Celebrity, can't you promote reef conservation and snorkeling safety?

Caroline checks out a snorkeling site on Vanuatu.  Swimmer, snorkeler, PADI rescue diver, and previously lifeguard certified, with Italian made Cressi mask, snorkel, and fins... she is prepared.  

I really just want to comment on 2 things that relate to the Celebrity Solstice, and perhaps most cruise ships.  The first is safety in a reef environment (snorkeling).  The second is a commitment to reef conservation.

"National Geographic" gear
The Celebrity Solstice shore excursion team promotes snorkeling gear sales.  I'm not sure who makes this equipment, but it is sold under a licensing agreement allowing for the "National Geographic" label to be attached (as if NG has any specialized experience in snorkeling gear... you won't find any real divers using it).  The insinuation is that, if National Geographic endorses this gear, the gear is quality, and you are going to have a great and safe time snorkeling.  Who needs, say, Cressi, Mares, or Oceanic gear when you can have... “National Geographic”?  Oh, and this is the "new" National Geographic, that is owned by Rupert Murdoch (73% stake), and organized as partnering with... 21st Century Fox. In other words, "National Geographic" of old is not NG of new.  Buyer beware.

Regardless of the origin of this equipment, there is NO instruction to go along with the snorkeling gear sales.  It's a "Buy our gear, and have fun" mentality.  People die when snorkeling (there seems to be an epidemic of it this year in Hawaii).  Why, the salespeople will even sell this equipment to - stay with me here - people who can't swim!  People who have respiratory or heart disease! People who suffer from panic attacks!

"Hi, I'd like to buy a snorkel set.  I have high blood pressure, can't swim, and I have a cold."

"Yes sir!  Which model would you like?"

Which snorkelers from the Solstice have a clue what they are doing?  Lifou, New Caledonia.

What is needed?  It should be a no-brainer for the Solstice to have onboard a qualified person who can give workshops in snorkeling 101: safe snorkeling, and how to use and maintain their equipment.  What qualifies such an instructor?  It’s not necessarily a lifeguard. I’ve been certified as a lifeguard twice, and nothing in the training focused on snorkeling. Even SCUBA divemasters and instructors have limited training focused on snorkeling.  And, in addition, knowledge, skills, and ability don’t transfer well if communication skills aren’t there.  So the ideal trainer would be someone who has had lifeguard training (focused on prevention of injury), SCUBA training (using multiple brands of equipment, problem solving when equipment fails, mask and snorkel maintenance), and experience as a communicator (getting the key messages across).

What preparation do these people have for snorkeling safely?

It isn't happening.  And when a cruise promotes a reef and snorkeling destination (in my case, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and the Great Barrier Reef), it should be responsible for what it promotes.

That brings me to issue number 2.  Reef conservation. 

A plea to visitors of Jinek Bay to not
 use reef-harming sunscreens.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council, that Celebrity and parent company Royal Caribbean say they support, requires collaborators to "Maximize social and economic benefits to the local community and minimize negative impacts." This includes being "...aware of, and mitigates, activity with potential to disturb wildlife and habitats." 

I want to comment on the negative impacts that are being ignored.  The Solstice sells only reef-harming sunscreens.  The Solstice doesn't tell people how to avoid harming the reef (3000+ guests = 6000+ potential feet on the reef).  We've seen people stand on the reef and break off pieces of coral.  

Sunscreens containing oxybenzone for sale on the Solstice.

Solstice has no program to encourage the consumption of sustainably caught seafood (and no system to allow guests to identify it).  The Solstice does not inform its guests about sea turtle-safe practices on the beach, and avoiding sea turtle curios at the gift shops.  And during one of my cruises, the Solstice had as its onboard naturalist a... glass artist?  My friend Barrie Gilbert has given lectures on cruise boats with bears as his subject.  Barrie also has a PhD in animal behavior, 30 plus years of experience working with bears, and a life-altering experience under his belt when he was mauled by a grizzly.  Now that’s an onboard naturalist!

Factoid from daily newsletter on the Solstice.  Okay, Celebrity... what do you recommend that your guests do?

So, for a company that DEPENDS on a healthy reef and ocean for the best customer experience, Celebrity doesn't seem to put any effort into... reef conservation.  And 3000+ guests can have an impact, particularly in the behaviors they bring back to their communities, information they share with their friends, and their purchasing choices.  

The ocean isn't just a playground, Celebrity.  It's an essential source of food and jobs for billions of people, and home to countless marine organisms.  Please demand that your guests take care of it.



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