Affluenza Afloat: The Dangers of Supersized Cruise Ships in Our Peak-Oil World
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Stats show the mother of all ships has sold for roughly 41% more on the average than the rest of the company’s fleet with the least expensive rooms selling for 61% or more. And because of discounts introduced the past few years, cruising is on the rise, 13.4 million people shipping out in 2009 up from 12.6 in 2007, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.
Sure, the discounts cut into profits but the cruise lines are looking at a recovery on the horizon whether feasible or not.
Aqua Park on the Oasis luxury liner
All this means more fuel down the drain and more pollution emptied into the sea, despite stricter federal regulations and efforts on the parts of ships to go greener and clean up their acts. Ocean pollution watch group Oceania reports ships are more harmful to the environment than airplanes, generating up to 25,000 gallons of sewage from toilets and 143,000 gallons of sewage from sinks, galleys and showers each day. Scariest of all, the waste is often dumped without treatment, sending bacteria, pathogens and heavy metals into our coastal environments.
Plastic in the sea from cruise ships poses harm to marine life
Some of the improvements being made are measurable and lauded as pioneering technologies while other steps amount to greenwashing by what is considered the fastest growing segment of tourism.
Crystal’s Go Green shore excursion, introduced last year has been criticized as a Band-Aid to cover a gaping wound. Passengers paying some $5,000 for the cruise can fork over another $95 for a day of doing good deeds in Malta such as planting trees on the island’s only national park, donating food to a charity and learning about growing practices at an organic farm.
According to the New York Times, Princess Cruises is trying cold ironing, plugging ships into electrical power at ports in San Francisco, Juneau, Alaska and Seattle. Norwegian introduced a recycling program in 2007 converting used cooking oil to bio diesel for farming equipment in Florida. Disney sponsors volunteer coastal cleanups to remove debris from shorelines and Holland America donates reusable linens, beds and dishes to charities. Others such as Carnival have an environmental officer aboard to monitor compliance with LED lighting, solar panels and other alternative energy strategies.
A cruise ship cold ironing at port in San Francisco
While travelers who must cruise are urged to do their due diligence in investigating large and small ships that are lowering their carbon energy bills, some conservationists argue the best message you can send is to find another way to explore.
“It is interesting times,” observes Lamar. “First we went as fast as possible galloping on horses or having animals pull a wagon and then trains sped things up and then oil was discovered and we had autos, airplanes and these giant ships, and now it’s all winding down with the end of cheap, easy oil. I think that’s a good thing for the planet.”
Luanne Bradley is the senior editor of Ecosalon.com. She also is a contributor to AlterNet, the Examiner and Divine Caroline, and her eco articles have been featured at Huffington Post.