Royal Caribbean’s new Allure of the Seas ship carries more than 5,000 passengers and features four pools, 10 whirlpools, a zip line over a garden-filled “Central Park”, an ice skating rink, 3D movie theatre and the show Chicago: The Musical. It also has the best wastewater treatment system a ship can offer.
treatment plant is not listed among the ship’s enticements on Royal Caribbean’s
website, but it will earn the cruise line a higher grade on the Cruise Ship Environmental Report
Card, a project of
the activist group Friends of the Earth (FOE).
Marcie Keever, the group’s oceans and vessels project director, said updating a
sewage system is one of the biggest improvements a cruise ship can make to
lessen its negative effects on the environment. And a vessel carrying thousands
of passengers has a sizable impact: a large ship can generate 210,000 gallons
of sewage and one million gallons of “graywater” from showers, laundry and
cooking per week, according to the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
that in addition to water pollution, the group is concerned about air pollution
from burning dirty fuel -- at sea and
while docked in port. The ships need energy to power all those amenities, even
when they are not moving, but any cruise
ship can be retrofitted to plug in to land-based power systems, thanks to a
technology called “cold ironing”, which eliminates the burning of fuel for
are doing the right thing,” Keever said. “Others are doing business-as-usual
type of activity and not doing the big things to reduce their impact on the
It can be
difficult to find information about these technological improvements, and that
is one reason FOE launched its report card, Keever said. For 2010, the overall
grades for cruise lines were not that impressive – the highest score, given to
both Holland America and Norwegian, was a B minus, while Crystal Cruises was
the only one to get an F. Tourists can also search the report card by destination or by individual ship – as opposed to the full line –
and some ships that are decked out with the latest eco-technology received an A
or A minus from FOE.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), an industry trade group, said
its 26 member lines,
including Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Carnival, have taken several
steps, such as having senior staff in charge of environmental programs. “We
meet – and in some cases exceed – the many international, federal and state
environmental regulations that apply to cruise ships whether at sea or port,”
CLIA says on its website. Critics have said the regulations
are not sufficient, and they can be tough to enforce as ships move in international
waters. The EPA, for
example, is considering updating its standards
for ships discharging waste in Alaska.
also partnered with Conservation International, a non-profit that works with
businesses and organizations, to promote best
environmental practices. Ships are adding recycling programs, low-flow shower
heads and even solar panels. Ships may also offer a behind-the-scenes tour of
their lesser-known perks if a passenger inquires.
floating cities at sea bring economy-boosting tourists when they pull into port,
but that can also spell environmental trouble. The town of Skagway, Alaska, is
now on an EPA watch list because its overtaxed wastewater treatment plant has
the potential of violating the Clean Water Act. Skagway’s population of 900
skyrockets to 14,000 on days when cruise tourism is in full swing, according to Alaska's Juneau Empire
just like some of the cruise ships, is upgrading its treatment facility.