Protestors Block Cruise Ship From Calling on French Port

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When most cruise ships arrive in port, they are usually met with a warm welcome from the locals who are eager to share their culture and reap the economic benefits. But this clearly isn’t always the case in France. 

As the latest in a series of recent protests, around 20 activists from the Stop Cruises BZH Collective and Extinction Rebellion groups banded together to block Seven Seas Voyager—a cruise ship operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises—from entering the port of Concarneau, which is located in the Finistère department of Brittany in Northwestern France. 

The demonstration, which was held on Saturday, July 6, 2024, prevented the luxury vessel from entering the port – meaning the up to 706 passengers onboard and approximately 447 crew members were not allowed to disembark and explore the French commune as planned. 

While the ship did try, they likely could not safely navigate past the protestors, who were holding up banners from their own small boats that read “We’re the Iceberg,” in reference to the ill-fated Titanic. 

The climate change activists, who see the cruise industry as an environmental threat, celebrated their victory.

One member of the Stop Cruises BZH Collective, who was only identified by Sophie, said it was the first time the group had successfully cancelled a ship call in its entirety and not just caused delays or discomfort.

“No cruise liners called at Concarneau today. For us, that’s a success because we’re fighting against luxury cruise ships,” said one unidentified protestor to regional newspaper Ouest France. “We think they’re an ecological absurdity and a symbol of social inequality.”

But for the passengers onboard the 138,194-gross-ton ship, the last-minute cancellation was likely disappointing. 

As one of the top luxury cruise lines, Regent Seven Seas sailings cost quite a pretty penny, with the cruise line actually offering the most expensive cruise in the world embarking in 2027, which could cost up to $839,999 per guest

While Regent’s typical cruises aren’t quite that expensive, it would still be frustrating to miss out on an experience for something that didn’t have to happen, such as inclement weather that makes docking unsafe. 

The small cruise ship is currently operating a 14-night sailing throughout Spain, France, and Belgium, and a 79-night Grand Voyage simultaneously, which both began on June 28, 2024, in Lisbon, Portugal. 

Cruises Cause Controversy In France

The July 6th protest in Brittany is only the latest in a recent string of demonstrations by environmental activists in France. 

Earlier this year, on May 6, 2024, a similar demonstration was held in Brittany at the port in Douarnenez (Finistère) – this time to rally against the arrival of Silversea Cruises’ Silver Wind. 

While the 294-passenger vessel was able to dock this time, authorities on board were forced to limit the number of guests who could go ashore for safety reasons. 

Near the end of last year, on October 8, 2023, passengers aboard Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Traveller were met with around 80 activists dressed as polar bears and other animals to make their point. 

The protestors held signs that read messages like “Bear your polar shame” that were meant to shame guests for contributing to the negative environmental impact of cruising. 

In 2022, Benoît Payan, the mayor of Marseille, France, rallied his supporters to call for an end to pollution from ships – and cruise ships in particular – in the port. His petition garnered almost 50,000 signatures – which equates to about 6% of the local population. 

“We are suffocating, and in the Mediterranean Sea and in our ports, huge ships are polluting our air with complete impunity! Do you want this to stop? Me too. People of Marseille, let’s mobilize! Sign the petition,” Payan wrote on X at the time. 

Indeed, the negative environmental impact caused by cruises has been particularly controversial in Europe. Recent studies, such as a report released by NGO Transport and Entertainment in 2023 titled “The Return Of The Cruise: How Luxury Cruises Are Polluting European Cities” have helped to fuel the fire among activists. 

According to the authors, cruise ships released more than eight million tons of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – while sailing in European waters in 2022. 

These emissions would be equivalent to what would come from approximately 50,000 airplane flights from Paris to New York – a distance of 3,626.98 miles. 

Read Also: Discussions Begin on Daily Cruise Cap and Future at Greek Destination

That said, the cruise industry as a whole has become more conscious of its environmental impact – and cruise lines across the board have been working to implement more sustainable practices. 

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has set a goal for the industry to become completely carbon neutral by 2050 – a goal that cruising is on track to meet.

Sustainable changes are already in the works, such as switching to LNG engines, which use liquefied natural gas to power ships and can reduce the emissions of sulfur by 99-100%, carbon dioxide by 25%, and nitrogen oxide by 90%. 

There has also been a call to add shore power capabilities to both new and existing vessels. Shore power allows vessels to turn off their engines while in port and connect to the local power grid instead, which is a greener alternative to running the onboard engine. 

As of the time of publication, around 30% of today’s ships have shore power capabilities, per findings from CLIA – but that number is likely to grow. All CLIA-member ships that are constructed through 2028 are already being fitted with shore power capabilities. 

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