Caribbean Cruises

1993: a Caribbean Cruise – Aruba, Curaçao, St. Lucia and back to Aruba.

Cruise ships are large passenger ships used mainly for vacationing. Unlike ocean liners, which are used for transport, they typically embark on round-trip voyages to various ports-of-call, where passengers may go on tours known as “shore excursions”. On “cruises to nowhere” or “nowhere voyages”, cruise ships make two- to three-night round trips without visiting any ports of call.[1]

MS Galaxy at the port of Mariehamn, Åland, in February 2016.
Modern cruise ships, while sacrificing some[which?] qualities of seaworthiness,[citation needed] have added amenities to cater to water tourists, with recent vessels being described as “balcony-laden floating condominiums”.[2]

Cruise ships in Tallinn Passenger Port at Tallinn, Estonia – a popular tourist-destination
As of December 2018, there are 314 cruise ships operating worldwide, with a combined capacity of 537,000 passengers.[3] Cruising has become a major part of the tourism industry, with an estimated market of $29.4 billion per year, and over 19 million passengers carried worldwide annually as of 2011.[4] The industry’s rapid growth has seen nine or more newly built ships catering to a North American clientele added every year since 2001, as well as others servicing European clientele.[citation needed]

As of 2020, the world’s largest passenger ship is Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas.[5][6]

Caribbean cruising industry

Nearly 9,000 passengers from three Carnival ships visiting St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; from front to back: Carnival Liberty, Carnival Triumph and the Carnival Glory.
The Caribbean cruising industry is one of the largest in the world, responsible for over $2 billion in direct revenue to the Caribbean islands in 2012.[63] Over 45,000 people from the Caribbean are directly employed in the cruise industry.[63] An estimated 17,457,600 cruise passengers visited the islands in the 2011–2012 cruise year (May 2011 to April 2012.[63]) Cruise lines operating in the Caribbean include Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, P&O, Cunard, Crystal Cruises, Pullmantur Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. There are also smaller cruise lines that cater to a more intimate feeling among their guests. The three largest cruise operators are Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean International, and Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Many American cruise lines to the Caribbean depart out of the Port of Miami, with “nearly one-third of the cruises sailing out of Miami in recent years”.[64] Other cruise ships depart from Port Everglades (in Fort Lauderdale), Port Canaveral (approximately 45 miles (72 km) east of Orlando), New York, Tampa, Galveston, New Orleans, Cape Liberty, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Charleston, Norfolk, Mobile, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some UK cruise lines base their ships out of Barbados for the Caribbean season, operating direct charter flights out of the UK.

The busiest ports of call in the Caribbean for cruising in the 2013 year are listed below[65]

Cruise ships generate a number of waste streams that can result in discharges to the marine environment, including sewage, graywater, hazardous wastes, oily bilge water, ballast water, and solid waste. They also emit air pollutants to the air and water. These wastes, if not properly treated and disposed of, can be a significant source of pathogens, nutrients, and toxic substances with the potential to threaten human health and damage aquatic life. Cruise ships represent a small — although highly visible — portion of the entire international shipping industry, and the waste streams described here are not unique to cruise ships. Particular types of wastes, such as sewage, graywater, and solid waste, may be of greater concern for cruise ships relative to other seagoing vessels, because of the large numbers of passengers and crew that cruise ships carry and the large volumes of wastes that they produce. Because cruise ships tend to concentrate their activities in specific coastal areas and visit the same ports repeatedly (especially Florida, California, New York, Galveston, Seattle, and the waters of Alaska), their cumulative impact on a local scale could be significant, as can impacts of individual large-volume releases (either accidental or intentional).[101]

Most cruise ships run (primarily) on heavy fuel oil (HFO)/ bunker fuel, which, because of its high sulphur content, results in sulphur dioxide emissions worse than those of equivalent road traffic.[102] The international MARPOL IV-14 agreement for Sulphur Emission Control Areas requires less than 0.10% sulphur in the fuel, contrasting with Heavy Fuel Oil.[103] Cruise ships may use 60 percent of the fuel energy for propulsion, and 40 percent for hotel functions, but loads and distribution depend highly on conditions.[104]


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