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Coral Accident Rocks Carnival 

There was a time when, if the world lost some coral reefs to human carelessness, it was greeted with a reaction akin to a shrug of the shoulders and dismissed with “too bad.”

As we have become more environmentally aware, and responsible, that has changed. So when a cruise ship (Carnival Magic) accidentally destroys a field of coral estimated to be almost 12,000 square feet in size, it’s a big deal.

This happened in late August. The Magic dropped anchor near Grand Cayman, where every cruise passenger is taken ashore in small boats (tenders) to protect what is a playground for deep-sea divers, not to mention the life forms that live among the coral. The problem occurred when the Magic’s anchor hit bottom inside a restricted area, guided there by a local pilot in one of the pilot boats that escort cruise ships to and from ports.

Near George Town, Grand Cayman, there are four areas where it’s safe to anchor…where the coral has already been destroyed. The Port Authority directed the pilot to the southernmost area. The pilot directed the captain of the Magic. Because of high winds, the pilot missed the designated area by about 600 feet.

So did the Magic.

The ensuing damage from the anchor’s crashing into coral, then being dragged through it Coraluntil the ship stopped, then being dragged from it when the Magic left is enough that it will take five or six decades to restore coral that disappeared in three hours.

Under Marine Conservation Law, it is illegal to damage coral with an anchor.

So it was an accident, the damage is done and the blame game hasn’t peaked yet.

Officials at the Port Authority say it’s not their fault…the pilot was directed to the safe area. Carnival, which hires the pilots through an agency, can likely maintain at least some degree of innocence because it was the pilot who directed the Magic’s captain. However, the cruise line is only saying it’s “in discussions with the shipping agent.”

This isn’t like an environmental disaster, like oil spill that requires millions of dollars to clean up. This is damage done. No fine is going to restore the coral and the biggest concern of environmentalists is to make sure it can never happen again.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): “While it is difficult to put a dollar value on some of the benefits coral ecosystems provide, one recent estimate gave the total net benefit of the world’s coral reef ecosystems to be $29.8 billion/year.”

Benefits include food, protection from storms, and habitat, spawning and nursery grounds for species of the sea…not to mention the income and jobs that come with all of that.

One thing you can be certain of — this story is not over.

Today at portsandbows.com: Another ship going Far East

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
November 9, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $39

Alaska Backs Off On Environment

Environmental issues can often be complicated. The latest one — this week in Alaska — is definitely complicated.

If you're interested in protecting the environment (duh!) and the part that cruise ships play in it, read on…and if you want to read this in more detail, Richard Mauer of The Anchorage Daily News has it all here at the paper's website: www.adn.com.

There was a vote in the Alaska legislature in Juneau this week lowering specific environmental standards for cruise ships. Our initial reaction was shock. In this day and age, can such a thing be possible?

Well, there's more to it.

One, since the election the 49th state is ruled by one party (Republican) for the first time in years, and we all know that Democrats are more strongly associated with environmental issues. The bill to allow cruise ships to dump ammonia, copper and other contaminants into Alaska waters passed, easily.

Two, the standards of the still-existing bill are technologically impossible to meet.

Three, one of the reasons the bill passed is that cruise ships were being held to higher standards than local ferries, municipal systems and fishing vessels.

Four, the treatment facilities on cruise ships have been improved to the point where by the time it's dumped it is allegedly harmless to the environment.

Environmentalists see it as sacrificing the fishing industry for the cruise industry. Proponents who were democratically elected by the people of Alaska see it as heaping unfair standards on an industry that has long paid serious attention to being that good corporate citizen.

Costa Atlantica
7 nights
April 5, 2013
Dubai (return): Khasab, Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Cruise Ships: Venice Vixens or Victims?


Good luck with this one…

Environmentalists are urging Italian super star actress Sophia Loren to abandon ship, and disassociate herself with the MSC Divina, renounce her role as the ship's Godmother, in the name of conserving Venice's fragile ecosystem.

And good luck with this one, too…

Conservationists under the No Big Ships Venice Committee banner want to keep all large cruise liners out of Venetian waters because "Venice and its lagoon are both world heritage sites and risk an environmental disaster every day because of the passage of these monsters of the sea" because they pollute the air and their vibrations and wakes erode the foundations of the old buildings.

It's almost like saying that New Orleans should be wiped off the map because it sits below sea level.

Not going to happen.

On our last visit to Venice, just a few weeks ago, we were curious about this problem with erosion. Now we're hardly environmental experts, but the first thing that occurred to us was that cruise ships make up a tiny portion of the boat population of Venice. And they're not all the size of motorboats…we saw many BIG private yachts (see above), not to mention an army of "water taxis" that are the ONLY way for tourists to travel in Venice.

The second thing that occurred to us is that the wake of our ship — the Oceania Riviera — looked milder than the wakes from some of the other ships on the fringe of the city. Undoubtedly the speed of these "monsters of the seas" is controlled by law.

And the third thing was that the cruise ships — the Riviera, the Celebrity Solstice and the Costa Fortuna were all in port — are moored outside the lagoon, unless we read maps incorrectly. Let's put it this way: You have to take a private water taxi to get anywhere close to the Grand Canal that meanders through Venice.

It's not that people shouldn't be concerned about erosion in Venice. It's that if there is an environmental disaster waiting to happen, it appears that cruise ships are only a part of the problem.

Holland America Zaandam
7 nights
June 24, 2012
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Anchorage
Oceanview: $399
Cost per day: $57

Celebrity pillows going 'green'

Of all the items we think about being in a landfill…pillows? That means it’s one more item for cruise lines to consider in their ongoing attempts to being environmentally responsible.

So, about the pillows.

A cruise line with 25,000 beds uses 50,000…and that’s when the customers don’t ask (blush) for an extra pillow. Obviously, pillows wear out and when they do, unless you have a dog or cat to take custody, pillows go in the garbage, and garbage goes in the landfill.

Where’s this going?

To somewhere in South Carolina, where a 53-year-old family business called Harris Pillow Supply makes machines that renovate pillows. Right, who’d have thought? This is not a blatant promo for a company…it’s a news item that Celebrity Cruises has the pillow-renovating machine on nine of its 10 ships.

In layman’s terms, the machine sifts out the (allergy-causing) dust from used pillows, then cleans whatever material is used to fill the pillow with what’s called an “ozone-emitting germicidal light” and if necessary adds more new filling to restore the pillow’s bounce after it’s gone flat.

It happens in four minutes a pillow.

If it didn’t work, Celebrity wouldn’t have installed the machines on nine of its ships. The one ship without it is the Celebrity Xpedition. That’s the ship that goes to the Galapagos Islands, regularly filled with people who deeply care about the environment.

Go figure.

Will Princess Puff Policy Spread?

News item: Princess Cruises to prohibit smoking in staterooms and on balconies. You know what this really means, don’t you?

Democracy’s at work.

The decision by Princess — likely to become the industry standard — is the result of consumer studies. It will take effect early next year.

“Smokers are a small minority of our customers,” says Executive Vice-President Jan Swartz, “and the large majority of passengers value having their primary living space onboard smoke-free.”

Because we have always lived in a democracy, we’ve always tried to subscribe to “majority rules” even in this age where often “minority rules” because the minority has the loudest voices or the squeakiest wheels. In this case, Princess is responding to changing customer preferences.

Remember when restaurants and office buildings were doing the same thing (even if it was in many cases legislated)? There was an outcry from smokers. Today, it is accepted.

The same thing will soon happen on the seas…everywhere.

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