On July 27, 2021, Friends of the Earth released 2021 edition of their Cruise Ship Report Card documenting the environmental footprint of the cruise industry by grading 18 major cruise lines and 202 ships. Once again, Disney Cruise Line earned the highest overall grade, earning an A- for the fourth consecutive year. However, for the second year in a row, Friends of the Earth downgraded Disney a full letter grade to a B- (more on Disney’s final grade further below) while the other 17 cruise lines scored a C or below. The 2021 edition of the Cruise Ship Report Card, documents the environmental footprint of the cruise industry.
One of the report card’s key measurements for the environmental impact of cruise ships is exhaust gas scrubber wastewater discharge, a massive form of ocean pollution according to the Friends of the Earth press release. Scrubbers generate a toxic cocktail of petroleum byproducts that is largely untreated. This wastewater discharge is the result of the cruise industry’s refusal to purchase cleaner, more expensive fuel. Instead, the cruise industry chose to install smokestack scrubbers to comply with global cleaner fuel requirements. The ICCT estimates that in one year ships worldwide will emit at least 10 gigatons of scrubber wastewater and the cruise industry contributes approximately 15% of those emissions.
Over the past year the cruise industry has done next to nothing to curb its environmental pollution, and is restarting operations without sufficient human health and environmental protections in place. This is unsurprising coming from an industry that consistently chooses the cheapest path to profits at the expense of human, ocean and community health.
What we are seeing from the cruise industry today is the result of decades of inaction by our elected officials and government agencies. Until the Biden administration provides strict oversight this industry will continue to violate human health and environmental standards, polluting our oceans and our communities.Marcie Keever, Oceans and Vessels Program Director with Friends of the Earth
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.
- Sewage Treatment
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 (AWTS) against the total number of ships in the cruise line. Ships with AWTS were downgraded in 2021 because no companies publicly report on the performance of those advanced systems.
- Air Pollution Reduction
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.
- Water Quality Compliance
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 cruise line based on whether it responded to our 2021 requests for information regarding their environmental practices.
- Criminal Violations
All Carnival Corporation companies committed criminal environmental violations between 2017 and 2021.
Disney Cruise Line’s 2021 Friends of the Earth Final Grade Report
Friends of the Earth final 2021 grade for Disney Cruise Line (archived) looked at the current cruise ship fleet consisting of four large ships built in 1998, 1999, 2010 and 2011. The original two ships, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have carrying capacities of approximately 3,400 passengers and crew. The two newer ships have much larger carrying capacities of approximately 5,500 passengers and crew. In 2022, the LNG powered Disney Wish will enter service.
Disney’s four ships have installed advanced sewage treatment systems, resulting in a grade of C for the company’s 60 percent sewage treatment score. In total, 50 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 Friends of the Earth inquiries about its environmental practices with specifics, awarding them an A for transparency.
Despite being at the top of the Friends of the Earth report card, Disney was downgraded a letter grade again this year for its push to build a massive cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point in the Bahamas, which is opposed by community groups in the Bahamas for the destruction it would cause to this ecologically rich area that has been proposed for Marine Protected Area status.
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 2021 were identical for each ship as the 2020 grades.
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 2021 Friends of the Earth Cruise Ship report card.