Royal Caribbean Cruises recently launched the massive Oasis of the Seas, a 1,181-foot, 225,282-ton cruise ship (by comparison, the Titantic was 882 feet, 46,000 tons) with a capacity of 5,400 passengers and 2,165 crew. The ship has been in the works for years and was first commissioned when the cruising business was in better shape than today.

Cruises have taken some well-earned environmental knocks over the years — cruise ships dump waste into the seas, emit tons of CO2 and other pollutants through their smokestacks, and regularly disgorge thousands of people into remote and sometimes ecologically fragile environments. I'm grossly generalizing of course — there are always exceptions to the rule — but for the most part, cruise ships have not been compatible with a clean, healthy environment.

The Oasis of the Seas is far from green, but it does make some strides in the greener direction. The ship's huge liquefied natural gas fueled engines come equipped with pollution scrubbers that completely eliminate all SOx emissions, cut NOx emissions by 80 percent and CO2 by more than 20 percent. Manufacturer Wärtsilä claims Oasis of the Seas will use 25 percent less power than smaller but similar cruise ships. The ship will also process its own waste on board, reusing the wastewater and dumping nothing into the ocean. It's the first cruise ship to have a large tropical park filled with thousands of plants and natural features.

Short of a total societal breakdown or a severe and long lasting global economic depression, cruise ships aren't going anywhere anytime soon. If they're going to be sailing the seas, they should be as green as they can get, so kudos to Royal Caribbean for pushing the envelope in the right direction.

Check out this video of the Oasis of the Seas being driven under the Storebaelt bridge in Denmark. The ship had to drop down its retractable smokestacks to fit and made it with only meters to spare. They took the trip at high speed to push the ship even further down into the water.

Swing over and read Josh Lew's take on the Oasis of the Seas here at MNN.

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