Home Cruises Cruise Lines Were Graded On How They Affected The Environment. Overall, It Didn’t Go Well

Cruise Lines Were Graded On How They Affected The Environment. Overall, It Didn’t Go Well

by SharonKurheg

When you travel by land, there are lots of reminders of how establishments are trying to make their carbon footprint smaller, decrease waste, protect the environment, etc.

There’s also growing awareness of how airplanes are affecting the environment,  discussion of how that can be improved, and actions by some airlines that, although not nearly enough yet, are a start to change the industry so it can be safer to the environment.

However, there’s significantly less talk about the negative ways that cruise ships are affecting the planet and it’s a dialogue that should be had if we want to keep our water and air as clean as possible for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, an environmental advocacy group recently evaluated and graded sixteen cruise lines on several environmental factors, and the results were….not good.

Founded in 1969, Friends of The Earth (FOE) strives for a more healthy and just world. Their principles include being a bold and fearless voice, fighting for systemic transformation and organizing and building long-term power. From their website:

Millions of Americans take cruise vacations every year. But, most travelers don’t realize that taking a cruise is more harmful to the environment and human health than many other forms of travel. Cruise ships can dump partially treated oil and human waste into the ocean, severely impacting the environment and human health. These ships are essentially floating cities, and many of them produce as much pollution as one. Even the “greener” cruise ships, which have made some commitments to protect marine ecosystems and the unique communities they visit, are committing environmental crimes.

FOE recently published their study, which evaluated 185 cruise ships run by 16 major cruise lines on the following:

  • Sewage Treatment: Whether a cruise line has installed the most advanced sewage and wastewater treatment systems available instead of dumping minimally treated sewage directly into the water
  • Air Pollution Reduction: Whether a cruise line has retrofitted its ships to “plug in” to available shoreside electrical grids instead of running polluting engines when docked
  • Water Quality Compliance: To what degree cruise ships violated 2010-2018 water pollution standards to better protect the Alaskan coast
  • Transparency: Did the cruise line respond to their requests for information regarding their environmental practices

Of all 16 cruise lines, only one, Disney Cruise Line, got a final grade that was better than a C- (Disney Cruise Line got an overall grade A-. Every other cruise line’s overall score varied from C- down to F).

The range of results for all 16 cruise lines were:

  • Sewage Treatment: between an A and an F
  • Air Pollution Reduction: C to F
  • Water Quality Compliance: A- to C+
  • Transparency: All cruise lines got an F, except Disney, which got an A

Even worse is the problem with Carnival Cruise Line and its seven Carnival Corporation companies (Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Cunard Cruise Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines). From FOE:

Carnival Corp. has been on criminal probation in the US for the last two years as part of a $40 million fine and plea agreement for illegally dumping oily waste into the ocean and obstruction of justice. In April 2019, news broke that eight Carnival Corp. companies had violated its 5-year probation by dumping wastewater and plastic into the ocean and polluting our air in excess of federal and state rules. In June 2019, Carnival Corp. paid an additional $20 million fine and again admitted guilt in a settlement with the US government.

For more information on that issue, check out CleanUpCarnival.com.

At this point, although individual ships may be more environmentally friendly than others, none of the major cruise lines are 100% environmentally “green” when all of their respective ships are taken into account. Even Disney Cruise line, which got As in sewage treatment and water quality compliance, and was the only cruise line to get an A for transparency, only got a D+ for air pollution reduction.

Obviously, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Click here for FOE’s 2019 Cruise Ship “report card” (the rating that each cruise ship and cruise line got), grading methodology, and links to past years’ report cards.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


DaninMCI July 12, 2019 - 3:00 pm

While Cruise companies are no saints and skirt many laws I’m sure, having an political environmental activist group grade them is like asking MSNBC to grade President Trump or Sea Shepherd grade Starkist Tuna. Cruise companies are also a favorite target of the media so this plays well I’m sure.

Christian July 12, 2019 - 3:11 pm

One factor that may have improved the score for Disney is that they tend to stick to the Caribbean. I’m not even sure they do Alaska.

SharonKurheg July 12, 2019 - 3:31 pm

Actually, Disney Cruise Line goes all over the place nowadays, including Alaska.


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