It was early evening, and I was sitting in Maltings Whiskey Bar on the newly launched Norwegian Cruise Line ship Bliss when a friend ordered a couple of icy piña coladas. The drinks, blended rum concoctions garnished with pineapple wedges, were frothy and appealing. But something was missing: plastic straws.
The bartender clued us in: Norwegian has banned plastic straws on its ships. I wasn't surprised. Hotels, cities and theme parks have been in the news for similar bans in a rapidly accelerating movement to eliminate the plastic tubes from the environment. Why not cruise lines? They have a lot at stake when it comes to the world's oceans.
Conservationists say millions of plastic straws go into the trash daily without being recycled. In most cases, they're used once but can last 100 years or more in the ocean. They kill marine life, ruin beaches and add to the sea of plastics found floating in oceans around the globe.
Among the growing number of cities protesting are Malibu, Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, each of which has gone to war with the plastic straw, banning it from their municipalities.
Some theme parks are getting in the act too. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. has removed single-use plastic drinking straws and shopping bags from its parks.
Even Queen Elizabeth II has jumped on the bandwagon, issuing a royal decree banning plastic straws and bottles from all royal estates, cafes and gift shops.
Norwegian's mega-ship Bliss, cruising in Alaska for the summer, became straw-free when Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings joined the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance, another environmental group involved in the campaign.
“The success of our business is dependent on the health of our oceans,” said Frank Del Rio, NCL president and chief executive, in a statement. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. operates Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands.
Other cruise lines are in the process of eliminating straws too.
On July, 2 expedition cruise line Hurtigruten banned from its ships “all unnecessary single-use plastic,” including plastic straws, drink stirrers, plastic glasses, coffee lids and plastic bags. The line, best known for its Norwegian coastal cruises, will furnish passengers with metal straws.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. plans to ditch plastic straws by 2019 on the 50 ships representing its brands, including Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity and Azamara Club Cruises. It currently includes plastic straws with an order only when passengers request them. Beginning next year, guests who request a straw will receive one made of paper rather than plastic.
Carnival Corp. ships also have a "request-only" policy. Plastic straws aren't served with sodas or cocktails; if you want one, you must request it. Carnival Corp. includes such brands as Carnival, Princess, Cunard, Holland America, Seabourn and Carnival.
Carnival makes an exception for frozen drinks. That makes a lot of sense to me after trying to drink a piña colada without a straw, spoon or other utensil that might help break up the ice. I laughed when my friend got so frustrated attempting to loosen up the beverage that he dumped a large chunk of pineapple-flavored ice on his nose.
The waiter, who must see this embarrassing faux pas re-enacted several times nightly, suppressed a grin.
"I can give you paper straw if you request it," he said. I did.
But the paper straw wasn't up to the task, either. It disintegrated before it loosened the ice.