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Affluenza Afloat: The Dangers of Supersized Cruise Ships in Our Peak-Oil World

Habitual over consumption on billion-dollar high rise vessels comes at a huge cost to both the environment and the widening schism between rich and poor.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean


This storyfirst appeared on EcoSalon.

Recent news that the 2,600 passenger  Grand Princess cruise ship will be docked in San Francisco one year from now has unleashed a titanic blast of excitement. Naturally, the thrill of thousands of passengers and crew routinely disembarking at the pier is music to the ears of struggling retailers and restaurateurs. In the meantime, avid cruise fans enticed by  dramatic discounts can sail from the Bay and save on airfare for voyages to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and the California coast.


“Having the ship sail under the Golden Gate Bridge and berth at the foot of Coit Tower will be spectacular, both for the guests on board and the people of San Francisco,” raves  Monique Moyer, Executive Director of the Port of San Francisco.

But critics of the supersized cruise ship trend are signaling foggy conditions ahead for accessing the country’s needs to keep its  affluenza afloat. Habitual over consumption and the demand for cool aqua parks and live theaters on billion-dollar high rise vessels comes at a huge cost to both the environment and the widening schism between rich and poor. This, amid a growing discontent among the masses worldwide and a contagious  occupy mentality. Will occupy the Grand Princess be next?

In terms of greenhouse gas elements, more energy arguably goes into making these ships than what they burn out of a smoke stack – the fabricating of steel, the welding and electronics racks up a stupendous energy and carbon bill – one under-reported by the industry.

Add to that the issue of how ships  function, the need for massive diesel fuel and electricity at a time when the  end of cheap fossil fuel is a reality – no longer dismissed as the rantings of extremists. An increasing number of thoughtful scientists and economists are writing about dwindling peak oil, skyrocketing prices for a gallon of gas and our dependency on an oil-based lifestyle.

“As steel gets harder to get and more people become aware of what we are doing to get fuel that remains, they will want to prioritize the use of oil out of necessity and use it for moving people around and getting food from where it grows to where it needs to be,” observes Bay Area conservationist, Win Lamar.

He figures resentment will grow if oil is used frivolously on non personal transportation for luxury excursions. “Ships are still for the one-percent elite and as long as resources and wealth go to the fewest, the anger will climax. Look at Syria, Italy, Greece and Spain. People are taking up arms in the street, normal looking people who look like you and me are smashing property in downtown Madrid and it’s only a matter of time before it starts here.”

The award-winning ‘Central Park’ aboard the Oasis

If the prediction is accurate, it will reach tall heights before it falls as witnessed in the fawning over the unparalleled grandeur of world’s largest cruise ship, the  Grand Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas christened in 2009 and lovingly labeled a “floating nation” by the company.

How big is it? As the  Daily Telegraph put it, “it’s so big that $75 million has been spent on tripling the size of the Port Everglades terminal at Fort Lauderdale where it sails, and new docks have been built around the Caribbean to berth it for Caribbean cruises.”

Costing $1.4 billion to build and able to carry 6,296 passengers at a time, the juggernaut epitomes excess with features such as its  award -winningBoardwalk and Central Park. Carved out in the center of the ship, the public area with pathways mimics a city promenade with open air, lush plant life with canopy trees and seasonal gardens.

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