Cruise Ships and the Environment

Historically, the cruise ship industry has been one of the biggest offenders against environmentalism.

An industry that could be considered largely hypocritical considering most cruise ships travel to pristine, naturally beautiful, exotic and remote locations. It certainly seems odd that an industry that centers around bringing tourists into some of the most biologically diverse environments in the world, would be so hard on them. However, since the emergence of green travel and ecotourism the cruise industry has taken large strides to be as environmentally safe as possible, with many cruise liners offering green cruises and eco-friendly sailing. Now you can sail worry-free, knowing that the cruise ship or vacation you chose is environmentally sound.

Cruise Ships vs. The Environment

With so many people aboard a cruise ship, cruise liners face the difficult task of dealing with the same amount of trash and waste as major hotels and restaurants with the added challenge of waste that boats produce from engines and oil. It comes as no surprise then, that the history of the cruising industry is littered with environmental problems. The waste that accumulates on a typical 7-day cruise ship is astronomical. According to Responsible Travel, in one week a cruise ship creates on the upwards of 1 million tons of wastewater, thousands of gallows of sewage and contaminated sea water from the ship’s oil. It was common practice for cruise ships to dump a large portion of this waste into the ocean, reeking havoc on the ecosystems and marine life in the water nearby. Additionally, cruise ships are known for having large CO2 emissions, creating harmful effects to the air when they travel. Lastly, cruise ships commonly dock near coral reefs and delicate ecosystems damaging them in order to get close enough to shorelines for passengers.

While dumping and pollution have been plaguing the cruise ship industry for years, there have been excellent improvements in ecotourism and cruising.

Green Cruises

Since the harmful side effects of irresponsible cruising have come to light, the cruise industry has made some remarkable improvements. Efforts to process waste onboard has been consistently increasing as technologies and the desire to make cruising more eco-friendly becomes a priority. Recycling and using green materials onboard is a small step that makes a big difference and is one that most major cruise liners employ. On a larger scale however, cruise ships in the Cruise Lines International Association (most major liners) are taking steps to map out global routes where waste discharge will be the least harmful to delicate ecosystems.

Efforts such as timing arrival and departure schedules so that large cruise liners use less fuel while docking are making travel schedules more environmentally efficient.

Cruise liners, notably Royal Caribbean, now employ efforts to keep boats as cool as possible to eliminate the stress on air conditioners in addition to keeping speeds at fuel efficient levels. On top of this all cruise liners must now abide by strict eco-friendly regulations imposed by the US Coast Guard and the US Environmental Protection Agency. It is also important to note that when cruise ships sail into foreign waters, they are responsible for following that country’s waste management and maritime laws. Even individual ships hold staff training to educate the members on board on how to eliminate waste and be as eco-friendly as possible while traveling.

In 2003 the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance was formed, representing a group of proactive cruise line specialists and conservationists with the intention of working to make ocean sailing and cruising and green as possible. Efforts such as those listed above are making the cruise industry more environmentally conscious our oceans safer.

By choosing an eco-friendly cruise line you are helping to reduce carbon emissions from ships, cutting the waste that is poured in the ocean and helping to protect biodiversity in fragile ecosystems.

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