Those who know me will also know very well how much I hate cruise ships.
I cannot think of any worse ways to be near the seaside than being on board of a giant building floating on water making noise, and being stuck inside with only fake 'pool water' to get into. Not to talk about only being able to get off and explore pre determined places in a group following a pre determined itinerary.
So, my 'dislike' was already well instilled into me before the recent accident in Venice.
But apparently other people love it (I must be weird) and in 2017 a record was broken, with 25.8 million global ocean cruise passengers!
I believe that as a society we can be quite 'thick' to understand (thick being a nicer way to say that we are after all maybe just a little bit stupid...), and despite some big accidents ( do you need a reminder about theTitanic?), which include the very recent 'Costa Concordia' crash, we still think these huge things can be governed in safety. But can they? And how are they impacting the environment?
With regards to this point I would firstly like to remind you all that when on a ship one is at the mercy of the ocean.Respect for nature and the elements needs to come first of all, and one can never really deem him/herself fully safe regardless on what type of boat one is in. This clarified, I would like to focus one moment on the idea that big cruise ships are potentially a little less safe than other types of crafts. In the last few years, cruise ships have increased 50% in size in terms of gross tonnage. This means more passenger capacity and one wonders whether evacuation procedures in case of emergency could be done swiftly enough..
Moreover, being so big they are pretty hard to manage during coastal navigations, especially while entering/leaving. It seems that most of the recent accidents, from the costa concordia to the MSC Opera, via the Seabourn Encore happened during arrivals or departures from a port...
And because they are so big, they might also be more prone to wave and strong wind damage, as we have recently seen for the accident in Norway, just last March!
The guardian already featured a great article on the hidden environmental impacts of cruises, but let me summarize it for you: 'The environmental costs of the sector are incalculable (meaning that they are really high!) given that the cruise ship industry is unregulated and difficult to gauge widely its impacts, despite enforcing environmental standards for the industry.' Why? Cruise ships generate a number of waste streams that can result in discharges to the marine environment, including sewage, graywater, hazardous wastes, oily bilge water, ballast water, and solid waste. They also emit air pollutants that enters both air and water.. And are pretty big noisy machines!
The cruise industry has the potential to provide economic benefits to a port state. These economic benefits theoretically arise from five principal sources: spending by cruise passengers and crew; the shoreside staffing by the cruise lines for their headquarters, marketing and tour operations, expenditures by the cruise lines for goods and services necessary for cruise operations; spending by the cruise lines for port services; and expenditures by cruise lines for the maintenance. However, accommodation of large cruise ships into port requires a great deal of initial capital investment in infrastructure as well as maintenance costs. Plus all of these benefits are actually theoretical. For example, tourists will eat and sleep on board of the ship, thus not contributing to economic returns on the city itself while occupying pubblic space, contributing to queue to access museum (with tickets often bought in advance as part of packages which makes them too cheap to be sustainable). Plus, to save money, ships would come in at sunrise and leave at sunset, thus paying reduced berthing rates..
So what can you do?
A better way of travelling by water is with ferries and sleeping / eating at the various destinations, even there try to chose companies that care about the environment and try to minimise adverse effects. If you really want to cruise and nothing will make you change your mind, then read about the cruise line you are chosing, see if the ports it hits are sustainable and what the liner does to reduce its impacts.
Disclaimer: some posts may contain affiliate links. At no extra costs to you, buying through the link will help me in this blogging journey!