Friends of the Earth 2016 Cruise Report Card – DCL Reclaims an A Rating Due to Transparency

Friends of the Earth released the 2016 edition of its Cruise Ship Report Card, documenting the environmental footprint of the cruise industry by grading 17 cruise lines and their 171 ships. The report card, last released in 2014, suggests a continued lack of initiative by cruise lines to install technologies that reduce their air and water pollution impact on travel destinations and local peoples.

Disney Cruise Line was the sole cruise line to earn an “A” for transparency by responding to information requests. Every other line, like the year before, refused to confirm its current environmental technologies, resulting in failing grades for transparency.

Disney’s four ships have installed advanced sewage treatment systems, resulting in a grade of A for the company’s 100 percent sewage treatment score. In total, three of Disney’s ships have installed scrubbers or shore power capability, giving the company a C- in this category. The Disney Wonder traveled to Alaska in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 and received no violations of state water pollution standards, giving Disney a 100 percent for water quality compliance in Alaska. Disney was also the only cruise line that responded to our inquiries about environmental practices, awarding them an A for transparency.

“Despite its PR blitz regarding installation of new pollution reduction technology, the cruise industry continues to get an “F” for transparency, and many are failing when it comes to air or water pollution or both,” said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director for Friends of the Earth. “Even with the new cleaner fuel rules in North America resulting in the installation of scrubbers on many cruise ships, the industry continues its greenwashing to try and hide its dirty practices from the public.”

Friends of the Earth’s report card grades cruise lines on four criteria:

  • sewage treatment technology;
  • air pollution reduction (whether ships have installed shoreside power or scrubbers and if they use cleaner fuel than required by U.S. and international law);
  • compliance with Alaska’s water quality regulations to protect the state’s coastal waters; and
  • transparency.

Cruise ships are responsible for significant amounts of air pollution from the dirty fuel they burn. Even at the dock, cruise ships often run dirty diesel engines to provide electrical power to passengers and crew. According to the EPA, each day an average cruise ship is at sea it emits more sulfur dioxide than 13 million cars and more soot than 1 million cars. In 2015, cleaner fuel standards for large ships in the U.S. and Canada were implemented. But rather than use cleaner fuel, many cruise ships have installed scrubber technology which “scrubs” the sulfur from ship smokestacks, to come into compliance with the new North American standards.

Even with this new technology, the cruise industry lags behind land based transportation standards and has yet to install critical, health-protective technologies like diesel particulate filters. To contrast, international ship emission rules allow fuel with up to 3.5% sulfur (35,000 parts per million), while the Emission Control Area rules limit sulfur to 0.1% (1,000 parts per million), and on-road diesel truck fuel is limited to 15 parts per million sulfur.

The Environmental Protection Agency says an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, enough to fill 10 backyard swimming pools in a week. That adds up to more than 1 billion gallons a year for the industry — a conservative estimate, since some new ships carry as many as 8,800 passengers and crew. In addition, each ship generates and dumps about eight times that much “graywater” from sinks, showers and baths, which can contain many of the same pollutants as sewage and significantly affects water quality.

Friends of the Earth’s grades for sewage treatment highlight the gaps between cruise ships that have adopted the most advanced sewage treatment systems and those that still use 35-year-old technology. In addition to calling for an upgrade to the almost 40 percent of cruise ships that use this old technology, Friends of the Earth continues to push the Environmental Protection Agency to update the ship sewage treatment standards under the Clean Water Act to bring these polluting ships into the 21st century.

Keever said: “With the Northwest Passage now open in the summer due to climate change, the cruise industry’s expanding itineraries will bring increasingly damaging pollution to even more sensitive areas like the Arctic. It’s way past time to set a higher bar for this dirty industry.”

FOE Cruise Ship Report Card 2016

Disney Cruise Line | Friends of the Earth Annual Grades
Year Sewage
Air Pollution
Water Quality
Transparency Final Grade
2009 F F N/A F
2010 A F N/A C-
2011 did not issue a Cruise Report Card
2012 A B- N/A A-
2013 A B A A
2014 A B- A F C+
2015 did not issue a Cruise Report Card
2016 A C- A A A-
Click on the year to view complete Cruise Report card.
N/A – No discharge in Alaskan waters

The following are the grades for each of the Disney Cruise Line ships. The grades for 2016 were relatively the same for each ship as the 2014 grades.

FOE DCL Cruise Ship Grades 2014

Disney Cruise Line | Friends of the Earth Annual Grades per Ship
Year Sewage
Air Pollution
Water Quality
Final Grade
2009 F F F F N/A N/A F F
2010 A A F F N/A N/A C- C-
2011 did not issue a Cruise Report Card
2012 A A A A F A C C N/A N/A N/A N/A C- B+ B+ B+
2013 A A A A F A C C N/A A N/A N/A C- A B+ B+
2014 A A A A F A C C N/A A N/A N/A C- A B+ B+
2015 did not issue a Cruise Report Card
2016 A A A A F A- A A N/A A N/A N/A C- A B+ B+
Click on the year to view complete Cruise Report card.
M-Disney Magic, W-Disney Wonder, D-Disney Dream, F-Disney Fantasy
N/A – No discharge in Alaskan waters

The Grading Scale

According to the Friends of the Earth, the Cruise Ship Report Card ranks the cruise lines and each ship in the respective fleet according to three environmental criteria: Sewage Treatment, Air Pollution Reduction, and Water Quality Compliance.

  • To determine a cruise line’s Sewage Treatment grade, we compared the number of cruise ships in the cruise line that have installed advanced sewage treatment systems against the total number of ships in the cruise line.
  • To determine the Air Pollution Reduction grade for each ship in a cruise line, we graded ships on whether they had installed scrubbers or were capable of plugging into shoreside power. Cruise ships that installed both technologies and docked in ports with shore power received an A, while ships that only installed scrubbers or only installed shore power capability but did not dock at ports with shoreside power were given a C. In addition, ships were given credit if they only utilize low sulfur fuels continuously at levels lower than required by international and U.S. law.
  • To determine the Water Quality Compliance grade for ships operating in Alaska, we used notices of violation issued for individual cruise ships to each cruise line by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation from 2010 to 2014. Ships were given an ‘N/A’ if they traveled to Alaskabut avoided Alaska’s strong water quality standards by discharging outside of those protected waters.
  • To determine the Transparency grade for each cruise line we graded each line based on whether it responded to our 2015 requests for information regarding their environmental practices.
  • The grades for each of the four criteria were averaged to calculate the Final Grade for each cruise line.

To read more about how the other cruise lines measured up and your other favorite cruise ships, click over to the full 2016 Friends of the Earth Cruise Ship report card.

3 Replies to “Friends of the Earth 2016 Cruise Report Card – DCL Reclaims an A Rating Due to Transparency”

  1. Beth

    Thos group does not like the cruise industry and is just trying to give them bad press. DCL should not be dealing with them.


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