Some cruise lines are boldly announcing on their websites that passengers are free to book any sort of shore excursion they wish, others are saying that clients are restricted to using only tours and transfers arranged by the ship.
So what gives? And where does the truth lie?
What the Italian Covid Decree Says About Private Excursions for Cruise Passengers
The measures in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Italy are spelled out in a document called the "DPCM," which is basically a set of decrees issued by the Italian government in a state of emergency. These decrees function as law at such times, and there have been a number of them issued since the beginning of the pandemic. The current DPCM is in effect until October 25, 2021.
Now that cruise ships have begun arriving in Italian ports a curious fact has crawled out from under the crushing pile of decree pages like a little cockroach: cruise passengers are NOT free to go on excursions as they choose.
To be more specific about what the decree means, no cruise passenger on a ship sailing under a non-Italian flag is permitted to go on a shore excursion that is not organized by the ship, nor are they allowed to leave the port on their own.
Yes, this means you can't even come into town to shop or stroll or eat a pizza, let alone get on on train or bus or hire a taxi or private driver to go wherever you want to go. This was confirmed recently in a conversation with upper management at one of Italy's biggest cruise ports.
How Did This Absurd DPCM Regulation For Cruisers Happen?
Maybe you're shaking your head and wondering, "Are you serious? How did this happen?"
It has been speculated that this particular bit of the Decree (Article 53, Paragraph 5 of the DPCM dated March 2, 2021) was the result of input from the Italian cruise lines. One could extrapolate that the intention was to scoop all the shore excursion work for themselves when Italy reopened to cruise ships, but we leave that connecting of the dots to the reader.
What Can Cruise Passengers Expect In Italian Ports Going Forward?
Until October 25, 2021, when the latest Decree expires, we independents are out in the cold, and you cruise passengers are either stuck on the ship or on a tour arranged by the cruise line when you dock in Italy.
Now that this absurd regulation has come to light, our sector is doing what it can to be heard at the government level so that this nonsensical regulation is not renewed in the next Decree. Fingers crossed that the big cruise lines outside Italy also bring some pressure to bear, which wouldn’t be surprising seeing as clients are cancelling cruises due to the fact that they can’t do as they wish when they dock in Italian ports.
What Can Cruise Passengers Do In The Meantime?
Those readers with an activist bent might want to write their preferred cruise company to express their disbelief, concern, frustration, indignation, etc. over the Italian restrictions on independent shore excursions.
If the cruise line is telling you that you are free to book any shore excursion you wish, beware. You may very well find yourself with a last minute surprise notice that it isn't permitted after all, perhaps too late to cancel any private arrangements you've made and get your money back.
Alternatively, consider a vacation in Italy on land! It would be a perfect chance to see places that you can’t get to when you arrive by ship. DriverInRome would be very pleased to help organize your transfers and day trips from your lodgings or a train station, anywhere in Italy.