'Today' travel guru studies AK ship waste

Juneau to appear on NBC, cable programs

Posted: Thursday, June 06, 2002

"The travel detective" snooped around the Juneau cruise ship dock Wednesday.

When it comes to marine pollution, Alaskans already know who did it and who's doing better.

But national travel expert Peter Greenberg will be taking that message to NBC's "Today Show," the Discovery Network's Travel Channel, readers of his online column for msnbc.com, listeners of his call-in show at KABC radio in southern California and followers of his books, newspaper columns and talk show appearances.

Greenberg, an Emmy Award winner and author of the New York Times bestseller "The Travel Detective," is on a week-long voyage on the 2,600-passenger Star Princess from Seward to Vancouver, British Columbia. His ongoing mission is to make travelers "more aware of the process of travel and not just the product."

While in Juneau, he and his camera crew conducted interviews with Gov. Tony Knowles and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Michele Brown, and observed the state's wastewater sampling program aboard the Holland America ship Veendam.

"He kind of does travel books from a travel tourist perspective but also from kind of an investigative perspective," said Jessica Neumann, a New York City public relations specialist who is working with Princess Cruises on facilitating Greenberg's trip. "If there's issues in the travel industry, he's one to go in and uncover them."

As Alaskans know, cruise ship pollution has been a major issue since 1999, when Royal Caribbean pleaded guilty to felony pollution violations in state waters. Since then an Alaska-specific federal law has been passed to regulate marine discharges, and the state is preparing its own regulations based upon a state law.

Tom Dow of Princess Cruises said Greenberg would get a complete review of the technological upgrades the company has made.

"We're going to give a tour here to show him our advanced wastewater treatment and ballast water treatment systems, and also show him how we connect to shore power," Dow said. "The Department of Environmental Conservation people took him up and showed him how smoke readings are taken."

In an interview, Greenberg said Alaska is "the focal point" of a Travel Channel segment this fall on the environmental performance of cruise ships.

"You guys are the first guys, at least the first state that I know of, to say, 'Hey, excuse us, we are so dependent upon this as an industry, but at the same time we are dependent upon our environment to prolong that industry,' " he said. "Travel today is not about destinations; it's about experiences. In fact, the destinations have become incidental to the experiences.

"The question is, how do you afford them that experience without impacting the environment in a negative way? Alaska basically is in the forefront of that movement."

Bill McAllister can be reached at billm@juneauempire.com.

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