Are Cruise Ships Dangerous? Everything You Need to Know

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Anyone who’s looking forward to their next vacation may daydream about ways to see the world. Flying and traveling by train are two common options, but people also sail between countries by lounging on cruise ship decks. Are they a viable vacation option for sustainably-minded people? Read about how cruise ships affect the planet to decide if they’re dangerous.

They Harm the Environment

Sunset dinners out on the ocean sound like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but cruise ships are dangerous because they hurt the environment. These are a few ways they leave their mark on the planet long after docking.

Their Engines Waste Gas

Any ship that can transport thousands of people requires a significant amount of fuel. The average cruise ship burns 250 tons of gasoline per day, equaling nearly 8,000 gallons. Every time gasoline burns and transforms into energy, it also floods the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases that increase the planet’s temperature.

Rising atmospheric temperatures result in everything from catastrophic storm systems to icebergs melting permanently into the ocean. Every living thing suffers when the planet warms up, but cruise ships still leave their ports daily.

The Kitchens Waste Food

Thousands of people need to eat three times each day, so cruise kitchens stock over 250,000 eggs for daily meals, plus 170,000 pounds of vegetables and packaging for every ingredient. The endless buffets and all-you-can-eat menus result in wasted food that creates harmful gases as they spend years breaking down in a landfill.

Food waste solutions are available for anyone who wants to make this issue disappear. Cruise ships could donate it to compost companies that turn it into an eco-friendly, biodegradable liquid trash slurry. Donating leftovers to public food kitchens could be another solution for anything that hasn’t expired. Still, most cruises find it easier to throw uneaten food away.

They Dump Gray Water

When people flush toilets, wash their hands or shower on cruise ships, whatever slides down the drain becomes gray water. It’s a term that encompasses all wastewater from cruise lines that directly harms the environment. Cruise companies dump this waste into ports and near coastlines, introducing bacteria and pathogens into natural habitats and around communities. Anything that needs that clean water to live suffers because of the gray water.

They Release Extra Litter

Chip bags, empty soda bottles and complimentary shampoo containers are just a few of the waste products that can float away on the ocean waves. They fly from the ship’s deck before, during and after docking. The litter either kills wildlife or joins the great Atlantic garbage patch to ensure decades of animal-killing pollution to come.

They Pose a Health Risk

Are cruise ships dangerous? They hurt the environment, but they can also damage your health. These are the most common ways people get sick out at sea.

The Norovirus Lingers

Many people who don’t want to set foot on a cruise ship cite the norovirus as their primary concern. It’s a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea in places like cruise ships. You can contract it from being around someone who’s sick or by sharing space with them at dining areas or bars. Nothing’s worse than getting violently ill away from home — except possibly getting that sick in the middle of the ocean.

Seasickness Causes Dehydration

Although cruise ships are large enough for most people to avoid feeling them rock against the waves, some passengers still get seasick. The resulting diarrhea and vomiting can cause long-term dehydration, which is much more dangerous to some people than others.

Older adults and individuals with chronic conditions require more recovery time and an IV to fully hydrate their bodies again. Young children and infants also struggle to replenish their bodily fluids after periods of dehydration. These are massive age groups for annual cruise ship passengers, which means that many travelers are putting themselves at an increased risk for health concerns just to sail the sea.

COVID-19 Spreads Easily

Maintaining close contact will always spread disease, but that’s an especially pressing concern in a world with COVID-19. The airborne virus can travel around the ship’s highly populated areas and become quarantine vessels for weeks after an outbreak begins. It frequently happened in early 2020 as the world became familiar with the virus, but it can always happen again as long as the virus remains a threat.

People need to note that this won’t be the last pandemic caused by a virus. Research shows that the warming climate will cause other pandemics later on, so cruise ships will become even greater petri dishes for whatever viruses form and mutate in the coming decades.

They’re Sailing Crime Scenes

If the environmental and personal repercussions of cruise vacations aren’t enough, the ships also frequently become crime scenes. Read about the most common ways people get hurt between destinations.

Robbery Is Common

Everyone brings something valuable on cruise ships and they only sleep one door down from strangers. People break into rooms and steal valuables while other passengers are out at events or exploring destinations.

Robbery can also happen when locals hold passengers at gunpoint while shopping at tourist locations. Assailants also frequently target passengers who leave the ship for tours because they’ll have money or banking cards in their pockets. 

Sexual Assault Happens Frequently

People who travel on cruise ships are also at risk of sexual assault. Staff and passengers are away from police stations and hospitals, making people with evil intent feel freer to break laws. In 2019, cruise ship sexual assaults increased by 67% through the end of September. Since so many strangers gather on one ship away from law enforcement, the risk is always there.

Physical Assault Is Also Possible

When people feel removed from the real world and have the freedom to drink all day, physical assault can break out. Whether it’s adults brawling or sunburnt kids arguing by the water slide, physical assault is always a possibility.

They Hurt Animals

Cruise ships generate an excessive amount of noise. Although passengers can turn up the deck music and party through the afternoon, sea creatures can’t escape it. They can even become hurt from the sound invading their natural habitats.

The massive vessels harpoon whales on their submerged bows due to acoustic disturbance. Ships can also plow through pods of dolphins or schools of fish. Directly killing animals is a significant concern for cruise lines, but wildlife continues dying in these types of situations every year.

Potential passengers should also think about how their cruises harm animals through the generated waste. Gray water dumps bacteria into the ocean that make creatures sick or kill them. Trash becomes lodged in windpipes and blocks stomachs after floating on the waves until a hungry animal comes along.

Cruise ships are dangerous for people, but they also harm surrounding wildlife. It’s something many people don’t consider when booking a trip or enjoying their time out at sea.

Book Your Next Cruise With Caution

Cruise ships are dangerous in numerous ways, so keep these factors in mind when considering them as a vacation option. The pollution, waste and travel method have varying adverse effects on the planet. It may compromise sustainable lifestyles if people don’t know what they’re signing up for.

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.