Skift Take

There's really no way to tell how sustainably cruise lines operate, due to a lack of regulation on a global scale. Since cruise lines aren't required to release detailed data on their environmental footprint, there is little accountability.

Carbon dioxide scrubbers, more efficient propulsion systems, and enhanced recycling programs are some of the ways that cruise lines seems to be working towards operating more sustainably.

Solid data on how cruise line pollution affects the environment, however, is hard to come by, leaving it up to external groups to weigh in on cruise ship sustainability.

Most cruise lines have made little progress on both sustainability and transparency when it comes to disclosing their effect on the environment, according to the latest cruise line sustainability report card from eco-friendly group Friends of the Earth.

Disney Cruise Line was ranked as the greenest cruise line overall, followed by Cunard Cruise Line and Holland America Line. Ranking last were P&O Cruises, MSC Cruises, Crystal Cruises, and Costa Cruises.

Disney Cruise Line was the only line to receive an ‘A’ rating for transparency. But this deserves a significant asterix, since it was the only cruise line to respond to Friends of the Earth’s queries on sewage treatment technology, air pollution reduction, and compliance with Alaska’s water quality regulations.

“Despite its PR blitz regarding installation of new pollution reduction technology, the cruise industry continues to get an ‘F’ for transparency, and many are failing when it comes to air or water pollution or both,” said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director for Friends of the Earth, in a release. “Even with the new cleaner fuel rules in North America resulting in the installation of scrubbers on many cruise ships, the industry continues its greenwashing to try and hide its dirty practices from the public.”

In contrast to the report from Friends of the Earth, among the major cruise lines, Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises have been the most proactive about releasing information on sustainability.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, for instance, recently partnered with the World Wildlife Foundation to provide it with some positive branding.

The real issue is the lack of a governing body to hold the global cruise line industry accountable for its impact of the environment with legitimate regulation and reporting rules.

“Through CLIA, the industry has offered numerous times to meet with FOE, however our requests have either been put off or outright ignored,” comments the Cruise Lines International Association in response to the report. “While we recognize that this is largely a fundraising effort for FOE, we also believe that they do a disservice to the public in providing inaccurate information.”

As Skift reported late last year, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that only 13 percent of global travel companies have ever reported on their sustainability in any way.

In the latest update to the organization’s Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting for the Travel & Tourism Sector report, a breakdown shows just how far cruising, and most other segments in travel, have to go in order to merely report transparently on environmental issues.

Every other travel industry segment has statistically done a better job reporting on environmental issues than the cruise industry, of which only four percent of cruise lines have reported on sustainability through 2014. This has to due with the lack of cohesive global regulations regarding the reporting of pollution.

Check out Friends of the Earth’s latest cruise ship report card below:

Download (PDF, 769KB)


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Tags: climate change, disney cruise line, sustainability

Photo credit: The Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam sits in dock in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Thursday, June 25, 2015. 154360 / 154360

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