Did you know that cruise ships, the quickest growing segment of leisure travel – leave behind lots of nasty debris in their wake? The darker side of cruising is exposed in Ross Klein’s book Cruise Ship Blues (Consortium, 2002). The mini-metropolis contained on a cruise ship typically carries two to five thousand people and doesn’t have to be accountable to the EPA regarding issues of sewage treatment. Since most cruises travel in foreign waters, they are exempt from similar health standards. This translates to: if a cruise ship is more than three miles off a U.S. shore, it may legally dump 30,000 gallons of raw sewage into the ocean per day.
According to Royal Caribbean International, an average seven-day cruise produces 141 gallons of photo chemicals, 7 gallons of dry-cleaning waste, 13 gallons of used paints and 3 pounds of hazardous medical waste. None of these stats account for the 255,000 gallons per day of gray water, carrying chemicals and detergents into the sea.
Many cruise ships, labeled “sweatshops at sea” regularly employ low-paid on-board staff who work eighty hours a week for ten to twelve months straight. Ships and workers registered in countries like Panama and Liberia are exempt from labor standards and tax codes as well. Having second thoughts about taking a traditional cruise? Want more information?
Try Ross Klein’s website CruiseJunkie.com, for updated info on developments regarding labor, the environment, ship safety, and security. Check out nationally respected organizations such as World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic which offer smaller scale but sustainable and nature-oriented cruises. By redirecting your valuable travel dollars toward more mindful operators, you can send a message that all cruises should have a conscience.
By CHERYL KAIN, Fall 2005
~ Adapted from Organic Weddings: Balancing Ecology, Style and Tradition by Michelle Kozin (New Society, 2003) and Natural Awakenings Healthy Living Magazine, April 2005 Charlotte, NC edition