Cruise fans, travel agents and cruise communities have been abuzz in anticipation of Royal Caribbean’s new cruise ship – the "Oasis of the Seas."   "Amazing! . . Wow! . . Look at that!" . . . have been the extent of the popular media’s insight into this new super mega ship.    

But a few journalists have questioned the environmental appropriateness of this monster of a cruise ship. In an article entitled "A Titanic for These Times," San Francisco writer Mark Follman concludes that only someone interested in a "decadent vacation cruise" could rationalize boarding what will be the biggest, longest, tallest, widest, heaviest, and most expensive passenger ship ever built.

"Floating Emblem of a Bankrupt Era?"

Follman’s intuition is that the experience would be akin to "feasting on a nine-course meal in the middle of an Ethiopian refugee camp."  He cites an article by Rory Nugent in the Atlantic magazine which questions the rationale of building such a monstrosity.  According to the article "Hope Floats," the passengers will consume 560,000 gallons of water a day,  and the ship will burn 12 tons of diesel an hour.  Although Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry’s 16,000 travel agents may hope that the Oasis of the Seas will be a success, Mr. Nugent raises the question that the ship "may leave the dock already a dinosaur – a floating emblem of a bankrupt era."

A Corporate Felon That Can’t Get It Right 

At a time when only fools question the effect of greenhouse gases, the melting of the Arctic cap, and the need to develop sustainable businesses, Royal Caribbean has spent and mostly borrowed over a billion dollars to create a ship so at odds with the environment that it resembles the monster in the movie Cloverfield.  In 2004, Royal Caribbean came off of a 5 year probation after pleading guilty to felonies for widespread pollution and repeated lying to the U.S. Coast Guard.  Just two days ago, the environmental group ‘Friends of the Earth" awarded Royal Caribbean a "F" for the disastrous impact on air and water caused by its cruise ships. 

Three 250 HP Engines on a 37 Foot Boat?

Many corporations take on the personality and values of their leaders. During the publicity build up for the Oasis of the Seas’ debut, Royal Caribbean’s CEO Richard Fain was interviewed by David Andrews of the U. K.’s "Times Online."  In an article aptly entitled "Biggest is the Best for Cruise Chief,"  Mr. Fain reveals his rivalry with Carnival and the need to "give his business the ascendancy again . . . the Royal Caribbean International brand . . . will be bigger than anything Carnival can compete with."

After finishing the article, I felt that I had just read the lines for Gordon Gekko ("greed is good") in the 1987 movie Wall Street.  

Photo credit – Oasis of the Seas – Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, via San Francisco Chronicle ("Oasis of the Seas is a real ocean monster")

KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage Alaska reports that the cruise industry has filed suit to avoid paying Alaska’s head count tax.  In an article entitled "Sources: Cruise Ship Industry Files Suit Over Head Tax," Channel 2 reports that cruise lines are trying to avoid the $46 infrastructure tax levied at Alaska ports which the cruise ships use. The cruise industry will undoubtedly argue that the State of Alaska does not have the authority to levy taxes against foreign flagged cruise ships. 

The lawsuit has been a long time coming.  For the past year, Mickey Arison has been threatening to use Carnival’s army of lawyers to sue Alaska to avoid the tax.  There is a tradition in the Arison family of avoiding taxes.  His father, Ted Arison, earned billions running his cruise empire from Miami.  After retirement, the senior Arison denounced his U.S. citizenship and returned to Israel to try and prevent the United States from collecting estate and inheritance taxes.  

The timing of the lawsuit in Alaska is odd.  Yesterday, an environmental organization called the Friends of the Earth issued what they are calling the Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card.  The report card grades the cruise lines’ impact on the air and water.  I first learned of the report in an article entitled which cruise lines are the biggest polluters? written by travel expert Anita Dunham – Potter. Carnival received a "D-" and Royal Caribbean received a "F."      

The tar-like bunker fuels these cruise ships burn are nasty.  And the sewage and waste waters discharged  into the water are gross.  Unlike Florida which is beholden to the cruise industry with its anything goes mentality, states like Alaska and California have demonstrated an environmental commitment to the quality of the air and water in their states’ jurisdiction.  The cruise industry already does not pay U.S. taxes because they register their companies and flag their cruise ships in places like Liberia and Panama.  To quibble over a nominal tax designed to protect Alaska and its infrastructure is just the same old greed that this industry is known for.       

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) responded to the bad grades of its members by attacking the environmental group.  In its new PR website called "Cruise Industry Facts," CLIA proclaimed: "fortunately, Friends of the Earth has no authority in the matter."

That pretty much sums up the cruise industry’s attitude.  Environmental group – no authority.  We scoff at the notion that you can monitor or grade us.  State of Alaska – no authority.  You can’t tax us.  You can’t control us.  We will use the tax-free $30 billion we collect from U.S. tax-paying passengers each year to sue to avoid your measly tax, and then we will crap in your pristine waters.      

 

Photo credit      Friends of the Earth, via @ExpertCruiser