The World Traveller passengers disembarked to a crowd of 80 booing demonstrators in Brittany yesterday.
Cruise ship passengers had a rude welcome to France at the weekend as environmental protesters gathered to condemn their choice of travel.
Tourists aboard the ‘World Traveller’ cruise ship were greeted by cries of “shame on you!”, “you are not welcome” and “go home” upon arrival into the port of Douarnenez in Brittany.
Around 80 demonstrators met the 196-person-capacity luxury vessel owned by Atlas Ocean Voyages, a US-based company which promises “intimate, yacht-style cruises” to “unreachable destinations”.
Many of them were dressed as polar bears, sea lions or Venetian carnival goers, including a 25-year old protester who is fed up with “luxury and expedition trips”.
These boats “spend their time going back and forth between the poles to do last-chance tourism: see the last penguins, the last polar bears, the last icebergs. It’s indecent,” she told news agency AFP.
Why are ‘luxury and expedition’ cruises so controversial?
The World Traveller vessel sailed into the Breton port as part of a 10-day cruise from Dublin to Lisbon, priced at €8,048 to €13,257 per passenger.
In November for example, the cruise ship will set sail on a 10-day cruise to Antarctica, with prices ranging from €15,625 to €25,379.
All cruises come at a hefty cost to the climate, as their hotel and leisure facilities demand extra fuel burn, chuffing out huge amounts of air pollutants.
A recent study by the NGO Transport & Environment estimates that cruise ships sailing in European waters last year emitted more than 8 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2. That’s the equivalent of 50,000 fights between Paris and New York.
Sailing close to coastlines brings pollution-related health issues to local populations - and many people living near cruise ports have had enough, even banning the giant ships in some places.
‘Expeditions’ to the planet’s poles come with a different set of environmental consequences. Researchers in Antarctica have observed darkened snow at the south pole, as an increase in tourist trips contributes to black carbon pollution.
They estimate that each visitor is causing Antarctica to lose 83 tonnes of snow. It’s hard to think of a more stark example of a tourist experience damaging the environment it seeks.
The irony is not lost on campaigners. In Douarnenez bay, the anonymous protester said that their demonstration was partly, “in support of the polar fauna which is suffering from climate change and all the consequences of our way of life in this society.”
How did passengers and Atlas Ocean Voyages respond to the protest?
One cruise passenger appeared to take the hostile atmosphere in his stride.
Eric Scott, a 49-year-old American tourist, described the hubbub of boos while disembarking as a “useful educational experience”.
“That’s one of the reasons we travel - to get perspectives from other places,” he told AFP.
On its website, Florida-based Atlas Ocean Voyages claims that, “We take sustainability practices very seriously. To ensure we leave the world as we found it for future generations, our fleet of eco-friendly yachts are purpose-built with advanced technology and equipment.”
It says that its yachts consume “only a fifth of the fuel” used by traditional cruise ships, “thus reducing [their] impact on the environment.”
The technology for guilt-free, zero emissions cruising isn’t here yet though. And environmental campaigners give short shrift to companies acting otherwise.
“We are simply denouncing this industry which has no reason to exist,” a 47-year-old protester said yesterday in Brittany.
“We don’t need this industry,” she said, adding that “Biodiversity is more important.”
Several cruise ship disembarkations have had to be cancelled or organised under police escort in Douarnenez in recent months, AFP reports.
At Sunday’s protest, a police cordon prevented demonstrators from approaching the landing zone.