A friend of mine came to me recently and mentioned that she found an incredible deal on a cruise to the Caribbean in 2011.  I thought this was a great idea! I’ve never really been on any kind of tropical vacation, much less one on a boat!! This could be fun. Not only that, but I have time to save up to pay for the trip. She sent me the details, it sounded fantastic, and we booked it. SUPER EXCITING!!!

Today, my world crumbled. I mentioned to another friend of mine (who has worked extensively in the tourism industry) that I had booked my cruise and was excited about the trip. Her reply was: “Don’t you know that cruise ships are a major cause for pollution and the death of our oceans?” My heart sank. My stomach churned…

I began asking questions. She sent me a few articles, which I read with increasing sadness. Turns out that regardless of the changes made in the 1990’s and even into the year 2000, including filtering of grey water (water polluted by soap suds and flushed down drains), and filtering of raw sewage, that these cruise ships are still floating cities of environmental destruction.

My cruise is booked. I can’t get my money back. Not only that, but I can’t afford NOT to go, now that I’ve booked it. I could give the ticket away – but that would defeat the purpose!! Someone else would still be going on the paid-for cruise! And despite the stone in my stomach and the cracks in my heart, part of me still really wants to go! I deserve a vacation! I deserve to relax! But at what cost to the environment and the animals that live in it?!

My next step was to check which cruise line we had booked on and do some more research. What I found made me feel even worse. Apparently in the 1990’s the cruise line I am booked on was charged with and found guilty of polluting. They paid major fines and were ordered to clean up their act. And now, 20 years later – my money is supporting their continued (although perhaps less harmful than it was) pollution of the environment.

I know in my heart of hearts that it is the owners and operators of these companies who are making the wrong decisions when it comes to their companies. But I still can’t help feeling terrible that I am among those who unknowingly contribute to the death of the environment. Had I known, I would have tried searching for a more responsible kind of vacation.  So no, I didn’t book this cruise knowing what havoc cruise ships caused on our fair planet… I wasn’t sitting there booking the tickets saying “HAHAHHAHAHA… take THAT OCEAN” as I entered my VISA number. That still doesn’t make it right.

So now that I know – what do I do? My friend offered this advice:
“Look at it this way… that cruise ship is going whether you are on it or not. Its hard to know everything about everything, and situations like this help us learn to be more responsible about the decisions we make.”

This is a very powerful learning experience. And I wonder if crying tears overboard into the ocean counts as pollution too? 😦

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