ecofriendly travel

A Clean Breakaway (A Post-Trip Blog Part III)

By Elias Rodriguez

Docked at Bermuda’s Sandys parish, Norwegian Breakaway ran a clean house with a welcome zeal for good hygiene.

Docked at Bermuda’s Sandys parish, Norwegian Breakaway ran a clean house with a welcome zeal for good hygiene.

All aboard with Captain Clean! New York City is now the homeport of a brand new cruise ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, a ship that my family and I vacationed on this summer as noted in my earlier blog entries. The ocean liner was inaugurated in 2013 and is justifiably proud of a plethora of earth-friendly technology and energy saving bells and whistles.

As a first-time cruiser, I found one low-tech feature onboard to be tremendously prescient and comforting. Hand sanitizer stations are strategically located throughout the ship. The small discreet blue gel machines are a ubiquitous reminder to practice good personal hygiene and wash, wash, wash. Is a hand washing machine an odd thing to notice on a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean? Not if you potentially end up with diarrhea and vomiting.

Given the high media attention whenever there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on a cruise ship, I was gratified that our cruise line was extremely attentive to cleanliness and demonstrated a zeal for hand cleaning and disinfection. Sea sicknesses is largely weather contingent and a fact of life on the rolling and rollicking high seas. On the other hand, nobody wants to ruin their hard-earned vacation due to an avoidable illness.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control has a comprehensive vessel sanitization program with tips on avoiding noroviruses. Sharing public areas with 4,000+ plus fellow mariners in a confined space over the course of a week can breed innumerable opportunities for contamination to spread and create an outbreak. To avoid potential illnesses onboard or on land, common sense tips include washing your hands often, especially before meals.

Norwegian takes this idea seriously and it shows. Besides the hundreds of hand sanitizing stands, a hand-washing station was built into the main entrance of the massive buffet area (Garden Café) that comprises a significant area of the aft portion of deck 15. On every floor, signs inside each restroom ask that one wash, use hand blowers and then use a paper towel to open the door handle upon exiting as an extra measure of safety. Waste baskets are located just outside the restroom for disposal of the paper towels.

As if this were not enough of a precaution, when entering or leaving the ship at port each passenger is greeted by (ever cheerfully smiling) crew members who hand you (by the use of tongs) a wet sanitized cloth towel for a quick hand cleansing. This cruise line leaves no excuse for anyone not to wash or sanitize their hands several times a day.

Without question, the cruise line’s philosophy on cleanliness was clearly conveyed. I kind of felt like placing hand sanitizers in every room at home, though it would be difficult to match my wife’s color schemes. Wherever you chose to vacation, I hope you keep it clean and have a healthy trip.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Waters that Speak in Color (A Post-Trip Blog Part II)

By Elias Rodriguez

Azure announces another astonishing attractive day at Bermuda’s King’s Wharf

Azure announces another astonishing attractive day at Bermuda’s King’s Wharf

How many colors can water reflect? As a native New Yorker, I’ve spent many a day gazing into Manhattan’s East River and its companion Hudson River. The river view offers a change of perspective and a connection with the tug boats, ocean liners and commercial vessels passing by.  This summer my family and I had the pleasure of taking our first cruise and I had time to reflect on the river. We sailed from Manhattan’s West Side across the Sargasso Sea to the Royal Naval Dockyard in majestic Bermuda. Our ship was the Norwegian Breakaway, a state-of-the-art vessel inaugurated in 2013 with New York City as its homeport. You can read about the ship’s eco-friendly design and technology in my previous blogs.

One striking visage throughout our voyage was the changing color of the water beneath our balcony view. Water color is affected by light and by what is dissolved and suspended within it. The sky and other factors impact the colors we see. While docked in Manhattan, the river was a shadowy miasma of green~brown~black – a living testimony to the city’s liquid legacy of combined sewer overflows. If you don’t know what a floatable is then you can catch up by perusing our annual report.

The view from Breakaway on our second day displays how light and water collaborate on a stunning panorama.

The view from Breakaway on our second day displays how light and water collaborate on a stunning panorama.

Once under way, we glided under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on the strait that connects New York’s upper and lower bays and functions as a thoroughfare for ships to travel from the Hudson River into the Atlantic Ocean. Here the water gradually gathered a hopeful grey tint.

Somewhere along the New York Bight, the waters became liberated and danced into an authentic blue. As dusk approached, my water color observations became elusive, but upon the enchanting sunrise the water had transformed into a regal violet blue. Indeed, on day two, well into our heading for Bermuda, the ocean was resplendent in its mantle of aqua, ultramarine, midnight and navy.  A wondrous diversity of shades performed a ballet of sways and swells. As my mind’s eye wandered across sailor and pirate stories, the ship’s bow formed a buoyant bouquet of folds and foam. 673 nautical miles later, the clear waters and pink sands of Bermuda offered a welcome respite from the chaotic cacophony of city life.

As a first-time mariner, my Norwegian cruise granted me a renewed appreciation for how the color of the water is a vivid reflection of our care for planet Earth. The North Atlantic’s deep blue speaks volumes about our responsibility for a priceless, but limited resource. Conversely, the waters around most of Manhattan possesses an opaque hue which serves as a pungent wake-up call that human waste does not escape into some nameless vacuum. The enduring murk embracing the pier relegates any obscurity one might harbor about the impacts of waste water and our failure to address it. The psalmist wrote, “Deep calls to deep,” and surely judgment on our stewardship of the water is pronounced in living colors.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Cruise with an Environmental Wave (A Post-Trip Blog Part I)

By Elias Rodriguez

At Bermuda’s Horseshoe Bay I met a small friend who became camera shy. Hint: Find the crab!

At Bermuda’s Horseshoe Bay I met a small friend who became camera shy. Hint: Find the crab!

As noted in my earlier blog, my family and I just enjoyed our first cruise ever and chose the Norwegian Breakaway as our vacation getaway this summer. This brand new ship was inaugurated in 2013 and Manhattan is its homeport.

The Breakaway was a spectacular success with the Rodriguez tribe. Our highlights included succulent lobster at Le Bistro, pulse-pounding dancing by Burn the Floor and exceptional jazz with Slam Allen at Fat Cats.  However, the eminent question for me was, “Could one sail on the high seas with minimal impact to the planet?”  The Norwegian Cruise Line is mindful of an Eco-Smart Cruising philosophy, which was evident throughout the ship. The vessel relies on emission reduction technology in the navigation system, efficient water management systems, heat recovery features, an optimized hull, and a host of environmentally-friendly gear and protocols onboard.

One particularly nifty piece of handiwork was the remote control system in our stateroom. In order for the air conditioning and lighting in the room to work, you must deliberately insert your cruise identification card or Sea Pass into a slot inside your room. If no card is in the slot, the air conditioning and lighting are not activated. (Don’t worry, the small refrigerator is unaffected.) The concept is about personal responsibility, awareness of your personal use of power and the benefits of saving energy. Each guest becomes acutely aware that their card is in use to power the room for their personal benefit. This paradigm works especially well since the card is utilized for just about everything onboard and people become keenly aware of where their card is at all times. My family never wondered if, as we do at home, we had accidently left the lights on because that would mean that someone from our party would be without their Sea Pass.

The stateroom card mechanism also discouraged Energy Hogs from blasting the AC to keep the temperature icy upon their return – a wasteful habit that is worthy of elimination.  Another plus for energy conservation was the fact that the AC would not activate unless the balcony door was both closed and locked thereby ensuring that any drafts were properly addressed. This room design might seem insignificant or annoying to power hungry types, but when you multiple the energy savings by 4,000+ passengers onboard, the cumulative benefits are remarkable. My kids became more aware of their energy use each time they retreated to the room. I soon noticed them enjoying the ocean breeze from our balcony and relaxing by sunlight without even inserting their cards at all.

Norwegian Cruise Line should be applauded for their environmental stewardship and visionary new ship. There is something pleasantly other-worldly about eating a Sabrett’s NY hot dog while you watch the Sargasso Sea coast by beneath you. Our cruise was a memorable trip with an eco-friendly vibe that respected the excursion’s main attraction: the big blue ocean. May all who sail it convey a message of conservation and responsibility.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

All Aboard for a Green on Blue Vacation (A Pre-Trip Blog)

By Elias Rodriguez

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway

All aboard! My family and I are totally psyched about going on our first cruise ever! The Norwegian Cruise (NCLH) Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, departs from Manhattan’s Westside and will serve as our vacation getaway this summer. The idea of a vacation without back seat interrogations, (“Are we there yet?”), amusement park purgatory or speeding ticket torture (“Thanks Tampa, I owe you one!”) is immensely appealing to this working dad. As a native New Yorker, I should feel right at home since the Breakaway’s creators partnered with such New York icons as the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and the artist Peter Max to give the ship a New York look and feel.

The Rodriguez clan is excited about the many eating venues, top deck aqua park and shows onboard, but I am looking forward to getting a firsthand view of the innovative green technology touted by the cruise line. Apparently, the company is an environmental innovator. They tout a so-called Eco-Smart Cruising philosophy, so choosing them for our maiden voyage on the high seas seemed like a natural fit.

Emission reduction technology in the navigation system, a myriad of energy efficiency features and fuel oil recovery are among the many environmentally-friendly designs onboard. During my research on the Internet, many message boards note that the staterooms have a built in system that remotely turns off the in-room air conditioning and lighting when unoccupied. A few posts noted it as an annoyance, but one could easily see the cumulative benefits of such a system in terms of saving energy.

Norwegian’s Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Sheehan, has stated that, “Being environmentally conscious is of the utmost importance” to the firm.  Well, I will experience first-hand what that means on their brand new ship.  My wife, kids and I are all hoping for a relaxing, entertaining and earth-friendly trip. If you have any tips for us first-time mariners, feel free to post. I will be sure to report back after we, eh, Breakaway.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.