Reasons You Shouldn’t Take a Cruise • Friends of the Earth

Reasons You Shouldn’t Take a Cruise

Reasons You Shouldn’t Take a Cruise

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We get it. The ocean is AWESOME. It’s beautiful, peaceful, and surrounded by mystery — after all, 80% of the ocean is still unexplored. Who wouldn’t want to get a glimpse at part of that? And while taking a vacation on the deep blue sea might sound just as incredible as enjoying the soothing waves from the. beach,  you might be surprised to learn they are actually horrible for the ocean, marine wildlife, and port communities. Below you’ll find the top 8 reasons you shouldn’t take a cruise. 

Reason 1: Cruise Ship Pollution

Cruise ships pollute everything in their path — the air, water, coastal communities, and fragile habitats. For starters, every day cruises emit the same amount of pollution as a million cars. An overwhelming majority of these ships are run off heavy, dirty fuel that fills the air with extreme amounts of particulate matter. But that’s not where the pollution ends. Because these floating cities are running 24/7, the port communities that welcome them have an exorbitant amount of added pollution filling the air which can cause and intensify health problems.  

And did we mention how they impact the ocean itself? We’ll go into more about that in reasons two and three!  

Reason 2: Cruise Ship Effects on Marine Wildlife

Marine wildlife are harmed in numerous ways by these giant ships. They release waste that is foreign to a typical oceanic habitat — everything from food to plastic. This ends up in the bellies of sea life and can cause them to choke or have digestive problems. It can even cause death. Did you know that it is estimated that there are more pieces of plastic in the ocean than grains of sand on the world’s beaches?  

And noise pollution is also a problem for marine wildlife. These ships are NOISY. Imagine living in a quiet, peaceful house. Then without warning, a mega building mysteriously pops on top of your house — filled with noise from thousands of people and a giant operating system. You would have a hard time being able to communicate with your family inside and would be stressed by the noise. That’s exactly what big ships do to ocean wildlife. They interfere with whales hearing and communication, which can cause changes to their feeding, mating, and other behavior.  

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Reason 3: Cruise Ship Dumping

Think the ocean water is serene? Well just wait until the cruise you are on begins to spew sewage into the open water. Yuck! People don’t just stop using the bathroom when they’re on vacation. What comes out has to go somewhere, and most of the time it ends up being deposited directly into the ocean

Cruise ships dump black water, gray water, solid waste (like food, paper, glass, and plastic), oily bilge water, and scrubber wastewater all into the ocean, in many cases only partially treated and sometimes not at all! 

All this waste is filled with chemicals, bacteria, and heavy metals and it is dumped right on top of whatever marine wildlife is in its path. Could you imagine being outside minding your own business and suddenly a plane poured thousands of gallons of sewage and other toxins on you? I’m sure you’d be pretty upset — so imagine how the wildlife who can’t escape it feel.  

Reason 4: Cruise Ship Accidents

Accidents happen. But beyond the most famous cruise ship accident, there’s plenty more accidents that have happened since 1912. In fact, between 1980 and 2012, sixteen cruise ships sank. Now, to be fair, not all accidents are that severe. But when you’re stuck bobbing up and down in the ocean water and a fire breaks out, or the power suddenly stops working, or the captain turns off the ship’s alarm for the navigation system and strikes an underwater rock, you might be rethinking your vacation. 

For the record, all those incidents listed above have taken place, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg: 

  • 2022: Carnival Freedom. Flames erupted from the smokestack of the Freedom while it was docked in Grand Turk. The reason for the fire is still unknown, but luckily for all the guests and staff, no one was injured. The passengers were able to disembark while they waited for a new ship to return them to Port Canaveral.  And in a not so shocking twist — cruise line passengers were offered no refund following the fire for the inconvenience of being stuck in a foreign country while they waited on Carnival to send a new ship to get them home.  
  • 2013: Carnival Triumph. Oof. This one was no Triumph. The engine room had a fire, which was luckily contained. Unfortunately for those onboard, the fire knocked out the lights, air conditioning, hygiene system, and propulsion system. Now dubbed the “poop cruise”, passengers spent four days waiting to be towed back to port — all without working bathrooms. Two inches of sewage soaked the carpets and floors. Travelers ended up sick and with PTSD from the horrors of this “cruise from hell”. 
  • 2012: Costa Concordia. The captain Francesco Schettino sailed closer to the island of Isola del Giglio than normal to impress local residents. It was never clear whether this was sanctioned by Costa or not. But The captain claimed he knew the waters well enough and shut off the computer’s navigation system. He didn’t know the waters as well as he thought and struck a large rock causing the boat to take on water and eventually sink. The captain then abandoned ship with 300 passengers still onboard. Tragically, 32 passengers died.  

Reason 5: Cruise Ship Crime

Crime happens in many places, and that includes on cruise ships. But did you know that all but one of the large cruise ships that operate out of the United States are NOT businesses registered stateside? That means if a crime happens in open waters it falls under the jurisdiction of the “flagged” country of the ship. It becomes tricky to negotiate jurisdiction just 12 miles offshore which is where US law enforcement jurisdiction ends. And if you’re a victim of crime, it will be much harder for you to get justice. 

The most common crime on cruise ships is sexual assault. Cruise lines have also cited crimes including homicide, missing persons, suspicious death, kidnapping, assault, and theft.  And for what it’s worth, there are NO police onboard the ships. The cruise lines have security, but these are not actual law enforcement officials.  

Reason 6: Cruise Ship Illness Outbreaks

Norovirus was once the most common outbreak on cruise ships. They regularly had occurrences of the very contagious virus that left passengers with stomach and intestinal issues (stomach flu symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps) — which then spreads to the surrounding passengers onboard.  

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruise lines were a cesspool that spread the virus like wildfire. Over 34 deaths of cruise line passengers were reported, and thousands of others became ill. The CDC implemented a no-sail order to try and slow the spread. But when the order was lifted more passengers became ill. The cruise lines still operated while they had COVID-19 cases on board. The CDC does have a color-coded cruise ship status on its website to warn travelers about the status of each ship, but if one person on board becomes positive with the virus, the wave of outbreaks will keep spreading. 

These two viruses aren’t the only ones that cause passengers to get sick. Cruise ship illnesses also include respiratory and bacterial infections, influenza, and even chickenpox.  

Reason 7: Cruise Ships Trap You on a Floating City

When you’re on a cruise ship, you have no escape. For many, that’s not an issue. But when something goes wrong — like for those on the “poop cruise” that we outlined above — you might be stuck with days of trauma while you wait on a tow.  

Not to mention other life events could leave you frustrated that you’re trapped on a giant floating city. If you need health care, prescriptions, or have a family emergency, you’re stuck onboard until the boat makes it to port. And if there is a hurricane, you may never make it to your destinations when the cruise ship has to reroute around the storm. 

And another little fact — if you disembark in a port city and don’t make it back to the boat in time, the ship will 100% leave without you and not look back. 

Reason 8: Cruise Ships Exploit Port Communities

The cruise industry is a big business — we’re talking BILLIONS of dollars in revenue year after year. But the communities that must appease them and their passengers are constantly exploited. First, as we mentioned above these communities are regularly polluted with cruise ship emissions. A cruise ship uses 12x the energy compared to your average hotel. But that’s just the beginning. These big businesses come in and exploit the country’s tourism economy — along with its cultural identity. They take untouched land and turn it into glorified theme parks. They create excursions that take away from local businesses. And they even work with legislators to silence the voices of local peoples.  

Better Travel Options

If you’re still on the fence — which hopefully after all that you are not — consider taking a green travel alternative instead of cruising. Eco friendly tourism is becoming a big business and might just be what you’re looking for. They still can offer a luxury experience but not at the expense of local communities, wildlife, and the planet.  

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