When MSC Opera smashed into a dock in Venice's Giudecca Canal, damaging Uniworld's River Countess and injuring four people, the simmering debate about how to manage cruise ship traffic in the historic city reached boiling point.
Various solutions have been proposed by local authorities over the years and three potential sites for a new cruise terminal outside the Venice Lagoon are being investigated. Dredging the Vittorio Emanuele III canal was discussed in 2017 and may be a temporary measure; a decision from Italy's Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure is expected to be announced by the end of this month.
Meanwhile, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has been working with authorities for some time to create an alternative route which would allow ships to avoid the Giudecca Canal. In 2014 cruise lines enacted a voluntary limit on ships of more than 96,000 tons using the Giudecca Canal and the number of cruise visitors to Venice has declined since then. According to CLIA, they represent about five per cent of the 25 million to 30 million tourists that visit annually.
On top of over-crowding, Venice is grappling with other massive problems including pollution, flooding, erosion and sinking. As cruise ships towering over Renaissance palazzos represent such a visible aspect of tourism, perhaps the tonnage restriction should be extended to height. Venice's highest building, apart from St Mark's bell tower, is the 14th-century Hotel Danieli, at about 17 metres; many large ships are at least 50 metres high. Something has to be done.
Combining two river cruises or a river and ocean cruise is a great way to see more of Europe in one seamless package. In July next year, Evergreen has a 20-day package that starts with a river cruise from St Petersburg to Moscow, followed by a seven-night Danube cruise from Budapest to Bucharest. Another option is a 16-day itinerary that pairs a river cruise through Provence with an eight-day sailing on the Dalmatian coast on one of two new 36-passenger ships. Book by September 30 for reduced fares; see evergreentours.com.au
MONACO GRAND PRIX
Watch next year's Monaco's Grand Prix from a private villa provided by Silversea – not only will you have the best views of the race, but the exclusive off-ship event includes a swag of fabulous extra treats. Free-flowing champagne, Mediterranean cuisine, health and beauty treatments and driving a racing-car simulator are all part of the fun. On May 23, 2020, Silver Spirit will be in Monte Carlo overnight and two itineraries are available: 21-day Venice to Barcelona, starting on May 5, and nine-day Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona. Pay in full by June 30 for free return flights. See silversea.com
NILE IN STYLE
Sanctuary Retreats' boutique ship Sanctuary Nile Adventurer is undergoing a major facelift before returning to the Nile in September for a series of three, four and five-night cruises between Aswan and Luxor. Its lounge, restaurant and 32 cabins – which range from standard to palatial presidential suites – will be revamped with new fabrics, rugs, tiles and textiles in an East meets West style that promises to be supremely elegant. Luxury facilities include a new spa and outdoor gym, plus private cabanas around the pool. Cruises include sightseeing experiences with experienced Egyptologists. See sanctuaryretreats.com
PACK IT IN
Packing cubes are one of those simple inventions that seasoned travellers swear by. Even the most chaotic packers can organise their stuff quickly and easily, and keep it organised for the duration of the trip. Zoomlite's new designer range of four different-sized cubes, plus bonus drawstring bag, is available in six colourful patterns. Each lightweight, durable cube has a see-through mesh section as well as a label window, so you know exactly what it contains; heavy-duty zips help compress clothes. From $75; see zoomlite.com.au
IAN OGILVIE, CHIPPING NORTON, NSW
NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN Seven
LAST CRUISE Lisbon to Reykjavik (via France, Ireland, the Scottish Isles, Norway and Faroe Islands) over 29 days on board Windstar Cruises' Star Pride. Highlights included Edinburgh, one of our favourite cities; the Isle of Skye (we loved it so much we went back for three more days after the cruise); an on-deck barbecue as we left Geiranger Fiord; and the scenery along the whole cruise.
NEXT CRUISE The Amazon River and Galapagos Islands. The Amazon has always fascinated us because of its size, remoteness and adventure options – and who doesn't want to cruise the Galapagos?
DREAM SHIP It has to have fewer than 200 passengers. What we love about small-ship cruising is the intimacy – you get to know a lot of people quickly, as you are thrust into Zodiac trips, bush-bashing and open-seating meals with strangers from around the world. On our cruise to Alaska with UnCruise, the captain said on the first night, "This plan is subject to change due to weather, whales and the whims of the crew". And how right he was – we spent three hours the following morning following a pod of humpbacks through the fiords as they demonstrated "bubble feeding".
DREAM CRUISE An adventure cruise along the Amazon
DREAM PORT Somewhere in the middle of nowhere!
BEST CRUISE TIP Go small or go home. Roll with the punches, always look forward to the next staggering sight and, above all, enjoy.