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Ten things to know before you take a cruise

Posted Jul. 28, 2014 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An estimated 22 million people will take cruises in 2014. While the cruise industry has made a commitment to protect marine ecosystems and the unique communities they visit, many industry practices should be improved to minimize its impact on sea life and shoreside peoples. In preparation for the 2014 release of its annual Cruise Ship Report Card, which grades cruise lines on their environmental and human health impacts, Friends of the Earth released a new infographic illustrating these impacts to help travelers to make informed decisions.

Cruise ships, which routinely carry more than  8,000 people, generate copious waste -- including sewage, hazardous chemical waste, garbage, CO2 and oil; most of which is discharged into the oceans. Such waste is detrimental to the marine ecosystem, especially in areas of high cruise traffic.

For example, sewage contains fecal coliform, viruses and eggs of intestinal parasites that can contaminate shellfish beds and fisheries. When introduced into the marine environment, this waste makes mollusks and fish unsafe for human consumption. Ships are required to store hazardous waste and dispose of it on shore, but cruise ships have been caught dumping this toxic waste into the oceans. Additionally, every year oceangoing vessels, including cruise ships, discharge about 100,000,000 gallons of petroleum products into our oceans. By comparison, that volume of waste is almost ten times the volume of oil dumped during the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, which resulted in the death of at least 100,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters and 22 orcas.

Vacationers planning to explore oceans via cruise ship this summer should be informed that  passengers can take many steps to minimize the environmental impact of  voyages. Some standard rules of thumb include making sure to turn off all of the cabin lights and air conditioning when leaving a room, using a reusable water bottle instead of buying wasteful plastic water bottles, and minimizing water usage when showering or using the sink. At mealtime, choosing sustainably caught or harvested seafood can make a difference. Additionally, many cruise lines offer towel reuse programs and recycling receptacles for waste disposal. Disney Cruise Lines even employs environmental officers to teach environmental education classes to both staff and passengers.

Of the 16 cruise lines examined in the 2013 report card, only Disney Cruise Lines made the honor roll by scoring a final grade of “A” for sewage treatment, air pollution reduction and water quality compliance. Four companies -- Crystal Cruises, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises and MSC Cruises -- received failing “F” grades in these categories.

All cruise lines are not the same, and vacationers can choose more sustainable options when travelling. This new infographic can help conscious explorers learn how ocean travel affects the marine environment, and the Cruise Ship Report Card is available to help travelers make informed decisions when planning their next vacation.

To view the infographic, visit www.foe.org/cruisefacts.

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Expert Contact: John Kaltenstein, Marine policy analyst, (510) 900-3142, jkaltenstein@foe.org
Communications Contact: EA Dyson, Communications director, (202) 222-0730, edyson@foe.org

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