The dark reality of cruises

Vacations, who doesn’t love them? The idea of sitting back, relaxing and unwinding, and living above your means, even if it is just for a few days sounds extremely appealing. As the world has become more connected, the number of vacation options have also expanded. One of the most luxurious options of them all is cruises. It is understandable as to why in recent years, the number of cruise liners and cruise options has expanded, as it is one of the few options which offer an all-in-one experience. The food is also top quality and the relaxation options are exquisite. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Well in reality it is far from fun. The family-friendly cruise liners have a dark side too, one many fail to acknowledge.

Let’s start with the impact they have on the environment. Vast quantities of fossil fuels are required to power cruise ships every day. It is estimated that a cruise ship produces about 79,000 litres of sewage a day, and maritime regulations have allowed most of this sewage to be dumped at sea, which is extremely harmful to marine life. They also emit large amounts of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide each day. Cruises have diesel engines or gas turbines, and these have a high sulphur content. When mixed with air and water, sulphur forms sulphuric acid, which causes acid rain. This destroys marine life, corrodes buildings and even causes deforestation. Large ships also cause noise pollution, which is very hazardous for marine life. 

Working on a cruise sounds like a dream job with all the travelling one gets to do. But in reality, the job is a nightmare for the workers. The employees are extremely overworked and severely underpaid. They are signed for contracts which are about six to eight months long. They are made to work for about 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and make around $550 to $2000 a month, which is not adequate. Workers whose jobs are physically demanding often experience injuries and the healthcare they receive is inadequate. They are sometimes even scared of reporting any health issues they suffer from as they’re afraid their contracts might not be renewed. Cruise lines also include clauses in contracts which makes it difficult for the employees to sue them. Most of these workers are from poor countries and have limited economic opportunities back home, which is one of the main reasons why they choose to work in such jobs.

If one thinks that cruises are good for the customer, they couldn’t be far from the truth. Sure the luxuries a cruise line offers are enchanting, but they promote reckless money spending habits. Everything is obscenely expensive. Cruise cabins are cramped, and approximately 60 people are injured each year due to “operational mishaps”, which includes fires and explosions. Food poisoning is extremely common, and so are virus outbreaks. In 2017, for example, more than 500 passengers fell ill on two Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships.

Now the question that arises is, can cruising ever be ethical and sustainable? While technology is helping to reduce the environmental impact of cruises with solar-powered systems and a switch from diesel to liquid natural gas, cruises still aren’t the most sustainable vacation choice for one. The best option would be to avoid cruises altogether, but if you still want to travel on a cruise, then be sure to choose one which takes proper steps to dispose of waste, makes efforts to decreases carbon emissions, and treats its workers well.