PHOTO: Juneau, Alaska (Photo via Flickr/Ian D. Keating)
Cruise companies sailing to Alaska are experiencing unprecedented growth — much of it spurred by so-called “last-chance” tourism. While climate change may be considered a “hoax” by the folks in Washington, average, everyday Americans want to see the glaciers that define the Great White North before they melt into oblivion.
A new report in Outside Magazine discusses the boom in demand and asks if the increase in cruising isn’t just hastening the region’s demise.
Currently, cruise company’s are expanding their offerings in Alaska — and elsewhere in the Arctic.
“The demand is so great that Princess Cruises recently announced that it will be expanding its 2017 Alaska fleet by 15 percent; Holland America is redeploying a seventh ship to the area this summer, and Seabourn is returning to the 49th state for the first time in more than a decade,” reports Stephanie Pearson.
Why the increased demand?
“What we’re seeing is 'last-chance tourism,'” Scott Gende, a National Park Service scientist based in Juneau tells Outside. “People want to see glaciers before they melt and polar bears before they’re extinct.”
Cruise ships are part of the problem however, Pearson points out.
“It’s an ironic incentive, considering that the cruise industry is arguably at the front lines of hastening the planet’s demise. Emissions numbers are tough to come by and vary greatly by the grade of fuel used, but in 2012, the International Maritime Organization estimated that cruise ships and passenger ferries produced 78 million tons of carbon dioxide,” she notes.
While efforts are being made to clean up the emissions, cruise lines often evade the regulations with alternative methods.
“New standards for large ships in the U.S. and Canada were implemented in 2015, but instead of using cleaner fuel to comply, many cruise lines are installing technology that scrubs sulfur from ship smokestacks, preventing the pollutant from being emitted into the air and instead diluting and recirculating it into the ocean,” says Pearson.
READ MORE: The Many Reasons an Alaska Cruise Is a Must-Do
All of this seems to imply that cruising could accelerate climactic changes in the region. Still, cruising remains popular with port cities in the state as they bring in money and jobs to the coastal region.
For more on this complicated issue and efforts being made to protect the Arctic, read on here.