Going Green at Sea: Sustainable Trends in the Cruise Industry


As the interest in environmentally friendly options regarding all aspect of life increases, people also want to travel more sustainably. Nowadays, cruise lines are showing their commitment to greener travel possibilities. With the combination of innovation, research, new technologies, and willpower, the cruise industry offers passengers the chance to cruise in a sustainable way. The impact humans have on the environment is a hot topic for both mainstream and luxury cruise lines.

What are cruise lines doing to protect the environment?

Following the 2016 signing of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, quite a few nations around the world have pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050. Companies across multiple sectors, including the cruise industry, are tackling the challenge from various angles. To establish a more environmentally friendly way of travel both on board and off, cruise lines are implementing the latest technology on their new ships, improving the current systems in place, and getting their crew and passengers involved in their plans to reduce energy consumption.

Cleaner fuel is another important aspect of sustainable cruising. With the introduction of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Carnival Corporation presented themselves as a pioneer in this department. The French cruise company Ponant is introducing the world’s first polar exploration ship powered solely by LNG. Building ships that run on LNG is one way to minimise exhaust emissions. Installing special cleaning systems in older ships and upgrading current systems is another way to reduce special particles from engine emissions.

Reducing energy consumption on board is another way to conserve the environment. Energy-efficient appliances, as well as new software managing the air conditioning and lighting system, help reduce power consumption. Installing LED lighting and informing the people on board can save energy on older vessels. Many cruise lines encourage crew members and passengers to save energy through simple tasks, such as turning off the lights when leaving the stateroom or using the air conditioning wisely.

liquefied natural gas ship

Greener ships for sustainable cruise tourism

In this day and age, most cruise lines focus on sustainability when planning a new cruise ship. Eco-friendly shipbuilding begins with the shape of the ship, the materials used, and the integration of modern energy-saving technology and scrubber, exhaust cleaning systems. Furthermore, building a ship sustainably is important, too. Reducing waste during the process and using eco-friendly materials and machines help promote sustainable cruise tourism.

Besides having good waste management systems, it is crucial to use resources wisely. Waste reduction is one essential way most cruise lines can be more sustainable. Cruise lines, like Carnival Cruise Line, are trying to replace single-use plastics in staterooms, the kitchen, restaurants, and other venues wherever possible with environmentally friendly alternatives. Instead of plastic water bottles, passengers can opt for reusable bottles. Oceania Cruises, for instance, has recently pledged to eliminate all single-use plastics and are partnering up with Vero Water, a company that produces eco-friendly bottled water. Plastic straws and to-go cups are also being replaced by metal utensils and paper cups. Small plastic bottles of shampoo or soap are being replaced with dispensers. The food purchased for the crew and passengers can be obtained from distributors fulfilling stricter packaging requirements.

Recycling is another way to minimise waste. Cooking oil conversion systems and water recycling systems are innovative ways to reduce resource consumption. Many mainstream and luxurious cruise lines recycle plastic, aluminium, glass, and paper and encourage their crew to help by promoting competitions and running programmes for crew members. CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association, has estimated that “cruise ship waste management professionals recycle 60% more waste per person than the average person recycles on shore each day”. Passengers can help by separating their trash, using recycling bins, reusing towels, and choosing plastic-free options on board and off.

recycling on board a cruise ship

Reducing food waste and cleaning wastewater

To minimise food waste, cruisers can carefully plan what they want to order, even when having booked an all-inclusive package. Cruise lines, like Costa Cruises, try to reduce food waste by reshaping the preparation process and training the kitchen staff in sustainable cooking techniques. Some cruise lines cooperate with food banks at the ports of call to donate leftover food to local social programmes. Donating food is one way to enhance sustainability ashore. By distributing leftover food, kitchen appliances, linens, and furniture to charities, cruise lines minimise their waste and strengthen local communities. The United Kingdom’s largest cruise line, P&O Cruises, for example, recycles all possible waste – nothing is thrown into a landfill. In addition, the money made from recycling funds for the staff’s welfare programme.

Disposing of sewage and wastewater is another concern for cruise ships. Against the common misconception, cruise ships actually follow strict international maritime laws regarding waste disposal. With advanced wastewater systems, for example, they can produce water cleaner than wastewater facilities in coastal cities of the United States. Special filtration systems treat the sewage and wastewater mechanically, chemically, and biologically. The Japan-based NGO Peace Boat, for example, developed a special cleaning system on their cruise ship EcoShip. The system, using solar power, helps treat 100% of the wastewater.

plastic on the beach

Creating research programmes for more sustainable cruise tourism

Restoration, conversation, and education of crew and passengers through edutainment programmes are the main focuses of several cruise lines. Foundations and research programmes established by cruise lines and their close work with NPOs and local governments in several countries will help collect data and share knowledge about the ocean’s condition and the progress of climate change.

Many cruise lines have made it a priority to protect the waters they operate in. One key aspect is supporting ocean research in various ways. MSC Cruises, for example, plans to build a research station on their new private island, MSC Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, where they also have opted out of single-use plastics and introduced natural fauna to the former industrial site. The island south of Miami, Florida is not only a cruise destination but also a marine reserve – 166 square kilometres of protected waters for corals to grow. Want to see? No problem! MSC offers scuba diving sessions on the island, so you can study the growing corals yourself. By booking a sustainable cruise, you can take part to reduce waste and help keep the oceans clean.

Should you have any more questions regarding sustainable cruises, please don’t hesitate to give our friendly cruise experts a call on 1300 857 345. They’ll be more than happy to help!

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