Cruising has many positives: it’s fun, comfortable, convenient, and often relatively inexpensive. But when it comes to the environment, all is not well. According to recent research, a large cruise ship can leave a carbon footprint greater than that of 12,000 cars. Another study found that the carbon footprint of an individual traveler is eight times greater than that of a vacationer on land.
“When we measure sustainability, it’s important to look at the big picture, and in general, cruise ships are too big, too dirty and too invasive for pristine ecosystems to be considered sustainable or environmentally conscious. “Understood,” says Marcy Curre, director of oceans and ships at the environmental group Friends of the Earth. “Their significant carbon footprint and the continued use of polluting scrubbers, which continue to dump toxic chemicals into the ocean, are two major concerns.”
So how does this affect the average cruiser – and what can you do to change the situation? While some eco-conscious travelers may opt for a land vacation, those considering a cruise vacation should consider their options carefully. Not all cruise lines are created equal, and some are making more progress than others in implementing policies regarding cleaner fuels, hybrid electric ships and their commitment to a cleaner future.
If you’re ready to take a cruise vacation, consider these tips to reduce your environmental impact during your trip.
Choose a shorter trip (or shorter ship). An easy way to be environmentally conscious on your cruise vacation is to take a smaller route and avoid the big megaships designed to carry thousands of people. “Some cruise lines are limiting the length of cruise sailings, which is a good start, and [they’re] also booking smaller ships for shorter distances and shorter sailing times,” Cure says. Cure says. Choosing a medium or small ship and sailing three or four days over a seven- to ten-day cruise will keep mileage to a minimum, thereby limiting carbon emissions and other environmental damage.
Choose a cruise line that values transparency: In an effort to keep cruise passengers informed, many cruise lines have begun to publicly pledge to improve their operations. In addition, some of them have also started publishing annual sustainability reports on their websites. Major lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Disney Cruise Line, Oceana Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line received an “A” grade for transparency in the 2022 Friends of the Earth Cruise Lines Report, based on cruise line production. . Provide detailed information on environmental practices when asked.
Below you’ll find six cruise lines from around the world working to create a greener future on the high seas.
The world’s largest expedition cruise line, Hurtigruten, highlights four pillars on its path to sustainability: emissions, people, community and nature. To protect destinations from the effects of overtourism, the line avoids popular areas during peak seasons, limits the number of guests ashore and limits the size of its ships. Hurtigruten ships also source around 80% of their food from local suppliers and try to minimize food waste on board.
Perhaps most impressive is Hurtigruten’s ongoing work to develop modern, environmentally friendly vessels. Three battery-powered hybrid-electric ships debuted as part of the expedition line between 2020 and 2021, and all 14 ships can be connected to shore power while in port (if the option is available at that destination).
“Hurtigruten plans to launch zero-emission ships, which will reduce the amount of heavy fuel they use,” says Keever. The first of these ships is scheduled to be launched by 2030; The line’s goal is to achieve carbon neutral operations by 2040 and net zero emissions by 2050.
The cruise provider also uses other environmentally friendly equipment and vehicles on tours, including solar power, electric snowmobiles and tour buses, hybrid excursion boats and battery-powered catamarans.
With a commitment to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 and net zero cruising by 2050, MSC Cruises’ commitment to the environment extends to each of its more than 20 ships. Over the past 15 years, the line has steadily strived towards a more sustainable future: since 2008 it has reduced carbon emissions by 35%. Much of the recent success has come from MSC’s use of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The line currently operates two LNG-fueled ships, MSC World Europa and MSC Eurasia, with a third natural gas-fueled ship under construction. Eurybia’s maiden voyage in June 2023 was the first zero-carbon voyage, saving 43 tonnes of fuel.
Additional environmental initiatives include the use of shore power in port (by 2022, 65% of MSC ships are equipped or retrofitted to use shore power), water-saving technologies that allow ships to use approx. All allow their own water to be made per board. maximum of about 800 000 gallons per day) and small-scale features such as energy-efficient lighting and ventilation systems.
Eco-friendly initiatives continue on land, where passengers can visit special beaches known as “Defenders”. These walks focus on low-impact transportation—think: walking, kayaking, biking, and using electric or hybrid shuttles. Some Caribbean itineraries can also visit the pristine beaches of Ocean’s MSC Marine Sanctuary, the line’s private island in the Bahamas. Formerly used as an industrial sand mining site, Ocean Cay occupies a 64 square mile marine reserve and is home to 400 restored coral reef colonies as well as a variety of birds, fish and other marine species. The island runs on solar panels and efficient energy sources. And single-use plastic is prohibited.
Billed as 100% climate neutral and a member of two sustainability groups, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators and the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, Aurora Expeditions is committed to responsible cruising. The line takes small groups of adventurers on 10- to 26-day voyages to the Arctic, Antarctica and other less-visited destinations such as the Patagonian wilderness.
To offset greenhouse gas emissions, Aurora Expeditions is investing in two climate change initiatives: a renewable wind farm in Taiwan and an energy conservation program in Australia. Environmentally minded cruisers can feel right at home aboard the adventure ship Sylvia Earle, whose seven decks are named after prominent marine conservationists. On the sixth day of each Sylvia Earle voyage, Aurora hosts a Sustainable Seas Day, when no seafood is served on board to help protect marine populations.
Additional environmental efforts include special water and waste management systems, efficient onboard energy sources, reduction of single-use plastics, locally sourced food, organic food on board and more. In addition, two Aurora expeditions, Greg Mortimer and Sylvia Earle, featured a fuel-efficient bow design that could travel at high speeds while reducing vibration from wave loads, resulting in lower emissions.
Havila Voyages launched in late 2021 and operates four small ships along the Norwegian coast. The hybrid ships are equipped with the largest battery packs of any passenger ship, providing up to four hours of zero-emission power for each ship. For the rest of the route, ships use LNG. When using natural gas and battery power, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 35 percent. Havilah aims to be climate neutral by 2028 and zero emissions by 2030.
Havila serves locally sourced food on board and strives to reduce food waste. There is no such thing as a buffet. In 2022, the line successfully limited the average daily amount of food waste per passenger to 71 grams (about 2.5 ounces). Havilah’s ships also reduce the amount of paper and plastic products on board, encouraging guests to bring and refill reusable water bottles.
Passengers looking to go the extra mile can participate in Havilah’s EcoVoyager program, which encourages guests to make eco-friendly choices onboard. Items on the checklist include reusing towels and allowing room service every other day, recycling any trash at designated ship stations, unplugging device chargers when not in use, and more. Is. The line also conducts environmental cruises in port. Tour groups stay small and havelas partner with local suppliers who use eco-friendly transport, such as battery-powered buses.
Like other lines on this list, Virgin Voyages aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. All of Virgin’s ships are new (the line’s first ship, the Scarlet Lady, debuts in 2021), so they benefit from advanced technology that improves energy and fuel use. In addition, the ships boast futuristic features such as energy-saving sensors built into rooms to control lights, curtains and air conditioning, as well as smart wearable bracelets (used as room keys). (for boarding, etc.) that are made from recycled seawater. Plastic
Virgin ships serve ethically sourced seafood and other local ingredients and do not serve buffets, helping to reduce food waste on board. There is also an onboard recycling system, and no single-use plastics on board. In fact, Virgin essentially offers eco-friendly products for all of its paper, plastic and other single-use products (using materials like wheat stalks and sugarcane).
All three Virgin Voyages ships use bipolar ionization (BPI) systems throughout the ship. “Dozens of cruise lines have greened their ships by adding BPI technology to their HVAC systems,” says Steve Levine, president and CEO of sustainable indoor air conditioning technology company AtmosAir Solutions. “BPI units make ships more energy efficient by reducing the amount of outside air that needs to be brought onboard, essentially by recycling and purifying the inside air and saving energy.”
PONANT is a French line of luxury expedition yachts founded in 1988. The line works to achieve six key environmental goals: reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, banning single-use plastics, recycling all waste and tracking them, investing in scientific research and supporting the development of marine protected areas.
In practice, PONANT uses high-quality wastewater treatment systems, navigation technologies that help reduce fuel consumption, and locally produced food and beverages. In addition, 60% of the packaging on board is recycled, and PONANT organizes regular beach cleanups. In 2018, PONANT founded the PONANT Foundation, which aims to support conservation efforts in the oceans and polar regions.
PONANT’s expedition vessel Le Commandant Charcot runs on a combination of battery power and LNG, and the line is the first to receive Green Marine certification for its commitment to sustainability.