Gun salute for departing cruise liners
Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna will provide an unusual spectacle of gun salutes from the Saluting Battery at the Upper Barrakka Gardens, in Valletta, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. today.
The event is meant to demonstrate to stakeholders in the cruise liner business the viability of reintroducing the old custom of greeting ships with gun salutes, FWA chairman Mario Farrugia said.
"Malta will be the only place in the world where such honours are offered to the trade, if this is taken up although it is known that both Gibraltar and Barbados, both popular cruise liner stops, are considering to follow suit," Mr Farrugia added.
Till the 1950s, visiting dignitaries were regaled with the firing of guns, depending on their rank and importance although the Saluting Battery was primarily intended to defend Grand Harbour along with Fort St Angelo.
Today, FWA volunteers dressed up as late 19th century British Army Maltese gunners will man the guns and fire saluting rounds from five guns at 10-second intervals to honour two cruise ships.
The first to leave Grand Harbour will be the Costa Concordia of the Costa Crociere Line at 5 p.m. She will be followed at 6 p.m. by MSC Opera of the MSC Crociere.
In between the gun salutes, guided tours in English and Maltese will be conducted by FWA volunteers. An entrance fee of Lm1 per adult and 50c per child under 16 years will be charged.
The event will end with the firing of the sunset gun at 8.10 p.m. Throughout each firing, a commentary will be provided in English.
A printed history of the battery will also be distributed to paying visitors.
The Saluting Battery restoration project is a joint initiative between the Malta Tourism Authority and FWA. Assistance for this initiative has also been forthcoming from the Ministry for the Infrastructure, the Valletta Rehabilitation Project, Heritage Malta and the Environment and Landscaping Consortium.