What are the cons of a cruise vacation

7 good reasons not to book a cruise

More and more often we are informed about climate change and its far-reaching consequences through the media, and yet it seems to most people that this does not seem to be their problem. The majority carry on as usual - perhaps in the hope that there will be a few clever people in the near future who will solve all problems easily at the push of a button.

But we can neither move to an alternative planet, nor will the already critical situation improve again, because the population continues to grow and consumes, travels and eats to their hearts' content. But why should you suddenly do without when others don't either? Quite simply: If suddenly 10 people are sitting at the table with the birthday cake instead of 7 as in the previous year, you will inevitably have to take a smaller piece - so that everyone gets something.

However, the comparison lags, because in contrast to the eaten cake, you can overdraw your personal environmental pollution account to infinity without having to pay anything extra. But what does that have to do with a cruise? A whole lot! Here are what I think are the most crucial aspects of this environmentally harmful form of cruising:

1. Extreme CO2 consumption

In order to limit the progressive global warming to 2 ° C in the future, each person on earth should only emit2.3 t CO₂ per year to be entitled. This should already contain all everyday things: housing and electricity, traffic and mobility and of course food and other consumption. If we take the cruise to the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, which in addition to the flight also includes intensive care and catering on board, it looks like this:

For most, this cruise might not be the only trip in a year. Of course, shipping does not pay for the climate damage caused by the greenhouse gas emissions generated. Although these trips are becoming cheaper on average and, unlike in the past, are affordable for almost everyone today, according to surveys, very few cruise travelers are willing to offset the emissions caused by their trip.

What are the consequences for us if we continue like this? Here is a brief forecast for the next few years and decades:

  • Glaciers and coral reefs are disappearing ↠ Due to the increasing acidity in combination with global warming, the sea can tip over, which has massive effects on humans and animals
  • Droughts, floods, fires and cyclones are on the rise ↠ threatens agriculture in particular, which has a major impact on the food industry
  • Sea level rise due to the melting of the polar ice ↠ Different archipelagos will become uninhabitable with the expected migration of peoples
  • Species extinction ↠ already today over 25% of all mammals are threatened with extinction

2. Pure poison for the sea

Actually, it cannot be reconciled with common sense that this is even possible: on the high seas, cruise ships consume around 150 tons of toxic heavy oil per day - a waste product from petrochemicals that should actually be disposed of as hazardous waste. For comparison: it contains 3,500 times more sulfur than allowed for a car. According to the current NABU cruise ranking, there is only one cruise ship in the world that does not use heavy fuel oil.

So while you are eating your all you can eat sushi on board, you are poisoning the fragile ecosystem below with devastating effects on fish, birds and other marine mammals. In the end, the poison naturally ends up in our food chain again, so you should seriously consider whether you can still eat a fish with an average age between 10-50 years with pollutants from microplastics and oil with a clear conscience.

Why is it worse today than it used to be? On the one hand, because there was no heavy oil at all until the 1960s. On the other hand, because the number of these environmentally harmful ships is continuously increasing and new, larger and resource-guzzling cruise ships are constantly being added. “Green” alternatives without heavy fuel oil are generally refrained from due to the more cost-intensive investments and the lack of regulations.

3. Mass tourism promotes local collapse

We know the pictures with the large herds of people, usually led by a person with a shining flag in his hand. Venice, Dubrovnik, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, ​​Cozumel and Miami are just a few of the classics that are regularly flooded by huge crowds. The shops and sightseeing spots are headed for here like a large swarm of termites - a situation that makes more and more locals understandably to flee.

Every year 650 cruise ships arrive in Venice, which is actually so graceful, and in the port of Palma de Mallorca there are sometimes five monstrous ships lying next to each other, with up to 11,000 guests spread out there. It doesn't take long to think about how you'd find it if you lived there yourself. And at the same time it should be obvious that the actual authenticity is lost more and more when everything in these places revolves around tourism.

But not only the hot spots suffer from the immense onslaught, which of course is also associated with large amounts of garbage, single-use items and a high level of air pollution. More and more people sit in a steamer after their long-haul flight. B. in the direction of Antarctica or Greenland, in order to be able to see the changes in climate change that are partly responsible for the melting of the icebergs.

4. Exploitation below deck

If you have been spending days in a 15 square meter cabin yourself as a guest, and sometimes even without a window, you can imagine how several thousand employees and assistants have to live and sleep on the lower floors. There is a kind of two-class society: On the one hand, the employees in the organizational service, hotel and restaurant area and, on the other hand, the simple assistants. Most of the latter come from poorer countries such as the Philippines, India and Indonesia.

A 7-day week with 12 hours a day is part of everyday life, social benefits and overtime are usually not paid, tips often have to be given and many of the ordinary workers earn just a few hundred euros a month with seasonal contracts and full commitment - that are for many an hourly wage of 1.50 to 2.50 euros for a life largely without daylight with air conditioning and artificial light!

How can that be and why doesn't the minimum wage law apply here? Quite simply because there are no longer any German cruise ships registered in Germany. Trade unions are not only undesirable, but also difficult to implement because of the different nations. A free ticket for the shipping companies, who can not only make their own rules, but also save millions in taxes. Whoever books a cruise is automatically involved in this exploitation.

5. The bizarre way of food

The largest ships have over 5,000 tourists on board, who want to be catered for on their voyage in up to 10 restaurants and as many bars, and of course as princely as possible. According to statistics, much more is eaten and drunk on such a trip than at home and, of course, the organizational path that the vast amounts of food have to cover for a cruise is decisive here. The 2,000 employees on such a ship also need food.

So where does the food come from? Normally one would think that fruit and vegetables are bought and used locally, especially on Caribbean cruises. Nothing! The bananas in the Caribbean are not beautiful enough, fruits come from Brazil or Mexico, truffles from France, drinks from all over the world, meat from Argentina, to name just a few - and all of this is first brought to Germany and then to the Caribbean to be flown.

The resulting CO2-Emissions for this amount of cruise ships and flights are added to those of the ship's own or those of the ship. The local population has little or no benefit from the tourists visiting. While you would think that as a traveler you would have to give something back if you set foot on the land, in this case that's just air pollution, garbage and contaminated water.

6. Human health risks

About 40% of the travel time a cruise ship is in ports. It switches to diesel operation, continues to run during this time and uses the energy of a small town in the process. The consequence? In 2015, NABU published a study that shows the massive damage to health for residents caused by ship emissions. As early as 2012, the WHO assumed that around 50,000 people per year die from these exhaust gases, especially from the carcinogenic soot particles.

Completely different from a “normal” vacation on land, everything on the ship remains switched on day and night and every day for thousands of people: lighting, air conditioning, cooling, entertainment & Co. And that not only costs electricity and therefore mostly environmentally harmful resources, but also good air: While around 15,000 fine particles are measured on a busy street in Berlin, there are more than 500,000 in the vicinity of a cruise ship in the port!

7. Where do you think all the trash goes?

Thousands of people consume loads of rubbish on such a ship - but where does it go? Many tons of food waste are simply thrown overboard and this is poisonous in that it over-fertilizes the water and promotes algae growth and a lack of oxygen. The so-called “gray water” from showers and sinks and even the “black water” from the toilets are also discharged into the sea - a real disaster according to NABU!

Only a small part of the garbage is recycled on board, some ends up in landfills on land and then a few tons are burned directly on the ship. There are seldom controls in any respect and one can imagine what the reality looks like beyond official information. And then you can still think about how much food is simply thrown away unnecessarily from the buffets - which produce significantly more leftover food than the à la carte business ...

Conclusion on the subject of cruises:

It is questionable how a vacation in a small cabin with several thousand people on a ship with no alternative can experience such a great hype. At the same time, it is regrettable that so many people obviously no longer enjoy discovering and prefer convenience. However, that should not be the reason to start such a journey despite all the factors mentioned above:

  • This trip causes massive damage to the environment and supports climate change in a negative way: flight, cruise itself, food transport, high consumption of meat and other animal products, high production of garbage
  • You harm yourself and people at the landing stages by carcinogenic soot particles.
  • Although you drive through and visit places and regions, the local population has only disadvantages with the exception of a few shops recorded.
  • You are directly involved in the exploitation of employees. Can it really be a great trip when people have to toil under me for starvation wages without daylight?
  • As a mass tourist, you harm the locals in the port cities concerned due to a high volume of garbage as well as strong, negative changes in the infrastructure and local prices.
  • Due to the above-average consumption of food and the subsequent disposal of leftover food on a cruise ship (among other things by predominantly buffet presentation) one promotes and supports factory farming. This is significantly involved in climate change.
  • For the expansion of ports in Germany (and at all other ports in the world) Taxpayers' money in the millions are used - if we want to or not.

Just because all of these factors are inexplicably legal doesn't mean it's okay. Remember: what we will do in the future depends on the now!


Information and books

FAIR travel by Frank Herrmann

The manual for everyone who wants to be environmentally conscious. A comprehensive source about the effects of the tourism boom on the climate, the environment and the local people and helpful tips on how sustainable travel can be possible.

Available as paperback and e-book at: Oekom Verlag (incl. Reading sample), Thalia *, Buch7, Ecobookstore and Amazon * - or in bookstores near you


Madness cruise by Wolfgang Meyer-Hentrich

The dark side of a boom - What used to be a privilege for the well-heeled is now a mass pleasure: cruises. Whether AIDA, TUI Cruises, MSC or others - with low prices they attract more people to their ships every year. Wolfgang Meyer-Hentrich's book, which is as critical as it is entertaining, makes it clear: The business model of cruise companies is based on tax avoidance, the exploitation of staff and the unscrupulous treatment of nature. Ultimately, we all pay the price.

Available as paperback and e-book at: Thalia *, Amazon *, Ecobookstore, Buch7 * - or in bookshops near you


(Links marked with a * are so-called affiliate links. When I buy the book, I receive a small commission that supports me in my work with this blog.)

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