cruise ship polluting

How Green is Your Cruise?

Cruises are a booming industry with about 26 million cruise passengers in 2017 and over 27 million in 2018. Cruises aren’t just for senior citizens anymore with a 20% growth in the 29-39 age group in 2018. While convenience is certainly a pro, what are the environmental impacts of going on a cruise?

Air Pollution

A German Environmental Study by Nabu found that cruise ships had a very bad environmental record, despite claims that newer ships were greener. “All of them run on the dirtiest fuel you can imagine. It’s heavy fuel oil, it’s quite toxic,” said Dietmar Oeliger head of transport at Nabu. “It’s a residual of the petrol industry, and it contains a lot of dirty stuff.” The study found that a mid-sized cruise ship uses as much as 150 tonnes of fuel each day, which emits the same amount of particulate as one million cars. German pollution analyst Axel Friedrich claims that a large cruise ship will emit over five tonnes of NOX   a day.

Bill Hemmings, marine expert at a Brussels-based Transport and Environment group: “Air pollution from international shipping accounts for around 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe alone, at an annual cost to society of more than €58bn [ $65bn].”

Ocean Pollution

Cruise ships can also damage fragile ocean ecosystems due to irresponsible disposal of sewage. Cruise ships are required by law to process all their waste and sewage but many are found in violation of these regulations. In 2016, Princess Cruises was fined a record $56 million for the “illegal dumping of oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship,” according to the US Justice Department.

Carnival Corp. violated environmental laws and reached a $40 million settlement for improper waste disposal with a 5-year probation. An environmental-compliance inspector found that 800 violations occurred in that five-year probation between April 2017 and April 2018. Carnival Corp. claimed these were accidental and reported the violations.

Crime Stats

Cruises are a hotbed of crime according to Ross Klein on this website that claims that, since 2000, 322 people gone missing while cruising. He claims that only about 20 percent of those who go overboard are rescued.

Missing persons are not the only crimes reported on cruise ships 120 alleged crimes reported to the Department of Transport, including 82 alleged sexual assaults. Only a fraction of the incidents are reported to the DOT.


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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