Analyzing Carbon Emissions on a Cruise

Analysis: Vacationers Generate 8 Times More Carbon on a Cruise Ship than on Land

SEATTLE – Today Friends of the Earth released new data that shows cruise goers emit eight times the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per day than a land-based vacationer. This analysis compares one day of a land-based vacation to one day on a double occupancy cruise ship from Seattle.

Friends of the Earth’s analysis is the only existing comparison between cruise and land-based vacations that focuses on carbon emissions. The analysis looks at low- and high-end emissions based on different cruise ships and land-based activities. Land-based activities such as whale watching and rideshare transportation in and around Seattle were compared to someone being on a cruise ship for one day. Regardless of a high carbon itinerary on land, the difference is startling.

According to the analysis, one individual on a typical cruise ship emits roughly 421.43kg of CO² per day. Alternatively, one individual staying in a high-end hotel, using carbon-heavy transportation and choosing higher carbon activities emits just 81.33 kg of CO² per day. The carbon footprint of an average land-based vacationer is around 51.88kg, less than one-eighth of the average cruisegoer.

Cruise ships are known as heavy carbon emitters, and have a disproportionate impact on the health of port communities and destinations despite industry greenwashing about better practices. In 2019 ships that sailed from Seattle to Alaska during the six-month cruise season emitted a total of 1,120,324 metric tons of CO² equivalent (about 1.1 million tons of gas). These emissions stemmed from 13 cruise ships with a total of 559,414 total passengers.

Marcie Keever, Oceans and Vessels Program Director with Friends of the Earth, issued the following statement:

Our analysis shows that for the environmentally conscious traveler, a cruise should not be the first choice. Cruise companies like to parade their commitments to cutting plastic pollution and using less energy onboard, but they ignore the one factor that has the greatest impact on carbon emissions: the massive volume and low quality of fuel they use.

Cruise-goers do care about the climate impacts of their vacation choices, yet the cruise industry overall offers very few decent vacation choices. There is no longer any doubt that land-based vacations, even with plane and car travel, are overwhelmingly less polluting than getting on a cruise ship. It’s time for industry leaders like Carnival Corporation to address their dirty practices and take their responsibility to the planet seriously.


Communications contact: Shaye Skiff, [email protected], 202-222-0723

Related News Releases