Environmental Impact of Cruise Ships

Posted on by in Soundings

Susan Schaefer
I recently read an article, originally posted back in May, about the growing problem of cruise ship pollution. The article was focused on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Harmony of the Seas, but the issue is not unique to that ship or cruise line. It’s not even unique to cruising, as cargo ships also contribute to the problem.

Many travel agents have become more Mother Nature friendly over the years, declining to book hunting safaris, and some go so far as refusing to book dolphin swims or trips to Sea World for their clients. For each travel agent it is a personal decision on what they will or won’t book. They weigh the decision between profit and good stewardship of Mother Earth. However, just about all of those travel agents book cruises, more than likely oblivious to the pollution created by all of these ships.

In the article about Harmony of the Seas, one environmental expert was quoted as saying “One cruise ship emits as many air pollutants as five million cars going the same distance because these ships use heavy fuel that on land would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.” Multiply that by the number of cruise ships out there, add in all of the cargo ships, and that is an astronomical amount of pollution.

With 24 million passengers projected to cruise this year alone, cruising isn’t going away any time soon. Instead it will continue to grow in years to come. Pollution created by cruising isn’t going to go away either. Until ship builders can build better pollution abatement, it’s going to continue to be an issue, especially for port cities.

So what are environmentally focused travel agents supposed to do? Do they ignore the issue, or do they refuse to sell one of the largest segments of the travel industry? It is not an easy answer for anyone. Personally, cruising is a very large part of my business and I cannot see a future without selling cruises. However, if I do have any clients that I know are environmentally conscious and concerned about their “carbon footprint”, all I can do is educate them about the environment impacts of cruising, and let them make their own decision. It won’t be a conversation that I have with every client;  just those few that I know strive to have a neutral carbon footprint themselves.

If you sell cruises, and focus your business on being environmentally friendly, what will your approach be to selling cruises in the future?


Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at susan@shipsntripstravel.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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