The cruise industry has grown massively in popularity over recent years and there is no doubt that many people find cruising a fantastic way to see the world and enjoy the sea. But cruise liners do have an impact on the environment, which is not surprising if you consider some of the facts: 

More than 50 companies control almost 300 cruise ships that carry millions of passengers from one point of the planet to another.

Big cruise liners can carry up to 5,000 people, including a crew of more than 1,000, which makes them genuine floating cities.

With lengths that exceed 300 metres, and on-board facilities including swimming pools, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, shops, saunas, tennis courts, laundries, dry cleaning and in fact, everything a passenger could possibly require they generate hundreds of tons of waste of every kind, some of which is generally thrown into the oceans.

International legislation on the processing and dumping of this waste barely regulates the activities of cruise ships, so tonnes of waste end up in the ocean waters, having hardly been treated.

It is calculated that a cruise ship with a capacity of some 2,000-3,000 passengers can generate some 1,000 tonnes of waste per day.

Source: Contamination by Cruise Ships by Oceana 

The cruise industry is covered the: International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

So if you are considering booking a cruise but you care about the marine environment here’s how you can cruise and be a Sea-Changer:

  • Check out the environmental policy and marine conservation commitments of the cruise company you want to book with. This should be available on their company website. Ask a few questions:

What commitments have they made to the marine environment?

What action are they taking to minimise their impact?

What action are they taking to invest in marine conservation activities?

What is their environmental record?

Does the company adhere to environmental legislation ?

  • If you don't find the answers to these questions, ring the company and ask them to find out for you. If they are serious in their commitment they should easily be able to provide you with the information you need.
  • Check if the cruise route you are thinking of booking is travelling around areas that are environmentally vulnerable or, where the cruise ship could potentially damage vulnerable areas of reef.
  • Read these articles about cruise travel and its environmental impact:

Oceana Article

Ocean Conservancy Article

  • Book with a Sea-Changers cruise company of a company that actively support marine conservation projects.
  • Make a donation to Sea-Changers to offset the impact of your cruise trip. Hebridean Island Cruises give you the opportunity to do this when you book your trip with them. But you can also donate via our website or by text.
  • Report any poor environmental practice you find on your trip to the cruise operator.
  • Don't drop any rubbish over board.
  • Don't flush anything down your on board loo that won't biodegrade.


Useful Links:

Passenger Shipping Association

UK Environmental Agency


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