Cruise Like You Care: Best And Worst Cruise Ship Lines

Cruise ships are, environmentally speaking, one of the very worst ways to travel. They suck up tons of energy both in and out of port, spew diesel particulate matter harmful to human health, and dump untreated or poorly treated sewage overboard into marine habitats. Yet Americans hop aboard in the millions – almost 10 million took cruises from North American ports last year.

If you’re determined to cruise with the masses, check out this report card issued last month by Friends of the Earth. It’ll help you choose the lesser of evils. The NGO rated ten major cruise lines in the following categories:

  • Sewage treatment
  • Air pollution reduction
  • Water quality compliance
  • Accessibility of environmental information
  • Most cruise lines scored – big surprise – dismally in all four categories. Even Holland America Line, which came in at first place with a “B” for an overall score, earned an “A” in sewage treatment, but a “C-“ for air pollution reduction, and a “B” for water quality compliance.

    At the other end of the spectrum, Disney’s two existing cruise ships, the “Disney Wonder” and the “Disney Magic,” both earned “F”s across the board. Not so magical after all, and not very wonderful either. The company has told Friends of the Earth that they plan to install advanced sewage treatment systems on both the Magic and the Wonder by 2010, as well as on two news ships slated for completion in 2011 and 2012. Disney has also said they’ll built the new vessels to be shoreside plug-in capable, so that they don’t have to burn coal when they’re in port. All important steps in the right direction, but a week on board the SS Disney is just not going to have the CO2 footprint of a magic carpet ride anytime soon.

    So next time you feel the urge to plan a nautical adventure, consider a less carbon-intensive mode of marine transport, and stick close to home if possible. Explore Maine by sailboat, Florida by catamaran, outfit the family with rented kayaks. Your biceps and quads are your best engines.

    Related Articles
    Keep reading Show less

    Five foods that increase your psychological well-being

    These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.

    Mind & Brain

    We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.

    Keep reading Show less

    For the 99%, the lines are getting blurry

    Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.

    What is the middle class now, anyway? (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
    Politics & Current Affairs

    For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.

    Keep reading Show less