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“Rethink Cruise Tourism”

by Soraya Alcalá

Global Cruise Activist Network Launches “Rethink Cruise Tourism” Campaign

Calls for a Covid-inspired “rethink” of cruise tourism

The Global Cruise Activist Network (GCAN) announced the launch today of its “Rethink Cruise Tourism” campaign to compel cruise customers, investors and governments to imagine a socially, economically and environmentally responsible cruise industry, before restarting the cruise ships sector following its Covid-19 hiatus. As part of the campaign, GCAN released two videos – “Rethink Before Rebook” and “Rethink Before Reinfect” – along with a series of graphics and fact sheets to provide policy makers and would-be cruisers with a vision of what a transformed cruise industry could look like. The graphics (Google folder) include: “RethinkBeforeReinfect,” “RethinkBeforeRebook, “RethinkBeforeReinvest,” and “RethinkBeforeRepollute,” each targeting a different audience.

In September 2020, GCAN, whose membership includes cruise port residents, civil society organizations, and labor & crime victim advocates, published its “Principles for Responsible Cruise Tourism,” which provides a roadmap for a transition to the socially and environmentally responsible future GCAN members want to see. The Principles address a range of concerns ranging from the cruise industry’s negative impacts on local communities to Labor, Climate Change, Air Pollution, Water Pollution, Environment & Biodiversity, Public Health, and Crime Victims.

“It’s time to rethink cruise tourism,” said Linda Clark of the Cayman Islands. “Before rebooking a cruise, before investing money, before taking a cruise, before restarting cruise ships, please rethink your plan.”

“For decades, the cruise industry’s business practices have put the social fabric, economic integrity, public health, and environment of host communities — as well as passengers, crew, coastal and marine ecosystems, and the climate — at risk,” said Arlo Haskell of Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships in Florida. “Cruise companies have failed to act responsibly, from burning huge volumes of highly polluting fuel to dumping in the ocean, underpaying its lowest-paid workers, exposing passengers and crew to air pollution, and avoiding labor, tax, environmental and criminal laws. Governments will have to regulate this rogue industry in order to protect people, communities and the environment we depend on.”

“Today’s mega cruise ship industry has too many negative impacts on public health and the environment,” said Adam Armstrong of Brooklyn, New York.  “Mega cruise ships are too big, too polluting of air, water, and climate, too impactful to communities, too dangerous to passengers and crew. Before cruises restart, we’re calling on travellers, cruise companies and governments to rethink the cruise industry, to drive the creation of a socially, economically and environmentally responsible cruise sector.” 

“Cruise ships are proven to spread Covid-19,” said Carrie Agnew of Charleston Cruise Control. “They are responsible for spreading this disease and remain a threat to public health and safety. It is not safe to resume cruising during a global pandemic and any future infectious disease outbreaks.”

“We expect the cruise ship industry to use this pause in operations to review their business practices in terms of social, environmental, as well as economic performance,” said Jane da Mosto of Italian NGO We are here Venice. “This will require a radical transformation of their business model and corporate cultures to find fresh opportunities. The clever ones will surely manage.”

“The ‘Principles of Responsible Cruise Tourism’ chart a course for the cruise industry’s future,” said Cara Sandys of Southampton, United Kingdom.

“We call on cruise companies to delay their return to operations until they publish detailed plans with explicit commitments, benchmarks, and timelines that commit companies to implementing specific levels of performance and compliance over time,” said Maria Poulos of the Sydney, Australia Save the Bay Coalition.

“Our goal is an equitable and responsible system of leisure travel that optimizes economic benefits to all stakeholders, and that eliminates the negative social, public health, and environmental impacts of cruising on port communities, workers, and passengers,” said Sam Duncombe of the Bahamaian NGO reEarth.

GCAN’s campaign launch comes just days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a travel advisory recommending that “all people avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide” “because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high.” Other countries around the world have issued similar warnings. According to the CDC: “cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is very challenging” because “cruise ship travel facilitates and amplifies transmission of COVID-19.” Within the last few weeks, most major brands (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, MSC, Disney) announced a suspension of operations and cancellations of many of their upcoming cruises through 2020 and beyond. Despite these dire international warnings, the industry continues its relentless drive to expand the industry by continuing with development plans for new cruise terminals, including in the Bahamas, United States, Belize, and the United Kingdom. 

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