Next time you admire that glossy brochure touting a cruise to Alaska’s pristine Inside Passage or are considering a Disney Cruise with Grandma, Grandpa and the entire family, look beyond the gourmet dining and children’s program. Ask yourself how these cruise lines impact our environment?

While some cruise lines take great care to tread lightly on their surroundings, other companies are failing miserably. Have you asked yourself if cruising is any greener than flying?

Marcie Keever, Clean Vessels Campaign Director for Friends of the Earth notes, “it only costs about 1-3% of the value of a single cruise ship to install advanced sewage treatment technology on a cruise ship.”


2009 Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card

According to a report issued September 16, 2009 by Friends of the Earth, cruise ships are like floating cities that release substantial amounts of pollution into the air and water.

I recently spoke with Friends of the Earth Clean Vessels Campaign Director Marcie Keever to ask her what cruise ship passengers could do to be proactive in selecting their next cruise.

“Passengers have a choice in where they want to go and what they want to eat; even what shore excursions they select,” said Keever. “For the first time, passengers have a choice in what environmental impact their cruise ship will have.”

In September of 2009, I sailed aboard Holland America Line’s Westerdam and took a behind the scenes look at their waste recycling center. While I don’t think many people would be interested in watching a video of their food waste management system, Holland America takes great pride in its environmental record.

The company was one of the first cruise ships to sail in Alaska and they have no intention of fouling their own backyard. Like Princess Cruises, HAL has installed shore powered technology where available. However, utilizing shore powered technology requires joint cooperation between the port and the ship. Many port infrastructures don’t yet have the ability to support these power grids.

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I look forward to learning more about Princess Cruises environmental programs when I sail as a guest of the Crown Princess from Miami, Florida on a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise.

Here’s what Julie Benson, Public Relations Director, had to say about Princess Cruises environmental policies. “We care deeply for the environment. We make our living on the ocean. We’re a highly regulated business. In terms of our commitment and our doing things the right way, we meet or exceed all environmental requirements.”

You can follow along on my discoveries via the #FollowMeAtSea hashtag I’ll use on Twitter.

What can you do as a consumer to support a clean marine eco-system? Roaming Tales blogger Caitlin urges you to sign the Clean Cruise Act petition. What’s your take on cruising and the environment? Leave a comment below.