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.

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

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.

The Internationally registered cruise vessels are regulated by the International Maritime Organisation through the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), Ballast water convention They are also regulated by local area conventions such as the OSPAR or HELMET conventions regulating specific management of certain areas of sea.

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 protecting or improving the marine environment during their operation or as additional committments? 

Have they been subject to fines or court action against them for environmental non compliance? 

  • 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.


  • Book with a Sea-Changers cruise company or 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 on the deck or over board.
  • Don't flush anything down your on board loo that won't biodegrade, follow the instructions given on board.


Useful Links:

UK Environmental Agency


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