1st cruise ship sails through Venice since start of pandemic

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Cruise ship MSC Orchestra passes in the Giudecca Canal in Venice, Italy, early Thursday, June 3, 2021. Early risers in Venice woke Thursday to the sight of a cruise ship traveling down the Giudecca canal for the first time since the pandemic, despite pledges by subsequent Italian governments to reroute the huge vessels due to safety and environmental concerns.

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

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

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

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

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

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