A newly-formed global network of cruise port residents, civil society organizations, and labor & crime victim advocates that came together during the COVID 19 pandemic to demand “no return to business-as-usual” for cruising.
The Global Cruise Activist Network provides a forum for building relationships and alliances, and taking collective action. Our focus is on organizing, sharing information, skills and resources, and building a “big tent” coalition.
For decades, the cruise industry’s business model has depended on burning huge volumes of highly polluting fuel, dumping in the ocean, underpaying its lowest-paid workers, and avoiding labor, tax, environmental and criminal laws. Cruise ships continue to put the social, cultural, economic, public health, and environmental health of port communities at risk. Cruise companies have failed to protect the health and safety of passengers and workers, and have contributed to climate change.
In response, advocates seeking justice both onboard and ashore have come together to form The Global Cruise Activist Network. As a global network, we are aligned around the values of health, safety, security, conservation, and equity. We want clean air, clean water, and healthy, resilient communities. We want fair and just wages and working conditions for workers. We want to protect wildlife and the climate.
Despite our common cause and our commitment to think globally and act locally, we are also diverse. Some are abolitionists, advocating degrowth and an end to the cruise industry. Some work to restrict cruise ships’ size and frequency. Others call for reform - for the cruise industry to act more responsibly. We support individuals’ and communities’ right to self-determination: to ban cruise ships entirely, restrict or limit them, or push for their reform. All are welcome.
Karla Hart of Juneau Alaska started looking critically at the cruise industry when a job put her in close contact in 1984. She ran tourism businesses from 1987-1997, was a founding member of the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association after the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and served alongside cruise executives as a Governor’s Appointee to the Alaska Tourism Marketing Council in the mid-1990s. Her home is miles away from the cruise port in downtown Juneau, but it is under a shortcut flight route for helicopter tours to the Mendenhall Glacier. Relentless noise in August of 2019, coupled with explosive cruise growth, inspired her to start organizing an in-person global networking conference of cruise activists. Online searches quickly connected her with Ruth Starr in Maine, who was also interested in forming a broader cruise activist network. While the global pandemic inspired the two to change course from planning an in-person conference to coordinating online network — the Global Cruise Activist Network was born.
Ruth Woodbury Starr of Rockland, Maine has been active in advocating for port communities since 2017. She helped form a group called the Alliance for Responsible Tourism Maine after cruise industry executives began meeting privately with harbor officials in her hometown of Rockland, Maine. Ruth has been active with cruise port activist groups throughout the world, and met Karla through her work on social media.
The GCAN logo includes two international maritime signal flags, each representing a letter and a specific and standard meaning. The top flag represents “K” and means “I wish to communicate with you” while the bottom flag is “L” and means "You should stop your vessel instantly." GCAN's message to Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, MSC and the other cruise ship companies couldn’t be more clear than "Stop your vessel" and "I wish to communicate with you!"