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Side-by-side photo of new and old cruise ships sparks conversation about future of cruise industry: 'This should have stopped when the Titanic sank'

Ships are only going to continue to become more numerous.

Ships are only going to continue to become more numerous.

Photo Credit: iStock

A photo of two cruise ships of vastly different sizes angered users of the subreddit r/Anticonsumption.

In the photo, both ships — identified by another post in the r/pics forum as Royal Caribbean's 1997 Rhapsody of the Seas and the company's considerably larger 2022-launched Wonder of the Seas (identifiable by the name on the stern) — are moored at the same dock, clearly highlighting the egregious difference in their sizes.

"Just give it a few decades, at this rate they'll end up having to install shuttles," said one user wryly. Another put it bluntly: "This should have stopped when the Titanic sank."

Ships are only going to continue to become more numerous.
Photo Credit: Reddit

While the size difference is striking, it's not surprising. "Same thing happened to pickup trucks," one user wrote

It's true: In addition to cruises, cars and houses in the U.S. have been getting bigger for years. The 1997 Rhapsody has a passenger capacity of about 2,400; in contrast, the Wonder can accommodate more than 7,000. Even more recently, Royal Caribbean launched the Icon of the Seas, which can house more than three times as many passengers as the Rhapsody, per the New York Times. Icon is the world's largest cruise ship, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Commenters were horrified. "[These ships] are a massive tribute to the ignorance and arrogance of humanity and we should be ashamed," one of them wrote. "How pollutant they are, the resources they demand and the sheer tonnage in waste they produce on every voyage." 

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They're correct. While a larger-than-life ship may seem exciting, that extra size does extra environmental damage, as Bloomberg noted.

The threats are multifold, from the production of gases like sulfur oxides to excessive waste, habitat destruction, water and land pollution, and numerous health risks for passengers and crew.

According to Reuters, passengers on an Antarctic cruise "produce as much CO2 emissions on a seven-day voyage as the average European in an entire year." Even when decommissioned cruise ships are salvaged for parts, they expose workers to dangerous chemicals such as mercury.

"Cruise ships run on the dirtiest fuel possible, and they keep their engines running 24 hours a day," wrote one Redditor in disgust.

"Unfortunately, everything that cruise ships come in contact with are likely to be harmed along their journey," reported the organization Friends of the Earth. "The air, water, fragile habitats, coastal communities, and wildlife are all affected." 

According to the 2023 report from the Cruise Lines International Association, ships are on track to continue to become more numerous — and larger — as enthusiasm for cruising continues to grow.

One solution? Simply skip the cruise and choose low-impact travel options instead.

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