Italy’s biggest cruise companies won’t be stopping in Venice this summer

Neither MSC Cruises nor Costa Crociere plan to sail their giant liners to Venice as they resume operations this summer after a six-month shutdown.

Italy's biggest cruise companies won't be stopping in Venice this summer
The two biggest cruise operators in Italy have not announced plans to resume sailing from Venice this summer. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Instead the companies are planning departures from the port of Trieste, around two hours north-east of Venice, and Genoa on the north-west coast.

Italy's government has given the go-ahead for cruises to restart from August 15th, though operators must stick to European routes in line with a ban on tourism from outside the EU.

READ ALSO: Face masks remain and cruise ships return: What's in Italy's new emergency decree?

And while Venice is typically a highlight of Italian cruises, receiving more than a million passengers a year, as sailing resumes it doesn't look set be the starting point, destination or even a stopover for ships operated by Italy's two biggest cruise companies.

The news has been hailed as a victory by anti-cruise campaigners in Venice, but it's not yet clear why operators are steering clear, or how long they'll stay away.

Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The MSC Grandiosa will be the first liner to sail after ports reopen, leaving from Genoa for Malta with stops in Rome, Naples and Palermo. It's one of two Mediterranean routes the company has confirmed, the other departing from Trieste towards Greece and returning to Bari – without stopping in Venice.

Meanwhile Costa Crociere says its cruises will resume in September, starting with a weekly cruise from Trieste to Greece and followed by another route from Genoa to Malta.

The company did not directly answer The Local's questions about whether it would return to Venice, but in an emailed statement it said that it would announced further details of its itineraries in the coming days. All other routes are suspended until September 30th, 2020, it said.

MSC had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing. Earlier this month the company said that passengers departing from Trieste would be offered the chance to visit Venice by train.


Anti-cruise ship activists had threatened to prevent liners returning to Venice by any means possible, including blocking the port with boats or even acts of sabotage. 

“We said it, we promised it and so it will be: no ships will enter the lagoon for the entire season,” declared campaign group Comitato NoGrandiNavi on Monday. “No company has the strength to defy our blockade against the return of these ships that are useless, harmful and unsustainable in every respect!”

The group was organizing a rally at the port on Friday to celebrate what it called “the expulsion of big ships from Venice”, which it said it wanted to see gone from the lagoon for good.

A protester calls for cruise ships to be banned from Venice. Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

Residents have long complained that giant cruise ships cause environmental damage and flood Venice with day-trippers, who are less valuable to the local economy than visitors paying to stay overnight.

Before the pandemic the city council planned to start charging day-trippers an entry fee in summer 2020, which would have ranged from €3 to €10 at peak times.

But port workers protested this week calling for liners to return. They blamed the operators' decision to skip Venice both on anti-cruise activists but also the local government, which they said had failed to provide companies with clear options to return. 

In a statement, the workers said they supported calls to reroute cruises away from St Mark's Square in the historic centre, but that banning cruises from Venice altogether would put 4,000 jobs at risk.

In response, Comitato NoGrandiNavi called for “a new development model for the city and for jobs” to replace mass tourism while protecting residents and workers.

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How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:


WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.


Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.


TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.


Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.


Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.