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Choose an eco-friendly cruise

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An eco-friendly cruise allows you to sail the seven seas in eco-bliss. Fewer carbon emissions and minimal habitat destruction in ports where you dock means smoother sailing for you and the planet.

How to choose an eco-friendly cruise

Cruise ships—essentially floating cities—let you set sail in luxury, but this elegance comes with an eco-price. These giant ships are significant sources of water pollution, CO2 emissions, and ecosystem destruction. What are the alternatives?

  • Choose air or ground transport instead: If you can get to your dream destination by land or air (both more eco-friendly than ship travel), consider doing so.
  • Stay on dry land: Stay put at a beachside resort instead of cruising from port to port.

Of course, if you can't do without open waters and ocean breezes, there are greener options, including sailing cruises, opting for a smaller, less CO2-intensive cruise ship, or booking an eco-friendly luxury liner.

  • Try sailing: For minimum impact try a low-carbon sailing trip. Whether it’s just you or an expert crew at the helm, you’ll enjoy sea and sunshine without using fossil fuels or emitting greenhouse gases.
  • Go smaller: If sailing is a little more hands-on than you'd like, book a less fossil-fuel intensive smaller cruise—there are dozens of unique options, everything from a Kerala houseboat cruise in India to a whale-watching vessel off the coast of Newfoundland.
  • Set sail sustainably: If you’re still set on the ease and elegance of an ocean liner, reduce your traveler's footprint by choosing cruises offered by members of the Cruise Lines International Association (which include most of the larger cruise companies). These cruise lines have agreed to follow strict voluntary environmental standards for wastewater and recycling. But some have gone a step further, offering additional eco-amenities and conservation practices. Examine cruise liners' fine print to find greener cruise lines and other eco-friendly sailing options.

Find it! Eco-friendly cruises

Remember, some cruise lines go beyond the basic eco-standards set by the Cruise Lines International Association. Do a bit of research on your potential sea vacation provider to fine the greenest option possible.

Choosing an eco-friendly cruise helps you go green because…

  • Smaller, less fuel-intensive vessels and eco-friendly cruise ships reduce carbon emissions, cut ocean pollution, and reduce the impact of tourism on bio-diversity hot spots.

More than 230 cruise ships operate worldwide. Each carries up to 3,000 or more passengers and crew members and together make stops at more than 1,800 ports worldwide.[1] In 2005, over 11 million people around the globe took an ocean cruise.[2] To meet projected demand, 68 new ships were added by cruise companies between 2000 and the end of 2005, with 14 more ships planned in 2007.[3] The combined environmental impact of all this sea-faring travel can be significant, but green options are available.

Dark side of luxury

With thousands of passengers living, eating and bathing on board, cruise ships provide most of the same services that municipalities do (sewage, garbage disposal, water and electricity) and face some of the same environmental problems. Waste disposal is a major concern. This includes bilge water (which collects in the bottom of a ship’s hull and often contains oil, grease, and other toxins), sewage, graywater (waste water from showers, sinks, laundries, and kitchens), ballast water (carried onboard or discharged to stabilize the ship), and solid waste (food waste and garbage).

In one week a typical cruise ship creates 1 million tons of wastewater, 210,000 gallons of sewage, 35,000 gallons of water contaminated by oil, and more than 50 tons of garbage (each cruise ship passenger generates 7.7 pounds of garbage daily compared to 1.7 pounds produced by each local person on shore).[4] Wastewater from cruise ships, including sewage, not only contains bacteria that can sicken marine life and humans, but also pollutants that cause algae blooms, which reduce oxygen levels in the water and kill fish. In recent years, several major cruise operators like Carnival, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line have been sued for environmental infractions, including illegal dumping of sewage and toxic chemicals.

Cruise ships also produce more CO2 emissions per person than any other form of transportation—a significant portion while ships idle in ports. A large cruise ship emits almost a pound of CO2 per passenger mile compared to a half-pound for jets (the next most ecologically harmful form of transportation).[4]

In addition, nearly 70 percent of cruise destinations are in the most biodiversity-rich—and ecologically fragile—areas of the world, including the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Mexico, and the South Pacific. Many of these regions cover only a small percentage of the Earth’s land area and have already lost a majority of their original species due to development, much of it tourism-related.[5] Cruise ships also sometimes do significant damage to coral reefs when they dock.

Greener sailing

In US waters, cruise ships must abide by all US environmental, health and safety regulations enforced by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control, and the US Coast Guard. Cruise lines must also meet international environmental regulations developed by the International Maritime Organization. These include the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the International Safety Management Code (ISM).

Members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) (which includes most of the major cruise lines worldwide) have voluntarily agreed to follow strict environmental standards that go above and beyond all US and international regulations. For instance, CLIA cruise lines don’t discharge any wastewater into coastal waters unless it’s treated by advanced wastewater purification systems and have implemented waste management and recycling programs.

In addition, individual ships are protecting the environment by offering training and information programs for crew and passengers and installing state-of-the-art solid waste grinding and incineration equipment, as well as cleaner gas and diesel engines. Some cruise lines are partnering with universities and institutes to create ocean study programs. Many also participate in local initiatives, like beach cleanups.

In 2003, the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance (OCTA) was formed between the International Council of Cruise Lines (now CLIA) and Conservation International to protect biodiversity in leading cruise destinations.


Critics charge that current environmental laws and regulations governing cruise ships are inadequate. For instance, graywater from ship pools, laundries, deck runoff, etc. is allowed to be discharged anywhere in the ocean despite potential hazards to aquatic plants and animals. Although several cruise lines (many of them members of Cruise Lines International Association) have voluntarily agreed to exceed these standards (for instance, purifying graywater and only dumping it away from coastal waters), critics contend that the move to more eco-friendly cruising is neither fast enough nor big enough. Not only are cruise lines not penalized for non-compliance, but no independent verification exists. Many organizations are calling for these stricter environmental standards to be mandatory and backed by stringent oversight.

Related health issues

With large populations of people from all over the world in close quarters, cruise ships are breeding grounds for contagious diseases and can be serious environmental health threats. In recent years, cruise-ship passengers have been afflicted with an array of intestinal and respiratory illnesses, including the Norwalk virus.

Many of these diseases are spread via close contact with sick passengers or via doorknobs, handrails, and other inanimate objects that harbor bacteria or viruses on their surfaces. Despite receiving high scores on environmental health sanitation inspections, the cruise industry has recently seen a rise in ship-borne illnesses. One reason may be that more people are taking cruises and more cruise ships are setting sail than ever before.

External links



These cruise lines have agreed to follow strict voluntary environmental standards for wastewater and recycling. But some have gone a step further, offering additional eco-amenities and conservation practices. Examine cruise liners' fine print to find greener cruise lines and other eco-friendly sailing options. Club Penguin Cheats

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