Ambassador Cruise Line has apologized to passengers for recently docking in the Faroe Islands while a local hunting tradition was underway.
The centuries-old hunt is not regularly scheduled but can occur at any time during the summer months when the whales are nearby, and unfortunately took place while the cruise line’s Ambition was in port.
Cruise Passengers Witness Whale Hunt
Ambassador Cruise Line’s Ambition – formerly AIDAmira – was docked in Torshavn on Sunday, July 9, 2023 when the traditional whale hunt occurred. The 48,300-gross ton ship can host 1,248 guests at double occupancy and as many as 1,727 passengers when fully booked. During the summer, the Mistral-class cruise ship is more likely to be sailing with a higher number of guests.
Those guests did not expect to see what could be considered a gruesome custom take place as they arrived at the capital of the Faroe Islands. In the late afternoon, however, they witnessed scenes of the mass hunt and its messy aftermath, during which 78 long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) were killed.
According to Yahoo! News Australia, the ship’s guests were shocked to see the activities close to shore on Sunday afternoon, near where the cruise ship was docked. In less than an hour, the water was distinctly red in the nearby harbor, as scenes played out on shore where the animals had been beached.
Ambassador Cruise Line apologized the next day, objecting to the hunt and reaffirming the company’s commitment to marine conservation and sustainability.
“We were incredibly disappointed that this hunt occurred at the time that our ship was in port. We strongly object to this outdated practice,” the cruise line stated. “Sustainability is one of Ambassador Cruise Line’s core values, and we fully appreciate that witnessing this local event would have been distressing for the majority of guests onboard. Accordingly, we would like to sincerely apologise to them for any undue upset.”
The cruise line’s CEO, Christian Verhounig, reiterated the cruise line’s partnership with ORCA, a charity dedicated to studying and protecting whales, dolphins, and porpoises in UK and European waters, and further expressed disappointment in the ongoing hunting practice.
“We are dedicated to supporting ORCA in their endeavours to collect data and to monitor whales and dolphins and we are extremely disappointed that this has happened after weeks of trying to open constructive dialogue with the Faroese government and Visit Faroes on these issues,” Verhounig said.
“We continue to educate our guests and crew not to buy or eat any whale or dolphin meat and stand against any profiteering from commercial whaling and dolphin hunts.”
Ambassador’s partnership with ORCA includes a first-ever cruise “anti-whaling” campaign and pledge that firmly states “Ambassador Cruise Line is opposed to all commercial whaling.” This includes urging the Faroese Government to end their hunting practices.
The cruise line even brings ocean conservationists onboard select sailings to offer educational programs to guests as well as to collect data to further support conservation efforts, but it is not known if one of these conservationists was onboard Ambition during the impacted cruise.
Ambition is currently sailing an 11-night “Iceland’s Land of Ice & Fire” itinerary that departed Belfast on Thursday, July 6, and called at Liverpool prior to the port stop in Torshavn. The cruise has continued on to ports of call throughout Iceland.
Ambassador Cruise Line has continued visits to Torshavn planned with both Ambition as well as its larger ship, Ambience. Other cruise lines that visit the Faroe Islands, which are located between the UK and Iceland, include Azamara Cruises, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Viking Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and more.
Protestors of the hunt have urged all cruise lines to boycott the Faroe Islands until the practice is halted.
About the Traditional Hunt
Called “grindadráp” in Faroese, the drive-style hunt is a community effort that brings in large numbers of pilot whales – which are actually a dolphin species and are not considered threatened or endangered – to be beached for hunting. The practice dates back more than 1,000 years, and is an important part of local history and culture.
The meat and blubber are still consumed as a delicacy and are distributed throughout the community.
Since 1948, hunts have been closely regulated and participants must be properly trained and supervised by local police. Hunting is only permitted on authorized beaches, and special weapons thought to minimize cruelty and better preserve the meat are required to be used.
In recent decades, however, the hunt has drawn increasing criticism from conservationists and animal rights activists, as well as individuals and groups concerned about the potential toxicity of eating whale meat. Protests and boycotts are common surrounding the hunt, including among local residents.