As with any large hotel or resort, you can’t expect a huge cruise ship not to have a carbon footprint.
We can, however, expect cruise companies to do their utmost to protect our environment so that our children and their offspring can enjoy the same great relaxing holidays that only a good cruise ship can offer.
The MSV Divina caused quite a commotion when it docked in the delicate marine area that makes up the Venice lagoon in Italy early in June this year. The 133 500 tonne mega cruiser, dubbed a “monster ship” by protesters in the ancient water city, a World Heritage Site, was the biggest cruise liner ever to dock off St. Mark’s Square, looming over the old buildings and canals.
Protesting environmentalists made good use of MSC Divina’s maiden voyage and visit to Venice to drive their point home. They called on Italian screen icon Sophia Loren to ditch her endorsement of the ship, saying that it contributed to the destruction of Venice.
The protesters saw red because they felt that the giant ship blocks views and causes massive air pollution, and damaged the lagoon maritime area. They were also concerned about the very real possibility of the ship’s vibrations, the lapping waves in its wake as well as the displacement of huge volumes of water damaging the foundations of historic palaces and churches in the city.
Silvio Testa, spokesperson of the No Big Ships Venice Committee, reportedly claimed that the ship produces the same amount of pollution in an hour as 15 000 cars, and that the pollution it causes contains 15 times as much sulphur as car fumes.
I sympathise with the concerns of the No Big Ships people, and I certainly believe they raised valid points. But should environmentally aware travellers turn their backs on cruising as a way to enjoy a holiday and see something of the world?
I think not. I do believe there are a few positive green points to be made about MSC Divina and her sister ships.
I had the privilege of attending the christening of MSC Divina by the – at 78 years of age – still lovely Ms Loren in the French Mediterranean port of Marseilles towards the end of May. Spending three nights aboard the luxury cruiser, I made it a point to learn more about the ship’s carbon footprint, completely unaware of the furore that was to follow a few days later in Venice.
MSC Divina, named in honour of MSC Cruises’ “godmother” Sophia Loren, is modelled on her sister-ships, MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia, but features some remarkable enhancements.
“Experience classic glamour in high-tech comfort,” it says on the MSC website, and truly, that is no exaggeration.
A first-class hotel on the waves
The Infinity Pool in the aft of the ship, with its "beach zone" adjoining the glass balustrade, offers a unique view of the ship's wake fading into the sunset. And if you're travelling in the expanded MSC Yacht Club, you can relax in style in the Top Sail Lounge.
It is a first-class hotel on the waves with a spa, sports club, shopping centre and entertainment complex where you can enjoy a cosy coffee break, a quiet stroll or a romantic drink beneath the stars. A floating holiday destination indeed.
There are six restaurants to choose from, and 17 bars and lounges. For entertainment you can go to the theatre, attend a 4D cinema, visit the card room, the cyber-library, or try your luck at the casino. If it is shopping you are after, five shops will keep you occupied.
The luxury mega vessel can accommodate a total of 3959 guests and 1325 crew, has 13 passenger decks, 13 elevators, and weighs 133 500 tonnes.
The right eco-ticks
With all that, it stands to reason that MSC Divina will have a considerable carbon footprint, but despite that obvious deduction the ship has been given the 6 Golden Pearls award by the leading international classification society Bureau Veritas.
This is one of the highest awards for cruise vessels in recognition of specific voluntary attention paid, from design to operation, in relation to “Quality Health Safety Environment”. MSC Divina also received the additional classification notation “Cleanship 2 ship”, for the three domains of potential pollution of air, water and waste.
The ship’s hull was designed for maximum fuel efficiency and energy saving devices for efficient energy production with regard to engines, propellers, motors, etc. It further boasts five modern diesel engines, an automatic system to reduce cooling in case the cabin is not occupied, lighting optimization with led lightings and low consumption bulbs, as well as a continuous temperature control including an optimized system when the balcony door is open or the cabin card is not in place.
MSC Divina, just like all other ships in the MSC fleet, has an environmental officer responsible for all environmental issues on board. This includes the monitoring of up-to-date recycling and waste disposal procedures to ensure the implementation of the highest possible technological standards for sewage treatment and disposal.
The environmental officer also ensures the frugal use of resources such as water and energy, and is responsible for the training of crew members dealing with recycling procedures as well as the handling, collection, sorting and disposal of garbage.
A huge cruise ship like the MSC Divina will have a carbon footprint, just as any hotel or holiday resort would.
Cruising companies should at all times prioritise the protection of our environment to preserve our oceans for generations to come. I believe that MSC’s Divina passes that test.
I will cruise with MSC Cruises again, if I ever get the chance, but let’s steer clear of ancient, fragile, beloved and beautiful world heritage sites like Venice, shall we?
What do you think? Are these massive ships a waste of energy, or is bigger both better and more eco-efficient? Post your thoughts below...