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Intrepid

"Greenest" of major cruise lines?

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I'm booked on an NCL cruise to Bermuda, and am having some remorse that I booked without checking their record. Does anyone have any information regarding this?

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I'm booked on an NCL cruise to Bermuda, and am having some remorse that I booked without checking their record. Does anyone have any information regarding this?

 

What record are you talking about? And what ship. We are traveling on the Norwegian Dawn in March. This will be our second time on this beautiful ship.

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Alas, the cruise ship industry in general has a pretty abysmal record regarding environmental safety and adherence to regulations.

 

I would suggest going to http://www.cruisejunkie.com/largefines.html to get some info on recent offenders. I'd also check the http://www.epa.gov for more in-depth info. Lastly, I suggest reading "Devils on the Deep Blue Sea: The Dreams, Schemes and Showdowns That Built America's Cruise Ship Empires" by Kristoffer Garin. A recent book, Garin talks about (and meticulously documents) a number of cruise lines' environmental negligence. That book is an eye-opener for those of us who choose to know about envionmental and labor policy issues of companies with whom we deal.

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Thank you for the (scary) link and the book recommendation. It belatedly occurred to me that what I enjoy most about cruising (the ocean, spotting birds and cetaceans) might be terrible for them! My first cruise was on the Pacific Princess, later all NCL (the Majesty and the Dawn). Both Princess and NCL try to be meticulous about conditions on the ships, but I'm now becomming aware and worried of what the ramifications their passing cause.

 

I'll get the book!

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I know that Holland America ships each carry an environmental officer who is supposed to make sure that all environmental rules and regulations are followed.

 

On one of our HAL cruises that officer gave an illustrated talk about how sewage and garbage is handled. Much of it is treated and recycled and some is allowed to be discharged in open ocean under some circumstances and some must be off-loaded in ports.

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It belatedly occurred to me that what I enjoy most about cruising (the ocean, spotting birds and cetaceans) might be terrible for them!

 

I agree with you--it's often a conflict--I love the ocean and want to enjoy it without spoiling what I love so much about it! (if that makes any sense)

 

Regarding 'green' cruise lines, someone before mentioned HAL...I found this article right here on Cruise Critic about their new 'greener' ship. Hope it's of some help.

 

http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=2030

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I was on the Zaandam and I will agree that they were very eco aware. In fact, I went to the seminar on board about it and when I had further questions, a DVD appeared in my cabin with more in-depth information. I was very impressed.

Marshgirl

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The Carnival Freedom also has an "Environmental Officer" who is in charge of making sure they comply to local regulations said the Captain.

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The Carnival Freedom also has an "Environmental Officer" who is in charge of making sure they comply to local regulations said the Captain.

 

I'm not sure if it was Norwegian or Royal Caribbean, but I believe one of those cruise lines also has an environmental officer onboard each of their ships.

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Here is an article from the San Francisco Chronicle giving some sources of information, and recommended "questions to ask":

 

Cruise lines tackle challenge of reducing waste, protecting oceans

 

Spud Hilton, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, October 19, 2007

ba_greenocean13bakw_t.gif

 

 

 

During the past 20 years, cruise ships have swelled to unlikely dimensions: as long as aircraft carriers, accommodating 5,700 passengers and crew, equipped with dozens of bars, restaurants and stages. The cliche "a city at sea" seems inescapable.

Jim Ayers prefers a slightly modified description.

"Cruise ships are really traveling suburbs," said Ayers, vice president of Oceana, an international nonprofit group with headquarters in Washington. "They end up being an additional community visiting a small town, and they should bring with that the responsibility for solving their sea- and air-quality problems."

Depending on who's talking, the environmental problems related to cruises are many, and almost all of them revolve around the waste that results from transporting, housing, feeding and cleaning up after a few thousand people.

Violations related to illegal dumping of toxic material and wastewater in U.S. seas alone would fill a big-city crime log, and subsequent fines from felony convictions in the past decade are in the tens of millions of dollars.

Cruise lines point to dramatic improvements, high-tech wastewater systems and volunteering to meet standards higher than required.

But much stands in the way of doing more to cut pollution from cruise ships. Those who have something to lose from tighter regulations lobby Congress aggressively. The cruise industry is known for cutting corners, and its ships are registered (and therefore only accountable) to countries with little interest in the environment. And then there is the patchwork of international and U.S. regulations with loopholes big enough to sail through with the Queen Mary 2.

So at a time when the popularity of ocean voyages continues to rise and each year sees record numbers of customers, the most effective agents for change and accountability are passengers, in part because cruise lines are ultrasensitive to public image.

"The cruise lines have made some improvements. They're doing this because people care. People don't want to take cruise ships that pollute," said Danielle Fugere of Bluewater Network, a San Francisco division of the international environmental group Friends of the Earth. "Consumers have a lot of power. They need to continually voice those concerns. Their money talks."

At issue is where and how much of various types of waste can be disposed of at sea, and to what extent it's treated. According to the Department of Transportation, a cruise ship on a weeklong voyage with 3,000 passengers and workers generates, on average:

-- 1 million gallons of graywater (water from sinks, showers, galleys, laundry and cleaning activities).

-- 210,000 gallons of sewage or blackwater (an Olympic-size swimming pool about 40 percent full).

-- 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water (the soup from the lowest part of the hull that typically contains oil, gasoline, solid wastes and chemicals).

-- 130 gallons of hazardous wastes (materials from photo processing, dry cleaning and equipment cleaning, as well as heavy metals, paint waste, solvents, fluorescent and mercury vapor lightbulbs, batteries and pharmaceuticals).

-- 8 tons of solid waste (glass, paper, cardboard, aluminum and steel cans, plastics).

"The ocean has turned out to be smaller than we think. We thought that it had a never-ending capacity to accept waste, but we're seeing more fish systems crashing," Fugere said. "This means whales and swordfish and the food we eat from the ocean. There's a chain of life that's being disrupted."

California is among the few places where the law is clear. The state has banned all discharges in state waters, within 3 miles of shore, as well as the operation of waste incinerators. One catalyst for the law: In 2002, the Crystal Harmony dumped 36,000 gallons of sewage and bilge water while in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary - and didn't report it for several months. While the discharge didn't break any laws (the ship was more than 12 miles offshore), it violated an agreement with the city and earned the company a lifetime ban from its harbor.

Alaska allows discharges but requires treatment, monitoring and testing. Environmental groups say that this is a higher standard than most other states, but that the monitoring should be done by a third party. Most of that state's standards were set after Royal Caribbean admitted in 1999 to fleetwide dumping of oily bilge water and hazardous waste in U.S. waters.

Royal Caribbean agreed in 2004 to install or refit advanced wastewater treatment systems in all of its ships. In 2001, member companies of the marketing association International Council of Cruise Lines agreed to a set of practices that equal or exceed current U.S. and international standards.

Cruise companies understand the importance of protecting the ocean, said Steve Collins, director of environmental and health programs for Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Most of the cruise lines have developed pretty significant environmental responses."

The real difference, according to Ayers of Oceana, will be customers asking questions, becoming aware and, subsequently, directing their dollars accordingly.

"Visitors want to believe that they're coming in and visiting and that they're doing so responsibly, that they're not polluting their air, their water, their streets," Ayers said.

"The visitor doesn't have to be an expert. They just need to ask the questions," he said. "You can write to these companies, and if they don't respond, I think that answers your questions."

FOR MORE INFORMATION

 

Cruise Lines International Association: (754) 224-2200, www.cruising.org.

 

Bluewater Network: (415) 544-0790, www.bluewaternetwork.org.

 

Oceana: (202) 833-3900, www.oceana.org.

 

 

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE TAKING A CRUISE

 

You may not always get - or understand - the answers, but simply by asking you are letting the cruise lines know environmental stewardship is important to you.

-- Waste treatment: Some cruise lines have begun installing advanced wastewater treatment systems that greatly reduce the solids and toxins in sewage that is discharged at sea.

Ask: In a letter to the cruise line (or through a travel agent), ask if the ship you're considering has such a system in use.

-- Sewage discharge: In the open sea, beyond the 24-mile contiguous territory mark, ships can dump raw sewage.

Ask: If all blackwater is treated before discharge no matter where the ship is. It is also OK if the blackwater is stored and disposed of at a port facility with a sewage-treatment system.

-- Energy use: Ships in port need to run their engines to maintain electric power onboard, often using cheap, highly polluting diesel fuel.

Ask: If the cruise line has any ships equipped for shoreside power, essentially a great big outlet into which the ship plugs to avoid running the engines. Unfortunately, shoreside systems are expensive - for both the port and the ship - and there is no standard outlet or plug yet. Ask anyway. Also ask if the ship burns lighter fuels in port if shoreside power is not an option.

-- Photo chemicals: The photography staff onboard (usually a subcontractor) shoots and prints anywhere from five to 20 photos per couple. Most are now using digital cameras, but many are still wet-processing the thousands of pictures, generating hundreds of gallons of toxic processing chemicals per trip.

Ask: If photographers use digital printers and, if not, when they plan to convert. Better yet, encourage use of touch-screen stations where passengers can review photos and print only those they want. Sadly, this is a marketing issue: Companies know you are much more likely to buy a photo if it's already in your hands.

 

 

- Spud Hilton shilton@sfchronicle.com http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/19/SS9DS3GHM.DTL

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The question section at the end of the article is very helpful. Next time I call the cruise line directly to book, I gotta remember to ask some of those questions.

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I know that Holland America ships each carry an environmental officer who is supposed to make sure that all environmental rules and regulations are followed.

 

On one of our HAL cruises that officer gave an illustrated talk about how sewage and garbage is handled. Much of it is treated and recycled and some is allowed to be discharged in open ocean under some circumstances and some must be off-loaded in ports.

 

I, too, was on a cruise (Princess) where one of the officers gave a talk about how they handled waste. He was asked many "green questions" and seemed up to date on every issue. I think the cruise lines are making an effort to address concerns such as these, but some are better than others. At least they are making the effort!

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Good point, but as someone who now handles sustainability as part of my job, I can tell you that many ways greening of business practices actually save money, but just require some concerted effort to leave behind the "but we've always done it that way" mindset and -- sometimes -- employing a little imagination.

 

Small things, like placing paper recycling bins near where paper waste is generated (bingo tournaments, employee office areas, etc.), can help as can more intensive initiatives (shoreside power usage, hybrid technology) can all help lower a cruise ship's carbon footprint.

 

Some cruise lines use smaller food serving portions to help cut down on uneaten leftovers. More organic food options would be a natural next step.

 

My wife and I took a repo cruise from LA to Alaska for our honeymoon and bought carbon offsets for the entire trip. Not a perfect solution of course, but it would be nice if cruise lines (like some airlines) at least made available carbon offsetting as an option for those who are intersted.

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