Cruise Company Fined $20 Million for Pollution Coverup

As if the rampant norovirus on cruise ships wasn’t bad enough, here’s another reason to rethink a high seas vacation: Carnival Cruise Line just got fined $20 million for polluting and then trying to cover it up.

It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last to be dinged for damaging the environment — often while selling a message of pristine waters and unique natural wonders. Cruises are bad for the environment and often bad for the communities they visit, too.

Carnival and its Princess cruise ships were already fined several years ago for $40 million. The ships allegedly deliberately deposited “oily waste” directly into the water. Now, they’re accused of dumping plastic into the ocean and trying to cover it up. It’s perhaps inevitable when you consider the sheer volume of waste generated on cruises and how difficult it can be to manage.

Cruise ships produce more than 200,000 gallons of sewage every week, and nearly 1 million gallons of greywater. They’re supposed to treat this waste before dumping it in the ocean — but the practice still isn’t something everyone thinks is a good idea.

Every day, the largest cruise ships burn 66,000 gallons of diesel fuel to propel themselves through the ocean, generating clouds of pollution. And when they reach shore, they don’t stop burning fuel. Instead of tapping into shore power for operations, they keep running their engines to generate their own. In fact, frequent ports of call complain about their emissions, saying they degrade quality of life for residents.

They’re not great for ocean life — and bad for shore life, too. In 2018, a cruise ship guard shot a polar bear, claiming it was a threat. And in ecologically fragile areas, cruise ship passengers can compact the soil with walking, disrupt nesting birds and cause other problems in places that weren’t designed to cope with thousands of visitors.

They’re not just hard on the environment. Working conditions on cruise ships are notoriously bad, with people expected to work long shifts day after day. Being effectively trapped in a workplace makes it extremely difficult to take action, and companies recruit from vulnerable communities who may not know their rights or have the capacity to enforce them. The army of staff cleaning rooms and preparing meals go largely unseen by passengers, but they aren’t the only ones who experience low wages and tough conditions. It can be hard for hosts, entertainers and others on board, too.

Of course, cruise ships are in the news right now for another reason: A ship struck a dock in Venice, though miraculously it didn’t kill anyone. But the incident was a reminder that cruise ships can cause real headaches for the places they visit, especially tourist hot spots.

In fact, some places — including Dublin, Santorini and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence — have tried to cap the number of ships and visitors, so they aren’t overwhelmed. Some communities say cruises disrupt their way of life. It’s an especially big issue in Indigenous towns, where tourists behaving disrespectfully can be a source of considerable friction. Others say visitors don’t spend as much as claimed in the local economy, relying on the all-inclusive ship for meals and entertainment.

This recent news is a good reminder that there’s likely no such thing as an environmentally friendly cruise — with the fuel burned, unsafe waste disposal practices and impact on fragile environments. Cruise lines are also notoriously secretive about their environmental practices, making it hard to learn more about what they’re really doing to offset their impact and whether they’re serious about reform.

Photo credit: ncristian/Getty Images


Daniel N
Daniel Nyesterday

thanks for posting

heather g
heather g8 days ago

Not for me - There’s no such thing as an environmentally friendly cruise

Isabel A
Isabel A9 days ago

Thank you

Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley13 days ago

Thank you.

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson15 days ago

Thank you.

Alice R
Anna R19 days ago

thanks for sharing

Barbara S
Barbara S23 days ago


Leo C
Leo Custerabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

Peggy B
Peggy Babout a month ago


Toni W
Toni Wabout a month ago