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Cruise holidays
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With an annual growth of 8% since 1980 cruise tourism has increased at almost twice the rate of tourism overall. A record 8.5 million people took cruises worldwide in 1997. One result of the increase in the cruise industry is the congestion at typical destinations, such as the Caribbean, which received 50% of the total world cruise tourism in 1998. Some islands, such as Barbados, Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the US Virgin Islands receive more cruise tourists than stopover tourists. Currently three cruise line companies dominate the market, Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean International and P&O Princess cruises, collectively controlling over two thirds of the North American market. Aiming to be the fourth biggest line is a Malaysian based company, Star cruises, the most rapidly growing line. The size of cruise liners and the number of passengers they can accommodate are staggering. The Grand Princess for example (which cost US$450 million) accommodates 3000 passengers and a crew of 1100!


Some of the environmental impacts of cruise tourism involve the following:

  • Air pollution through the emission of sulphur rich exhaust fumes.
  • Infrastructure impacts due to the development of ship construction sites as well as new berthing areas, deeper channels and ports. These impacts involve the destruction of natural ecosystems, increased sedimentation loads (and resulting impacts on habitats) and changes in hydrology as well as geomorphology.
  • Anchor damage and pollution through use of toxic paints and anti fouling agents.
  • Cultural impact linked to overcrowding of particular destinations with wealthy tourists for a short period of time. On Easter Island, it is common for 800-900 people to disembark in a few hours and then be taken around the island in buses to see the archaeological sites. This is a huge impact on the island's fragile sites.
  • Water consumption and degradation and pressure on other environmental resources (e.g. for food)
  • Waste including sewage, oils, garbage, plastics and hazardous substances. The average cruise ship carries 600 crew members and 1,400 passengers. On average, passengers on a cruise ship each account for 3.5 kilograms of garbage daily - compared with the 0.8 kilograms each generated by locals residing onshore.
  • Water consumption, degradation and waste production are without a doubt the most significant environmental impacts of the cruise industry. A typical cruise ship on a one-week voyage produces approximately eight tons of garbage, as well as one million gallons of "graywater" (wastewater from sinks, showers, galleys and laundry), 210,000 gallons of sewage, and 25,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water. In addition, untold amounts of hazardous waste are generated on board from onboard printing, photo processing and dry cleaning operations. Since most of the laws and regulations controlling pollution were developed prior to the development of the tourism cruise industry, numerous loopholes and exemptions in current environmental regulations exist that give the cruise industry a "license" to pollute. The cruise industry has a history of illegally polluting the waters in which it sails. From 1993 to 1998, cruise ships were held responsible for 104 confirmed cases of illegal discharge of oil, garbage, and hazardous wastes, and required to pay more than $30 million in fines. In a particularly scandalous case, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (RCC) admitted regularly dumping waste oil from its ships and deliberately dumping hazardous chemicals into US harbours and off-coast areas over a period of several years. However, in July 1999, Royal Caribbean signed a plea agreement declaring itself guilty to a total of 21 felony counts in six different US jurisdictions, and agreeing to pay a record $18 million in criminal fines.


However, some cruise lines are actively working to reduce waste-related impacts on oceans.

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