SAN FRANCISCO -- Princess Cruises has invested millions of dollars in upgrading its older vessels and designing new ships so that they have as little negative impact on the environment as possible, according to Richard Wade, the line's vice president of environmental health.

After the line was fined several years ago for illegal dumping, it instituted a tough environmental program.

The program includes recycling, the installation of clean-burning incinerators and the use of energy-efficient water-treatment systems on board.

In addition, the ships have biological sewage- treatment plants so that nothing harmful is dumped into sea, said Wade, who spoke at the New Travel Expo.

The line also took such steps as halting the use of balloons and streamers as part of the shipboard farewell parties and doing away with skeet-shooting and the hitting of golf balls into the sea.

In cabins, the line stopped using the small plastic containers of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion that are used once and then discarded.

Once upon a time, Princess used such items at a frequency of 7.5 million per year.

The line replaced these with toiletries in cardboard containers that can be incinerated.

The result of the pro-gram was a dramatic reduction in waste, down from 80 cubic feet to 10 cubic feet on a typical weeklong cruise.

"We realize that our ships can do a lot of damage, so we developed a policy to be a leader in the travel industry in terms of minimizing our impact," he said.

In fact, Wade said, "ships are not terribly polluting" when such programs are in place, compared with trains, planes and automobiles.

Environmental safeguards are much stricter than they were 10 years ago, when it was standard practice in the industry to dump garbage over the side of a ship.

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