Greenwash Watch: Can a Monster Ocean Liner Be Green?

oasis of the seas monster cruise ship image rendering decks

Royal Caribbean

It is the Oasis of the Seas, by far the biggest cruise ship ever built. It is too big to stop at any port in Europe; it holds 6,300 passengers so they had to rebuild a terminal to handle them all, with ninety check-in stations. They were able to squeeze them all in with an architectural trick from John Portman's Hyatt Hotels in the seventies: make an atrium. It is like two hotel towers stacked on a barge. It is the Las Vegas of the seas, with seven "neighborhoods" of ice shows, theaters, rock climbing walls and surfing simulators.

And they call it green.

oasis of the seas monster cruise ship image rear


Of course we also say that dense cities are green, simply because packing people together means they use less energy per capita. But they still burn a lot of energy in total. The Oasis of the Seas burns 30% less fuel per person than any other cruise ship, probably mostly just because of how it packs them in. But it does use an innovative diesel-electric system that generates 96 megawatts of power.

oasis of the seas monster cruise ship image engine room

The engines are essentially a power plant that produces electricity, which is then used to run everything on board. The majority is used for propelling the vessel, but this floating holiday destination also has many other energy users. "After propulsion, air conditioning is next on the list of major onboard energy consumers," says Fred Danska, Director, Cruise Business at [engine supplier] Wärtsilä.

Wallace Immen writes in the Globe and Mail (which put this in their "Green Issue")

Added savings come from acres of solar panels, and from the fact the ship was designed with compact fluorescents and LED lighting. Being able to cook more food to order in its many small restaurants also reduces food waste, so over all, [Royal Caribbean chief executive officer Richard] Fain says, the ship will cost 40-per-cent less to operate per passenger than older ships.

oasis of the seas monster cruise ship image ship sea trials


On CBS News, they report:

Engineers at shipbuilder STX Finland said environmental considerations played an important part when planning the vessel, which dumps no sewage into the sea, reuses its waste water and consumes 25 percent less power than similar, but smaller, cruise liners.

"I would say this is the most environmentally friendly cruise ship to date," said Mikko Ilus, project engineer at the Turku yard. "It is much more efficient than other similar ships.


oasis of the seas monster cruise ship image atrium

Royal Caribbean

But what is the point? Immen continues:

If you wanted, you could stay on the ship for a week and never know you were on the ocean. My room had a balcony, but rather than an ocean view, it looked over the internal Boardwalk zone, right above the carousel, where the view was more amusement park than seashore.

The contradictions are everywhere; how do you generate 96 megawatts of power to a) move a ship around but where people don't know they are moving and don't bother getting off, and b) air condition the joint so that people who flew south to get warm don't get too warm. It does seem a stretch to call the thing green, compared to checking in to the nearest atrium hotel.

We really do have to rethink how we use this language.

oasis of the seas monster cruise ship image shopping mall

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