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Planning your cruise holiday: 20 million reasons to skip this one cruise line?

Earlier this summer, Carnival Corporation was ordered to pay a $20 million (£15.7 million) fine after its ships were found to be dumping plastic waste directly into the ocean. It would be bad enough if this were the first time that this had come up, but Carnival has already paid $40 million (£31.4 million) in fines for dumping in the ocean.

You may well know Carnival by the Carnival name, but you may just as well know the company from some of the brands it owns like P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Holland America.

At MyWalletHero, we cover how you can make the most of your money. When it comes to travel, that usually means something like choosing the best travel credit card or how cash compares as a way to spend on holidays. You may also know, though, that at both MyWalletHero and our parent company, The Motley Fool, we are committed in general to helping our readers be ‘smarter, happier and richer’.

How to spend while on holiday or how to pay for your holiday fits that aim rather obviously. But it may not be as clear how the fine-inducing woes of Carnival might apply. But my take is that knowing how your spending affects the world around you can indeed make you richer if it’s helping you make more informed choices. And making spending choices that align with your values undoubtedly can make you happier.

What if you just don’t care?

I get it. There are many people for whom the environment is not a particularly big concern, especially when it comes to planning your holiday. ‘Leave me alone and let me get my relaxing time away.’

But there’s an underlying economic issue at play here. It’s called ‘externalities’, and it refers to the knock-on impacts that an activity has that are not reflected in the costs associated with that action. An example would be somebody that lives in an apartment building and blasts their TV at otherworldly volumes. That high volume may be something they enjoy. It’s likely not something that every other tenant around them enjoys. Yet, the annoyance to their neighbours isn’t a ‘cost’ that the TV-blaster faces. That cost is fully borne by the neighbours.

Or, case in point: If you’re a cruise ship and you dump dirty plastic waste in the middle of the ocean, there’s no direct cost for that. In fact, it saves the dumping company money since they don’t have to bear the cost of properly disposing of it.

Awarding a company that’s doing those sorts of things with business is rewarding perverted economics.

Or you could look at it from a simpler perspective and get the economics out of the way. A company that does something like this is ruining exactly the areas that we want to go to in order to get away from it all and enjoy beautiful scenery. The case at hand with Carnival involved dumping into waters near the Bahamas. I’ve yet to travel to the Bahamas, so I definitely say ‘boo’ to that – I’d like garbage-free waters when I finally do get there, thank you very much.

Is there an Earth-friendly cruise?

Giant ships that carry hundreds or thousands of passengers over many miles of ocean are unlikely to ever be particularly friendly to the ecosystem. This is reflected by the ‘Cruise Ship Report Card’ created by US non-profit Friends of the Earth, which rates just one cruise line A- (Disney Cruise Line) and the next highest grade is Norwegian, at C-. They’ve given all Carnival-owned lines an automatic F grade because of the continued polluting.

If Carnival can figure out how to stop flouting dumping rules, there could be some comparably better options from the broader Carnival group for hopping on a cruise for your holiday. Princess would have garnered a C grade had it not been for the automatic F, and Holland America would have been at C-. Not great, but at least ‘middle of the road’ rather than ‘bottom of the barrel’.

And while cruise ships may not be especially eco-friendly in many cases, it is easy to argue that 1,000 holiday makers on one ship is likely better for the environment than 1,000 separate yachts chugging through the ocean. Just as it’s more eco-efficient to cram a bunch of people onto a bus rather than a fleet of individual cars.

Mindful money

When we talk about ‘getting the most out of our money’, that most often means getting as much ‘stuff’ as possible for a given amount of money. And that’s often a good way to think to help make your money stretch further and keep more in your pocket.

But equally rewarding can be taking a mindful approach to what we’re spending that money on. I can readily admit that I used to buy the cheapest pair of shoes that fit what I was generally looking for. But this approach often didn’t work out that well for me. The shoes would often prove uncomfortable over time, or simply start falling apart quite quickly. I’d spent less on my initial purchase, but I had to go back and make another purchase much sooner than I’d hoped.

The same can be true when it comes to spending on holidays. When we travel, the hope is that we’re going to enjoy ourselves and create great memories to look back on. Investing more in the planning and thought of the trip can help make it all the more memorable. And feeling really great about what kind of trip we’re taking – i.e. one that supports companies and travel operators that do things the ‘right’ way (however you want to define that) – can do the same.

So look, I’m not going to tell you how to plan your trip or which company to choose to take you to your fabulous destinations. I won’t even say ‘Stay away from those dodgy folks at Carnival’. But what I do suggest is putting some thought into not only how much you’re spending on your next holiday, but also how you’re spending for your next holiday.

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