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Are Cruises Ruining Tourist Destinations?

Are Cruise Ships Ruining Popular Tourist Destinations?

The negative effects of cruise ships are not exactly unheard-of, but to what extent are cruises ruining popular tourist destinations? There are a few different factors to consider, from the environmental impact of cruise liners, to issues with over-crowding, and even socio-economic issues for local people who are learning to live with this new wave of tourism.

Environmental Impact of Cruise Ships

Large cruise ships are one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions in the travel industry. Sitting idle in the harbour all day the pumps are responsible for a large amount of air pollution. We’ve got to remember that some cruise ships are effectively floating cities, and produce as much pollution as one.

As well as this, cruise ships have even been known to release sewage straight into harbours. When the waste water is treated this is legal in some harbours (though still not pleasant to think about and still has a knock-on effect on marine life). But there are lots of cases of illegal dumpings of sewage, food waste, oil and fuel. This is plain and simply a human health issue.

As well as this, there are countless incidences every year of accidental spillages as well. Just last year a P&O cruise ship ‘accidentally’ spilled 27,000 litres of liquid waste into the Great Barrier Reef where several species of coral are already endangered. I put ‘accidentally’ in inverted commas because in actual fact these large cruise companies do their best to skirt around the rules and tiptoe along the edge of international law. And when they are caught they pay the fines. These are multi-million pound businesses we’re talking about. It’s a drop in the ocean to them.

Cruise Ships and Mass Tourism

Of course mass tourism is a problem across the whole travel industry but cruise ships are a huge contributor. Just about any article you read on this subject shows the same jam-packed streets of Dubrovnik. And it’s a huge shame that it’s ruining this 16th Century city when just a few miles away similar cities are empty. I visited the town of Korčula (on the island of the same name). Admittedly the weather was not good but our little group were the only ones in the entire city. When you compare the two walled cities they are really very similar. The difference – Korčula doesn’t have a port suitable for big cruise liners. So instead the masses flock to Dubrovnik and walk in single file around the city walls to the tune of 200 Kuna. If you’ve visited you’ll know what I mean.

Dubrovnik definitely has a problem with overtourism but none are as pressured as Venice. I read the other day that Venice, with a population of 55,000, sees 28 million tourists each year. The city simply cannot cope. Most people are already acutely aware that Venice is sinking and these vast numbers year on year certainly aren’t helping matters.

And this scene is the same in Barcelona, Florence, Palma, San Sebastián, Santorini, Svalbard, and even across the other side of the world in Alaska, the USA and the Caribbean, to name a few. In 2015 Santorini had 790,000 people visit from 636 different cruise ships. A visitors cap has now been put in place to limit numbers to 8,000 a day. Remember, this is an island with a total population of only 15,000. More recently we’ve seen the Vatican considering limiting visitor numbers and Mallorca discouraging tourists away from it’s capital, Palma. Our most beautiful holiday destinations are simply being swamped by cruise-goers and Governments are starting to step in.

Are cruises ruining tourist destinations

What Does Overtourism Mean?

  1. The cost of living is going up for local people. The demand for accommodation, transport, food and drink, are higher than ever. That means price rises. And that means local workers can no longer afford it. Airbnb in particular has been blamed for driving up housing costs as investors are paying premium prices to convert property into these short-term holiday lets.
  2. Traffic and queues everywhere. You are no longer 1 of a dozen people quietly admiring the Mona Lisa, you’re there with a couple hundred like-minded individuals, all waiting in line for 15 seconds at the front.
  3. Destruction and damage to our much-loved cities. In 2016 the Italian Government and luxury jewellery brand Bulgari, who has a shop in the square, spent €1.5 million restoring the famous Spanish Steps in Rome after tourists ruined them with chewing gum and spilled drinks. They have now made it illegal to sit on the steps and you will receive a fine of upwards of €250 if you do.

Have Attitudes To Travel Changed?

The problem is that we now make twice as many trips abroad as we did 20 years ago. Travelling has become easy, affordable, and worst of all, on trend. Whereas a few years ago people used to travel because they wanted to visit somewhere, nowadays people travel for the ‘gram’. We see queues of people lining up to take a ‘selfie’ in the perfect spot. Most don’t read the leaflets or the boards of information. They go so they can say they’ve been there, which simply put, means people are travelling for the wrong reasons.

The Age of the ‘Booze Cruise’

Of course there are all different kinds of cruise companies to suit different kinds of travellers. But something that has recently taken off is the ‘booze cruise’. There is a new generation of binge drinkers sweeping through the travel industry. You’ve only got to read a few news articles to prove how awful these cruise holidays are. One article explains how passengers get so drunk they have to be taken to their beds in wheelchairs. The same article goes on to say a cruise ship named ‘Benidorm On Sea’ (which obviously doesn’t bode well) had passengers drunkenly throw crockery and chairs at one another at a 2am brawl. Cheap drinks (sometimes free drinks) and 24 hour casinos seem to encourage poor behaviour and it’s only getting worse. Reaping havoc as they sail and even worse when they dock and spread into the cities to find the nightlife.

So Are Cruises Ruining Tourist Destinations?

Of course cruise ships aren’t entirely responsible for overtourism by any means, and not all cruise ships are full of stag and hen parties, completely wild and out of control. But are they a positive influence on the travel industry? I’ve got to say no. I’m biased because travelling by cruise liner would not be my cup of tea in the slightest. I’m after a more personal and cultured experience. But regardless, I can’t help but think the negatives of cruise ships outweigh the positives. Are large cruises ruining tourist destinations for the rest of us? My answer is yes.