Cruising May Not Be the Best Option for A Family Holiday and Here’s Why

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Our family recently went on a 3 day Royal Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas during Spring Break. We thought it would be a great idea as we had taken a Disney cruise to Alaska a few years ago and had a wonderful time. As an eco blogger and mom, I’m always looking for cost effective ways to have great family vacations that are also “eco-friendly”. Well, taking a cruise this time was neither fun or eco-friendly in any way.

I won’t go into too many details, but let’s just say, most of the family members vomited non-stop due to motion sickness or food poisoning. Not fun and not what I was hoping our vacation would be like.

After some research I also discovered some startling news about cruising… it isn’t sustainable at all!

Aside from the fact, that most people have to take a plane to get to a port to take a cruise, cruise ships emit three times as much carbon dioxide as airplanes. And the pollution! Look at these stats from the environmental group Oceana.

cruise-ship-pollutionPER DAY, here is how much pollution a cruise ship creates:

– 25,000 gallons of sewage from toilets;
— 143,000 gallons of sewage from sinks, galleys and showers;
— 7 tons of garbage and solid waste;
— 15 gallons of toxic chemicals; and
— 7,000 gallons of oily bilge water

But some cruise lines are trying to be more sustainable. Friends of the Earth (FoE) released an environmental report card in which it ranked 10 major cruise lines in the areas of sewage treatment, air pollution reduction, water quality compliance, and accessibility of environmental information. The top scorer, Holland America Line, earned an overall grade of B. Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises were not far behind with final grades of B-. At the bottom of the heap were Royal Caribbean International and Disney Cruises, both with overall grades of F. And wouldn’t you know it…. we have taken cruises with both.

Several cruise lines have been making serious efforts to clean up their acts such as: 

    • Princess Cruises has modified its engines so that they can be plugged into onshore hydroelectric power while in port, which reduces the air pollution produced by idling ships.
    • Holland America also has several ships that plug into shore power while in port and has installed a special seawater-scrubbing emissions system to reduce air pollution, as well as using a hybrid power system in its newer ships.
    • Carnival uses eco-friendly detergents for dry cleaning and has developed a new, energy-efficient and nonpolluting engine for its newer ships.
    • Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have dramatically reduced emissions of nitrous oxide and sulfur oxide by using gas turbine engine technology in their newer ships. Both cruise line are also installing Advanced Wastewater Purification systems on all their ships, and Royal Caribbean has made adjustments to its itinerary timings and cruising speeds to save fuel.
    • Norwegian Cruise Line recycles thousands of gallons of used cooking grease by donating it to organic farmers in Hawaii and Miami.

Smaller cruise lines, such as Lindblad Expeditions and Adventure Smith Explorations, have also taken measures to be environmentally sound, such as offsetting their carbon footprint, purchasing seafood from sustainable sources, and adopting new sustainable technologies suitable for smaller vessels.

Would we cruise again? No.

Why? Not sustainable, not enough activities for our kids, you can’t predict the weather (it was too cold to swim outside), motion sickness is inevitable, the food was horrible, not enough activities for the parents, very expensive. Disney’s ship did have more for the kids to do and the food was very good.

Some enjoy cruising and do it a lot. I guess our family are not “cruisers”. I must say though that the sunsets were amazing. Oh well, on to the next adventure.. preferably on land.


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