Faced with growing opposition to the number of cruise ships visiting Venice – ‘the Queen of the Adriatic’ – a group of cities that have each been acclaimed as ‘Venice of the North’ will take part in a contest to choose an alternative destination.
The Italian city is one of the most popular destinations for Mediterranean cruises but in recent years protesters have been campaigning to keep ships out in order to prevent damage to the precarious foundations of historic buildings.
Local officials have imposed bans on the biggest cruise ships, and then rescinded them – causing confusion for operators and customers alike. Now the cruise lines have had enough, and are looking elsewhere.
Lining up to attract some of the world’s biggest passenger ships are cities such as Amsterdam, Bruges, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Stockholm. All of them have considerable experience of catering for cruise passengers in large numbers and justifiable claims to become substitutes for the real thing.
But the surprise favourite according to some experts is Birmingham, a city which claims to have more miles of canals than the proper Venice.
The fact that it is landlocked is not seen as a problem by the city’s burghers, who plan to excavate a canal from the Severn Estuary. “With the right tidal conditions, ships could be carried upstream by the bore,” said Sir Digbeth Colmore, the Midlands Doge who is leading the city’s campaign.
“We have Gas Street Basin (above) at the centre of our canal network, and it will soon be a rival for the Rialto,” he added. “There’s a large green open space at Villa Park which is currently under-used. We plan to take that over and turn into a square to rival St Mark’s.
“Most importantly, we have a complete motorway network known around the world as a a centre for Italian pasta. Spaghetti Junction is the ace up our sleeve.”
It will be some time before a final decision is made on the eventual replacement for Venice. The result is expected to be announced exactly 12 months from today.