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Troubled waters: China-fuelled cruise boom sparks environment fears

Cruises are enjoying a boom fuelled in part by hordes of Chinese tourists taking to the high seas, but green groups warn a wave of hulking new liners may cause environmental devastation.

Gone are the days when cruising was the preserve of retirees, who would while away the hours lounging in deckchairs, playing bingo or taking part in formal dinner-dances.

Modern liners resemble floating, futuristic cities capable of carrying thousands of passengers, where robot bartenders serve drinks and passengers can enjoy hi-tech entertainment.

Many of the new, more sophisticated ships aim to appeal to the rapidly growing Chinese cruise market — now the second-biggest in the world after the US — and are choosing cities in the Asian giant as their home ports.

As tourism booms in increasingly wealthy China, there is a growing “desire and enthusiasm” for cruises, said Wang Mi, spokeswoman for Chinese online travel agency Tuniu.

“Cruise products are very popular with seniors, families and honeymooners in China,” she told AFP.

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