On September 15, 2020, Friends of the Earth released the 2020 edition of their Cruise Ship Report Card documenting the environmental footprint of the cruise industry by grading 18 major cruise lines and 193 ships. Disney Cruise Line earned the highest overall grade, earning an A- originally, but downgraded to B- (more on this below) while the other 15 cruise lines scored a C or below. The 2020 edition of the Cruise Ship Report Card, documents the environmental footprint of the cruise industry by grading 18 cruise lines and covering 193 ships.
The cruise industry is gearing up to restart as early as October, but many cruise lines remain unequipped to handle COVID outbreaks onboard. Even before the coronavirus, over 130,000 cruise passengers caught the norovirus between 2008 and 2014. Cruising remains the most harmful form of travel to the environment and human health.
The report card details the environmental failings of cruise lines, including grades for Air Pollution Reduction, Water Quality Compliance, and Sewage Treatment, which have been targeted for their environmentally destructive behavior for years by Friends of the Earth and other groups. Over the last three years, Carnival Corporation has been on criminal probation in the U.S. for illegally dumping oily waste into the ocean and obstruction of justice for hiding it from regulators.
“The cruise industry once again displayed its notorious negligence by failing to shut down as the global COVID-19 pandemic arose, helping spread coronavirus throughout the world,” said Marcie Keever, Oceans and Vessels Program Director for Friends of the Earth. “As long as the cruise industry refuses to implement changes needed to protect its passengers, our environment, and local communities, the industry should not restart cruising.”
“Both COVID-19 and climate change are going to get worse unless Carnival Corporation and the rest of the cruise sector starts acting responsibly, putting the protection of people and communities first,” said Gary Cook, Global Climate Campaigns Director at Stand.earth. “Unless cruise giants move away from dirty fuels and stop their dumping, we need a return to cruising like California and the West Coast need more kindling.”
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 four criteria: Sewage Treatment, Air Pollution Reduction, Water Quality Compliance, and Transparency.
- 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. Ships with AWTS were downgraded in 2020 since no companies publicly report on the performance of those advanced systems.
- To determine the Air Pollution Reduction grade for each ship in a cruise line, ships that dock at a port and plug in to available shoreside power hookups were graded. In addition, ships were given credit if they utilize low sulfur fuels continuously worldwide at levels lower than required by international law. Use of scrubbers is not considered since the significant majority of scrubbers in use by the cruise industry simply convert air pollution emissions into water pollution through their scrubber wastewater discharges.
- 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 2019. We also failed ships for their scrubber use since scrubbers convert air pollution emissions into water pollution.
- To determine the Transparency grade for each cruise line we graded each line based on whether it responded to our 2020 requests for information regarding their environmental practices.
Disney’s current fleet of four cruise ships have installed advanced sewage treatment systems, resulting in a grade of C for the company’s 60 percent sewage treatment score. In total, 73 percent of Disney’s ships that dock at a port with shoreside power are plug-in capable. Three Disney ships are equipped with shoreside power hookups—the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, and Disney Wonder. Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are currently not being sent to ports where shoreside power is offered. However, all of Disney’s ships burn fuel with a 0.1% sulfur content worldwide which is lower than what is required internationally, earning the company an A- in the air pollution reduction category. The Disney Wonder traveled to Alaska annually from 2011 to 2019 and received no violations of state water pollution standards. In addition, Disney does not utilize scrubbers on its fleet, giving Disney an A for water quality compliance.
Disney was also one of the cruise lines that responded to the Friends of the Earth Annual inquiries about its environmental practices with specifics, awarding them an A for transparency.
Friends of the Earth took it upon themselves to downgrade Disney Cruise Line’s letter grade for 2020 due to the cruise line’s plans to develop a cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point in the Bahamas. While this is true, this does not accurately reflect the environmental standards Disney is upholding with the cruise ships.
Disney Cruise Line | Friends of the Earth Annual Grades
N/A – No discharge in Alaskan waters
The following are the grades for each of the Disney Cruise Line ships. The overall grades for 2020 were relatively the same for each ship as the 2019 grades with the exception of the Dream and Fantasy dropping from a B+’s to a B- and B respectively due to a drop in each ships 2019 Air Pollution score.
Disney Cruise Line | Friends of the Earth Annual Grades by Ship
M-Disney Magic, W-Disney Wonder, D-Disney Dream, F-Disney Fantasy
N/A – No discharge in Alaskan waters
To read more about how the other cruise lines measured up and your other favorite cruise ships, click over to the full 2020 Friends of the Earth Cruise Ship report card.