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10 Cruise Lines Going to Inspiring Lengths to Protect the Planet

10 Cruise Lines Going to Inspiring Lengths to Protect the Planet
(Photo: Michael S Nolan)

If you’re an environmentalist on a cruise ship, you have to contend with some serious cognitive dissonance.

Being a passenger on a typical cruise liner means being responsible for almost three times the carbon emissions you produce on land, and even more CO2 per passenger mile than being on an airplane. (Plus, you’ll likely have to take a plane to get to your embarkation port.)

A 3,000-passenger cruise ship puts out seven tons of trash and 21,000 gallons of sewage per day—again, much more per person than on shore. Much of this wastewater is only lightly treated before being dumped into unregulated international waters. And according to the EPA, each day that an average cruise ship is at sea, it emits more soot than one million cars, and more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars.

Occasionally, a ship will drop an anchor on irreparable coral reefs.

You can read more shocking eco-facts about cruises here (and check out cruise lines’ most recent environmental fines here). But since travelers aren’t about to start jumping ship—cruises will transport 24 million passengers this year alone—cruise lovers can comfort in knowing that things are slowly getting better.

Elinore Boeke, a spokesperson for CLIA, the cruise industry trade association, points out that though CLIA members’ 300 or so oceangoing cruise ships comprise far less than one percent of the global maritime community, “they’re at the forefront of developing responsible environmental practices and technologies, including advanced wastewater treatment systems, exhaust gas cleaning systems, efficient lighting, and solar panels.”

Still, until the leisure-boat industry as a whole does a more thorough job of cleaning up its act, travelers who are concerned about preserving the planet—and protecting the oceans—might consider supporting these 10 cruise companies (listed here in alphabetical order) that are making huge efforts to offset the damage. They’re not perfect, but they’re trying harder than most.

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