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Going On A Summer Vacation? Here’s Why You Should — Or Maybe Shouldn’t — Consider A Cruise

Now that summer is in full swing, lots of people have vacationing on their minds — even me. And no, it’s not a beach vacation, although lots of my friends and classmates are going to the beach this summer. In fact, beaches are the most popular vacation destination for people in the U.S., and one of the ways in which people access these beaches is through cruise lines. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Disney Cruises or seen one of the many commercials for Princess Cruises — I know I have. I actually used to be a frequent passenger of Disney Cruises when I was younger. What I didn’t know back then, however, was that the cruises I so loved had many indirect effects, both positive and negative.

In economics, effects that indirectly affect a third party as a result of the production or consumption of a product are known as externalities. Externalities can be positive or negative.

If we apply this concept to the cruise industry, it’s clear that it has several negative externalities, the main one being the environment. Cruises are known for deeply polluting the waters they traverse. Many cruise lines dump waste water (known as gray water) from laundry, showers, and sinks into the ocean. Cruise lines also do not treat sewage or toxic waste before disposing of it, oftentimes dumping the waste overboard. This leads to a lot of toxic waste and fecal matter entering the ocean (and if you don’t know what fecal matter is, look it up. I don’t really want to explain it).  Lastly, cruises deeply pollute the air through their large consumption of  oil, which causes them to emit enormous amounts of exhaust fumes, CO2 included.

Cruises play a pretty substantial role in polluting our environment

Another negative externality of the cruise industry is overtourism. While it certainly isn’t a bad thing for the cruise lines themselves, it’s caused the people of certain cities to be very unhappy. Cruises can sometimes flood certain cities while docking there, the prime example being Venice. When I was in Venice, my tour guide told me that the flooding caused by cruises can get so bad that it can flood the entire first floor of their homes. The Venetians have now taken to protesting against cruises in the hopes of reducing the amount of flooding. All of these negative externalities are caused by our consumption of the cruising service, ultimately causing them to harm the environment and the cities that they dock in.

Cruises can cause flooding in cities like Venice, sparking anti-cruise protests amongst Venetians

Although the cruise industry has pretty bad negative externalities, it does have some positive ones. Cruises create a lot of tourism, which is often beneficial since it is a source of economic growth and job creation for the small island states that cruises visit, like the Bahamas. The cruise industry is also pretty vital for the global economy, contributing $150 billion every year and supporting 1.2 million jobs worldwide. All of these positive externalities are caused by our consumption of the cruising service, ultimately causing it to benefit the destinations it visits as well as the global economy.

All that being said, it’s pretty clear that cruises have lots of pros and cons. So, the next time you all are looking for your next vacation, do you want to help the global economy at the risk of the environment? Or do you want to help the environment at the risk of the global economy? I’ll leave the decision up to you guys, but me personally, I’m going to have to go with planes — also known as the best mode of transportation.

The cruise industry sure makes and contributes a ton of money to the economy. But is it worth the environmental and social risks?


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