Dirty Princesses in Alaska

I’m a big fan of cruising, and I really hate to see news reports that show that the industry isn’t respecting what is still a relatively pristine coast when they come north. In the first half of the 2008 cruise season (which ends this Saturday), nine ships were cited for exceeding wastewater limits (of the 20 large ships that cruise Alaska). Six were Princess ships, one was HAL, one was Norwegian and one Regent Seven Seas. A bit more information can be seen at the Anchorage Daily News site. It will be a few weeks yet before all samples taken this season are tested.

I got into a discussion a few days ago about whether or not cruise ships are an environmentally unfriendly way to travel. I’ve never seen a scientific analysis, but my feeling is that it’s no worse than travelling by any other means. The downsides as I see them are:

  • air travel is needed to get to the departure port;
  • a massive amount of fuel is used by the ships (but they’re moving 2,000 people or so);
  • the amount of food wasted on board is appalling;
  • tons of waste is produced every day – food, black and grey water and garbage of all types.

Obviously any travel that uses a motor of any kind is environmentally unfriendly, but should we feel guilty about travelling? I figure that regardless of how I choose to live, the government of even a little city like Whitehorse does more to hurt the environment in one day than I will in my entire life (street lights, “upgrading” computers and a hundred other such things).

When I go to Vancouver or Calgary, though, is it better (from a strictly environmental perspective) to fly or drive? (Sorry, taking a Greyhound is not an option – once 20 years ago was enough).

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