For decades, the cruise ship industry’s business practices have put the social fabric, economic integrity, public health, and environment of port communities, as well as passengers, crew, coastal and marine ecosystems, and the climate, at risk. The latest example of this, cruise companies’ recent mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, shows that the industry is unwilling to protect the public interest absent legally binding regulation. Inspired by the 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism, the Future of Tourism Coalition’s Guiding Principles, and the principles and protocols of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, cruise port communities and their allies have come together to urge worldwide commitment to and implementation and monitoring of the Principles of Responsible Cruise Tourism listed below. The Global Cruise Activist Network calls on cruise companies to delay their return to operations until they address these principles by publishing detailed plans with explicit commitments, benchmarks, and timelines that commit each company to implementing specific levels of performance and compliance over time. We want an equitable and responsible system of leisure travel that optimizes economic benefits to all stakeholders, while eliminating the negative social, public health, and environmental impacts of cruising on port communities, workers, and passengers. We oppose the return of a “business-as-usual” cruise ship industry. Until these common sense policies are collectively adopted, effectively implemented, and consistently monitored, the cruise industry will remain complicit in putting passengers, crew, communities, and the planet at risk.
Principles of Responsible Cruise Tourism
#1 Self-determination: Commit to respect frontline communities’ universal right to self-determination. (1.1) Collaboratively develop your planned cruise tourism operations in each home port and port of call by obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of the people most directly negatively affected by cruise tourism operations and pollution. This includes Indigenous communities and residents near cruise ship home ports and destinations. (1.2) This means that cruise companies must not interfere in local politics and political processes. (1.3) Powerful multinational cruise corporations have used lobbying and campaign contributions to sway local elections, gain access to our leaders, and influence votes. Cruise operators have attempted to play port cities and frontline communities against each other, or otherwise coerce, manipulate or intimidate communities. This must stop.
#2 Economic Impacts: Address cruise lines’ long and ongoing history of exploitive business practices by implementing policies that maximize the retention of revenue within home ports and ports of calls. Ease the burden of cruise tourism by accounting for and eliminating its true and total costs in terms of environmental, cultural, and socio-economic impacts. (2.1) Adopt Natural Capital Accounting and Social and Cultural valuation methods. Any review should include multiple accounts analysis, including a public financial account, a private financial (or economic development) account, a social account, and an environmental account. The multiple accounts, or triple bottom line, perspective must be central to any analysis, providing information about who benefits and who absorbs costs. (2.2) Ensure negative externalities are internalised into the cost of doing business rather than forcing the burden on to port communities (e.g., waste management). (2.3) The mega cruise industry must embed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into their corporate cultures and report the monitoring of progress towards the goals on publicly available dashboards. The cruise industry must advocate for and promote the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals across its supply chains and in destination ports of call. (2.4) Redefine economic success by using metrics that quantify the benefits to local small business development, equitable distribution of income, and enhancement of sustainable, local supply chains. (2.5) Operate business responsibly: incentivize and reward local tourism businesses and associated enterprises that support these principles through their actions. (2.6) Develop strong local supply chains that allow for higher quality products and experiences. (2.7) Provide advance funding for public infrastructure projects made to serve the cruise industry, such as docks, roads, sidewalks, bus parking, recycling, waste management, and shore power to ensure that the community is not burdened with debt if the industry departs. (2.8) For existing private cruise destinations, voluntarily pay a head tax to local governments. (2.9) As the cruise industry seeks social licence for resumption of operations, cruise port communities demand environmental accountability and economic review. (2.10) Pay your fair share of local and national taxes. (2.11) Stop avoiding taxes by flying flags of convenience. Flag all new ships and reflag your current ships by 2030 in the country where your company is headquartered.
#3 Cultural & Quality of Life Impacts: Adopt a policy of “do no harm” to retain and enhance cruise port communities’ cultural identity, distinctive character, and quality of life. (3.1) Commit to policies and business practices that protect and benefit natural, scenic, and cultural assets while enhancing the well-being and cultural heritage of host communities. (3.2) Demonstrate respect for the lives and livelihoods of the people most directly affected by cruise ship pollution and over-tourism, even if it requires fewer and smaller ships with fewer passengers. (3.3) Avoid exhibits, displays, or performances that resort to exoticizing, fictionalizing, and fetishizing local cultures, especially examples of cultural appropriation and/or racial stereotyping. (3.4) Market cruise tourism in ways which reflect the natural, cultural, and social integrity of the destination, and which encourage environmentally and culturally responsible tourism. (3.5) In ports of call, stagger arrival and departure times with other cruise ships to prevent land transportation surges and limit traffic so as to not overwhelm the local community with noise and congestion impacts. Cruise ships and their passengers are guests in the host destinations, and should treat the destinations with the mutual respect they expect their passengers to receive on their visits.
#4 Labor: Create a safe, just, and equitable environment for workers both onboard and on shore. (4.1) Align your business practices with the strictest labor and environmental standards in the world. (4.2) Affirm the right of crew members to collectively bargain by organizing independent labor unions that represent workers. Cease all anti-union labor practices. (4.3) Provide hospitality crew with home visits every six months and regular shore leave. (4.4) Align the wages and working conditions for workers onboard ships with the national minimum wage and labour laws in the country they are headquartered. (4.5) Cap work hours at 48-60/week and six days for all employees. (4.6) Pay time and a half for hours worked over 50 hours/week - regardless of employees’ country of origin, rank, or department. (4.7) Provide paid sick leave and comprehensive medical care that is 70% or more of basic wages plus gratuities. (4.8) Recruit and employ staff following International Labor Standards and the standards of the 2006 Maritime Labor Convention. (4.9) Commit to only work with local tour operators, drivers, caterers, and all other contractors and subcontractors that meet or exceed the local labor standards. (4.10) Comply with International Human Rights Laws, including Article 23, 24 & 25 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. (4.11) Institute policies and practices to protect crew and reward whistleblowers. Eliminate managers who retaliate and reprimand crew for reporting abuse and violations. Change the onboard culture that violates human rights and leads to rape, sexual harrasment, discrimination and gender inequailty.
#5 Climate Change: Stop contributing to climate change. (5.1) Publicly commit to achieving zero emissions across your entire global fleet by 2050 at the latest, with a 40% reduction in the first decade, followed by a minimum of 5% year-over-year reductions from 2030-2050. (5.2) Immediately progress towards your absolute greenhouse gas reduction targets by implementing a slow-steaming protocol across your entire fleet. (5.3) Halt LNG investments, and redirect those resources towards zero emissions strategies, including research, development, and testing of sustainable fuels such as green hydrogen or ammonia. (5.4) In order to reduce unhealthy and climate-harming black carbon emissions, publicly commit to immediately cease the use and carriage of HSFO globally and the use of both HSFO and VLSFO in the Arctic. Switch to distillate/marine gasoil (MGO) and install efficient particulate filter systems or switch to other cleaner non-fossil fuels, technologies or propulsion systems.
#6 Air Pollution: Stop polluting the air. (6.1) Publicly commit to 100% shore power by 2025. (6.2) Lead in the development of a universal shore power system. (6.3) Retrofit ships for shore power, and immediately require all ships to use shore power where it is available. (6.4) Pay 100% of the costs of shore power infrastructure in all ports of call by 2025. Do not ask, solicit or lobby for taxpayer subsidies.
#7 Water Pollution: Stop polluting the water. (7.1) Publicly commit to immediately cease the use of scrubbers, whether open-loop, closed-loop, or hybrid. (7.2) Publicly commit to voluntarily stop dumping all waste within 24 nautical miles of any coast. (7.3) Upgrade wastewater treatment systems onboard all vessels in your global fleet from Marine Sanitation Devices to Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems, and publicly commit to using these treatment systems at all times outside of 24 nautical miles from shore. (7.4) Commit to a performance-based standard, with ongoing testing and maintenance of sewage treatment systems to ensure these are functioning at optimal performance levels at all times, and make the test results and maintenance logs publicly available.
#8 Monitoring & Transparency: Publicly disclose your performance. (8.1) Install additional continuous monitoring equipment for monitoring air emissions, including but not limited to NOx, SOx, particulate matter (nano, ultrafine, fine, and coarse), and CO2. (8.2) Publicly report the data from all air emission and effluent discharge monitoring equipment, including the location and volume of discharges and all other data, in real time to a publicly available website. (8.3) Monitor effluent discharges at the point of discharge, including but not limited to temperature (thermal pollution), PH, PAHs, BOD, turbidity, chlorine concentrations, and fecal coliforms. (8.4) Make discharge, discharge location, and effluent data publicly available. (8.5) Support establishment of national government-funded programs to ensure that IMO-certified, third party monitors are on board all vessels to monitor and enforce local and national environmental and public health regulations for all ports of call.
#9 Environment & Biodiversity: Respect the integrity of vulnerable ecosystems and protected areas. (9.1) Reduce speed below 12 knots within 25 miles of the coast to prevent whale strikes and avoid sonic disturbance to sensitive coastal and marine wildlife. (9.2) Limit and contain cruise tourism's land use: stop the development of all proposed private cruise destinations so as to retain geographical character, a diverse economy, local access, and critical ecosystems. (9.3) Garbage and recycling should be processed in the port of origin. Disposal of waste products, including garbage, recyclables, and industrial waste should be processed in the home port, and not dumped in ports of call. (9.4) Cease the use of all single-use plastics regardless of the carbon source (plant vs petroleum). All crockery, glassware and utensils must be re-usable and properly stored on the ship for cleaning and re-use. (9.5) Absolutely no plastic waste should be dumped overboard under any circumstances. On-board incinerators are absolutely not acceptable for disposing of plastics and should not be seen as an alternative solution.
#10 Public Health: Protect public health. (10.1) Until you cease the use of HFO, notify all passengers of the potential health risks of breathing the ships’ exhaust while on deck. (10.2) Maintain sanitary conditions on board to avoid outbreaks of contagious diseases. Implement other measures to control spread of disease as mandated for the cruise industry by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. (10.3) Install HVAC air purifying systems throughout all ships to limit the transfer of communicable diseases through ventilation systems between cabin rooms, in crew quarters, and in public areas. (10.4) Educate passengers on proper hygiene etiquette (such as proper coughing technique) and inform them about the vulnerable status of local communities. Provide passengers with reusable and refillable alcohol disinfectant gel and encourage its frequent use when onshore. (10.5) When an outbreak occurs, cease all travel immediately and inform local officials of the outbreak. (10.6) Never, under any circumstances, contribute to the spread of an epidemic. Avoid the transmission of diseases to host communities. (10.7) Warn passengers that the medical care provided onboard a cruise ship cannot and should not be considered comparable to the care one would receive on land. (10.8) Provide a transparent public real-time reporting of infectious diseases identified among crew or passengers so residents of port communities know what is coming their way.
#11 Crime Victims: (11.1) Institute policies and practices to protect passengers. (11.2) Commit to a legally binding agreement that all regulations in the U.S. Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 (CVSSA) will be implemented before sailing begins again, including the implementation of Man Overboard Detection technology. (11.3) Notify passengers before booking a cruise and after boarding their ship of the risks involved in cruising. Remind passengers that the same kind of personal safety precautions and care one would take in any city on land should also be taken onboard a cruise ship. (11.4) Given the unconscionable number of sexual assaults committed on cruise ships, including against minors, advise passengers that it is dangerous and ill-advised to leave children unattended or unaccompanied onboard a cruise ship.
#12 Worker Repatriation: (12.1) Develop and implement a corporate-wide policy to provide for the repatriation of all ship-based crew in the event of future disease outbreaks onboard your vessels that result in the quarantine of a vessel. Immediately arrange and pay for the repatriation of any and all remaining ship-based employees stuck, at any time and for whatever reason, onboard cruise ships with private transportation so as not to further endanger the health of the general public. (12.2) In the event of government restrictions that do not allow for immediate repatriation, ensure that crew members who remain onboard are paid at least 70% of wages, including gratuities and/or commission. Ensure that agreements are made with concessions so that retail, spa, casino, crew are entitled to the same rights.
Cruise port communities (aka: communities with cruise ports, destination communities, host communities)
Home port: the city a cruise originates in (e.g., (Miami, Barcelona, Southampton, Seattle)
Port of call: the city a cruise ship stops in (e.g., Victoria, Juneau, Venice, Nassau)