Large Cruise Ships Are Set to Return to Key West

·2 min read

Large cruise ships have won their battle with idyllic Key West.

Key West residents approved a ban on cruise ships carrying more than 1,500 passengers in November, a time when the industry was effectively shut down by the pandemic. But with cruise lines sailing from the U.S. again, Florida's governor has overturned the law and is prohibiting the state's cities from attempting to limit ship traffic in the future.

That decision paves the way for major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean to return to the Florida Keys as cruises restart sailings from U.S. ports. Under the law Key West voters approved last year, Royal Caribbean's entire fleet — which includes several of the world's largest cruise ships — would have been banned.

A similar battle against cruise ship traffic is being waged in Venice, where the cruises are also winning. About a month ago, the Associated Press reported that Venice residents were surprised by the sight of a large ship in a Venetian canal for the first time in more than a year, despite the passage of a law banning big vessels from the heart of one of Italy's most charming cities.

Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship in the Port of Key West in Key West, Florida.
Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship in the Port of Key West in Key West, Florida.

Karen Bleier/Getty Images

Venice is continuing to fight, teaming up with celebrities like Mick Jagger, Tilda Swinton, Wes Anderson, and Francis Ford Coppola to protect the city of canals. "Venice is suffering, and we, citizens of the world, cannot remain deaf to her cries," an open letter signed by supporters reads, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, large cruise ships could be back in Key West as early as September. Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, which has the capacity to hold 2,400 passengers in more than 1,000 cabins, is scheduled to cruise from Tampa on Sept. 4, with stops in Key West and the Bahamas.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.