Ecoship MSC Divina helps keep the ocean clean

    Seconds after the christening of the MSC Divina in late May 2012, it was time for streamers, lights and music. Photo: Helen Ueckermann

Seconds after the christening of the MSC Divina in late May 2012, it was time for streamers, lights and music. Photo: Helen Ueckermann

Travellers interested in cruises may remember the furious protests in Venice last month when the MSC Divina, labelled a “monster ship” in some media, entered the waters of the ancient Italian lagoon city.MSC Divina was the largest ship to ever visit Venice.

Environmentalists carrying “No Big Ship” banners made their point and used the event to step up their efforts to have large cruise ships banned from the city, calling on the ship’s godmother, Italian actress Sophia Loren, to ditch her endorsement of the ship, adding that it contributed to the destruction of Venice, a world heritage site.Complaints, with which I wholly agree, ranged from the huge ship blocking views to massive air pollution, damage to the delicate maritime area that is the Venice lagoon and the very real possibility of the ship’s vibrations, the lapping waves in its wake as well as the displacement of huge volumes of water damaging the foundations of historic palaces and churches in the city.Silvio Testa, spokesperson of the No Big Ships Venice Committee, reportedly claimed that the ship produces the same amount of pollution in an hour as 15 000 cars, and that the pollution it causes contains 15 times as much sulphur than car fumes.

Now that is mouthful and could put any environmentally aware traveller off cruising forever.

However, I believe there are a few positive points to be made about MSC Divina and its sister ships cruising the oceans of the world. I had the privilege of attending the christening of MSC Divina by the lovely Ms Loren in the French Mediterranean port of Marseilles towards the end of May and spent three nights on the luxury cruiser. During my stay on board I made it a point to learn more about the ship’s carbon footprint, completely unsuspecting of the furore that was to follow a few days later in Venice. But more about that later.

MSC Divina, named in honour of MSC Cruises’ “godmother” Sophia Loren, is modelled on her sister-ships, MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia, but features some remarkable enhancements.

“Experience classic glamour in high-tech comfort,” it says on the MSC website, and truly, that is no exaggeration.

The Infinity Pool in the aft of the ship, with its “beach zone” adjoining the glass balustrade, offers a unique view of the ship’s wake fading into the sunset. And if you’re travelling in the expanded MSC Yacht Club, you can relax in style in the Top Sail Lounge.

It is a first class hotel on waves with a spa, sports club, shopping centre and entertainment complex where you can enjoy a cosy coffee break, a quiet stroll or a romantic drink beneath the stars. A floating holiday destination indeed.There are six restaurants to choose from, 17 bars and lounges, for entertainment you can go to the theatre, attend a 4D cinema, visit the card room, the cyber library, or try your luck at the casino. If it is shopping you are after, five shops will keep you occupied.

The luxury mega vessel can accommodate a total of 3 959 guests and 1 325 crew, has a total of 18 decks of which 13 are passenger decks, 13 elevators, and weighs 133 500 tonnes.

With all that, it stands to reason that MSC Divina will have a considerable carbon footprint, but despite that obvious deduction, the ship has been awarded the 6 Golden Pearls award by the leading international classification society Bureau Veritas.

This is one of the highest awards for cruise vessels in recognition of specific voluntary attention paid, from design to operation, in relation to “Quality Health Safety Environment”. MSC Divina also received the additional classification notation “Cleanship 2 ship”, for the three domains of potential pollution of air, water and waste.

The ship’s hull was designed for maximum fuel efficiency and energy saving devices for efficient energy production with regard to engines, propellers, motors, etc. It further boasts  last generation 5 diesel engines, an automatic system to reduce cooling in case the cabin is not occupied, lighting optimization with led lightings and low consumption bulbs, as well as a continuous temperature control including an optimized system when the balcony door is open or the cabin card is not in place.MSC Divina, just like all other ships in the MSC fleet, has an environmental officer responsible for all environmental issues on board. This includes the monitoring of up-to-date recycling and waste disposal procedures to ensure the implementation of the highest possible technological standards for sewage treatment and disposal. The environmental officer also ensures the careful, frugal use of resources, such as water and energy and is responsible for the training of crew members dealing with recycling procedures as well as the handling, collection, sorting and disposal of garbage.

The MSC Cruises also employs a shore based environmental co-ordinator responsible for overseeing all environmental operations throughout the fleet. This also ensures that on board conservation and environmental measures are supported ashore when the ships are in port.

One cannot expect a huge cruise ship not to have a carbon footprint, just as one would not expect that of any hotel or holiday resort. We can, however, expect cruising companies to do their utmost to protect our environment so that our children and and their offspring can enjoy the same great relaxing holidays that only a good cruise ship can offer. I believe that MSC Divina passes that test.

I will cruise with MSC Cruises again, if I ever get the chance, but let’s steer clear of ancient, fragile, beloved and beautiful world heritage sites like Venice, shall we?

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