Americans booed while disembarking cruise ship in western France

The Local France
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Americans booed while disembarking cruise ship in western France
Members of the anti-cruise collective (anti-croisieres) take part in a demonstration in Douarnenez, western France (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)

Protests, saucepans and cries of 'go home' greeted arrivals from a luxury cruise liner in France on Sunday as anger grows at the activities of the high-polluting ships.


Around 80 people gathered at Douarnenez, a port-town located in the Finistère département in western France, on Sunday to protest the arrival of the cruise ship 'World Traveller' owned by the US-based company Atlas Ocean Voyages.

As passengers descended from the boat, they were met with banging saucepans and chants of 'shame on you', 'go home' and 'You are not welcome, we don’t need your money'.

According to Le Parisien, the protesters sought to denounce the negative environmental impact of cruise ships. 

Cruise ships are known to be huge polluters - a 2019 study by the NGO Transport & Environment found that cruise ships were responsible for more pollution than all of Europe's automobiles combined.

This is not the first time French environmental activists have denounced the presence of the ships, and some cities - like Marseille, a popular cruise destination - have instituted regulations for ships' emissions. 

AFP also reported that other cruise ship disembarkations had to be cancelled or organised under police escort in Douarnenez in recent months.


One American tourist - Eric Scott, from Seattle - was among the passengers who was booed at. Afterwards, the 49-year-old told Le Parisien that it was "a useful educational experience. That's one of the reasons we travel - to get perspectives from other places."

Scott also told Le Parisien that he "understands the goal to advocate for environmental responsibility. Does that mean no boat trips? I don't know."

The cruise company, headquartered in Florida, caters to wealthy clients, many of whom are American - with pricing and the currency on-board set to US dollars, as well as FAQ and visa information for US and Canadian passport holders. 

The World Traveller has the capacity for less than 200 passengers, with costs ranging from $8,499 (€8,048) to $13,999 (€13,257) per passenger, according to Le Parisien.

During this trip, the cruise ship was scheduled for a 10-day cruise from Dublin to Lisbon. Later in November, it will take passengers on a 10-day trip to Antarctica.  


Some of the protesters present on Sunday were there to specifically push back against the company's planned expedition in Antarctica.

One environmentalist, who refused to give her real name, told Le Parisien that disagreed with the fact that these boats "spend all their time going back and forth between the poles to do last-chance tourism: see the last penguins, the last polar bears, the last icebergs. It's indecent."

She added that the point of Sunday's mobilisation was to raise awareness for the ongoing climate crisis that has particularly affected by global warming.

Another protester told Le Parisien that their goal is to "denounce the [cruise ship] industry".

The battle against cruise ships

Marseille, one of Europe's most polluted ports according to a recent study, recently welcomed in new Mediterranean-wide rules requiring that cruise ships to cut sulphur oxide emissions by 80 percent - and signalled that it wants to go further to reduce pollution.


According to Greenpeace France, the "75 cruise ships that docked in the city in 2022 emitted twice as much SOx (sulphur oxides) as all the cars registered in the city". On a broader scale, "the 218 cruise ships in Europe emitted as much sulphur oxide as a billion vehicles" last year, added the NGO.

The new rules will come into place thanks to a decision by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to designate the entire Mediterranean an Emission Control Area for sulphur oxides and particulate matter.

READ MORE: Marseille to impose tighter restrictions on cruise ships

That means that from May 1st, 2025, ships operating in it will be required to comply with a limit for sulphur content in fuel oil that is a fifth of the legal limit outside this area, or 0.1 percent against permitted levels of 0.5 percent outside the Med, while permitted particulate matter levels will be cut by nearly 25 percent.

On a local level, French cities are also taking action against liners - in summer of 2022, the mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan, launched a petition against pollution in the Mediterranean caused by cruise liners, which collected over 44,000 signatures. In Nice, mayor Christian Estrosi is reportedly considering banning ships greater than 180 metres in length from docking at the city's port.


Meanwhile in La Rochelle, on France's western coast, local authorities have set the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. To do so, they plan to reduce the number of ocean liners allowed to anchor in the port city. 

Other European port-cities have also proposed decreasing the number of cruise ships allowed to dock.

In 2021, Venice put a stop to cruise ships docking in its historical centre. "Damage to the lagoon saw UNESCO threaten to put the city on its endangered list unless the ships were permanently banned," Euronews reported. 

Former Barcelona mayor Ada Colau had suggested limiting the number of cruise ship passengers allowed to disembark on the Catalan capital to 10,000 people per day, according to Catalan News.


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