An exciting vacation on the world’s biggest ship is on every family’s bucket list, but revealing the horrifying reality of the cruise ship industry will likely change that. These ships with water parks, casinos, luxurious restaurants, cinemas, and more attract over 20 million people annually. What many do not know is the dark and sad truth about environmental destruction behind the scenes.

In early 2024, the new cruise ship Icon of The Seas will bring all the features of a tropical beachside vacation onto the world’s largest ship, measuring 1,198 feet. This is five times as large as the infamous Titanic, with a gross tonnage of 250,800 tons and the capacity to hold up to 5,000 passengers. In addition to the ship’s tremendous size, its eye-catching features include a surfing simulating machine, a waterpark, live music performances, multiple gourmet restaurants, and an ice arena.

Few realize how much the growing cruise ship industry has been polluting our atmosphere. Described as “floating cities” in a Forbes article by James Elssmoor, cruise ships release as much pollution, if not more, than cities on land. According to a Time article by Alejandro De La Garza, cruise ships emit the same amount of greenhouse gasses as 12,000 cars. In affected areas, this growing problem impacts the lives and well-being of many.

In a mission to reduce air pollution, many cruise ships have installed ‘scrubbers', which are systems to clean exhaust gas., However, these toxins are instead released into the ocean where they contaminate and kill sea life. As a result, this “solution” has not actually fixed the problem. According to an article by Betsy Reed published in The Guardian, approximately 10,000,000,000 tons of contaminated wastewater is released into the ocean annually, critically harming zooplankton, a key source of food for other organisms. As more cruise ships install ‘scrubbers,’ this issue is predicted to become worse.

The anticipated release of the Icon of The Seas faces harsh realities that are often ignored or left unnoticed. Without solutions such as the use of cleaner fuels, this ship will only worsen the environmental problems our world is experiencing. In conclusion, the cruise ship industry’s growing number of these large vessels requires thoughtful consideration of adding sustainable practices to minimize further environmental damage.