Cousteau to Cruise Industry: Educate Customers

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Prominent ocean environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau called on the cruise industry to better educate its customers on how to enjoy fragile seaways and shorelines.

"Pollution and coastal development are destroying the diversity of our marine life at an alarming rate," Cousteau said at the annual Ship to Shore conference here. "We are poisoning our planet's very life blood."

Cousteau's visit to the Alaska-oriented tourism gathering, which drew agents from throughout the U.S. and Canada, was arranged as a part of the United Nations' International Year of the Ocean.

"It is very important to educate tourists," Cousteau said. "Educated tourists enjoy their visits more, and they do the right things."

Cousteau, following in the footsteps of his father, Jacques Cousteau, who died a year ago, called on all segments of the tourism field, including cruise lines, to develop guidelines for their customers, advising them on how to care for the ecology.

Moderating a later panel discussion, Rick James, Princess Cruises' senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications and the current chairman of Cruise Lines International Association, defended his industry's contribution to environmental education.

"I think the industry fully understands its responsibilities to the oceans," James said. "This is where we make our living. We all have become cognizant [of] those responsibilities, and I'm very pleased to see how the industry has moved forward on [environmental education]."

Nevertheless, James acknowledged that more could be done and pledged to carry Cousteau's comments back to his colleagues in CLIA.

"Jean-Michel's words were not lost on us," James said. "I have a 13-year-old son, and it's important to me that, in the years ahead, he can go cruising and enjoy the experience that I have enjoyed."

On another topic, when asked by an agent why Alaska per diems, even allowing for discounts, were invariably higher than in, say, the Caribbean, James said that was a function of "supply and demand and the short Alaska season."

Another panelist, Kirk Lanterman, the chairman and chief executive officer of Holland America-Westours, noted that, in Alaska, ships were required to carry pilots on board at all times -- at a cost of $4,000 to $5,000 a day -- whereas elsewhere pilots generally were required only for a short time when entering and leaving port.

And he noted that, in many places in Alaska, cruise lines were investing in infrastructure commitments that needed funding -- as in the case, he said, of the dock Princess built for its ships in Juneau.

The city liked the concept so much, according to Lanterman, that it then assessed other cruise lines to fund an upgrade of other dock facilities. Then, too, he pointed out, fuel is more expensive in Alaska than elsewhere because of local taxes.

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