillard has weighed in and says yes. The location is at the Garden Island Navy Base in Woolloomooloo, near the heart of the city.

-- -- --

Still with ports, there is still some money left in Greece.

Piraeus (Athens) expects to receive 220 million euros to expand cruise facilities to enable access by larger vessels. The port has designs on being the largest in the Mediterranean.

Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil can be contacted directly at portsandbows@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2012 D5

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