The Crown Wench: A Cruise Ship in Portland, ME

Your typical fall Friday afternoon in Portland, ME has a relaxed, almost lazy feel to it.  Expecting this, I was quite surprised when I visited the city a few weeks ago.  When I stepped out of my car on Congress Street, I immediately found myself having to muscle my way onto the sidewalk to join a stream of noticeably older people, all looking slightly dazed.  “What is this?” I thought to myself.  I was caught off guard by the collection of slick sidewalk vendors that had sprouted up, boasting everything from hick duct tape wallets, to Maine themed coffee cups.  It felt like I was in some distant tourist mecca that had cultured a strict ‘ship em in, take their money, ship em out’ mentality.  Portland was different today.  After a few minutes of walking down the street, I saw where this dazed herd had been let out of.  Pulled up tight against stands of century old dock pilings was the Crown Princess, in all her glory.  With a capacity of nearly 5,000 people, this megalith looked astoundingly out of place in this not so glitzy seaside city.  Fully offloaded, this beast brings the population of Portland, ME up nearly 7%.  I’ve never understood the appeal of vacationing aboard these floating hotels.  Frankly, I’d be embarrassed to be part of the whole culture.  The Crown Princess and the other members of it’s family spread around the globe are repeat offenders when it comes to whale collisions, reef damage, and air pollution.  These monsters of the ocean are also huge water polluters.  Spending weeks and months out at sea, no ship would have a storage tank big enough to contain all the passenger generated waste.  The solution?  Dump at sea.  Well, they must dump pretty far out, right?  No.  Try 3 miles.  As soon as a cruise ship is 3 miles from shore (that takes about 20 minutes), these ships are free to let loose.  The right combination of tides and currents can sweep loads of lightly treated human sewage right back onshore in a matter of days.  Not only is this a health concern for your average shore dwelling citizen, it directly affects local fisheries.  Sudden increases in available nutrients are known causes of algae blooms, which can quickly render portions of the ocean anoxic.  For more information on the problem of cruise ships, and ways to protect the oceans, visit Oceana.


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