With the recent climate strikes and neverending statistics on global warming, it’s never been a more critical time to talk about ways to reduce our environmental impact as travellers. The cruise industry is an important place to start, and thankfully, cruise lines are listening. From ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) to informative shore tours and initiatives designed to eliminate millions of plastic straws, the cruise industry is catching up with environmental demands for more sustainably conscious travel.
Princess Cruises have two new next-gen ships which will be dual-fuelled with LNG, the world’s cleanest burning fossil fuel. The use of LNG in this dual-fuel solution will have a significant positive environmental impact, cutting down both air emissions and marine gas oil. This new dual-fuel or hybrid engine means ships can cruise and produce cleaner exhaust.
Did you know Princess Cruises have designed power outlets onboard that allow them to plug into shore power at specific ports in Alaska, Canada and the US. Rather than using diesel to control the ship during day trips, the vessel is plugging into electrical sockets onshore — a cleaner source of power than running diesel engines all day.
Ship design and its impact on the environment requires significant changes, including efficient hull and propeller designs. The new Royal Caribbean Quantum-class ships will have a distinctive optimised hull that captures micro-bubbles - this, in turn, reduces the drag of the vessel and improves fuel efficiency.
Another example is Ponant’s new innovative icebreaker ship. This boat will be the world’s first electric hybrid polar exploration ship powered by LNG. It means you can cruise into protected areas like the North Pole with no noise, no vibrations under the water and rely on electric power. The Celebrity Flora features anchorless technology that lets it maintain position while protecting the sensitive sea floor.
Traditionally, contaminated water gets released during sailing, or at the port, and this has never been good enough. There are however new developments like emission-purifying scrubbers which help reduce exhaust pollution and improve water filtration. Water must be clean enough to be safely released back into the ocean. Contaminated water can directly affect marine life and indirectly affect humans. Some cruise lines are excellent, with systems that even apply to oily bilge water (water that’s full of oil and other chemicals from ship equipment). Celebrity Flora is one example of the way forward. This ship, specially designed for the Galapagos Islands, has reverse osmosis filtration equipment that lets the boat convert seawater into freshwater to fulfil all its needs. It can also reuse air-conditioning condensation to provide water to the ship’s laundry facilities.
Royal Caribbean and Azamara have already eliminated plastic straws and disposable utensils in a bid to get rid of unnecessary plastic onboard. Regent Seven Seas have also recently announced that it would become the first luxury cruise line to eliminate single-use plastic bottles. These small changes are just one step toward a more sustainable cruise industry.
Many cruise lines are starting to look at their supply chains and are demanding more sustainable food products to make an impact beyond just the ship. Not only does this mean a healthier experience for passengers, but it means stronger relationships with local farmers and communities at ports of call.
Specific shore excursions led by WWF speakers are available with Azamara Cruises. With these excursions, guests have the chance to learn about the environmental impact of food production, where the seafood we consume comes from and the role of rainforests in regulating the world’s ecosystem. Another example is cruise leader Ponant’s scientific research. Their newest and most innovative ship will also be designing specialised excursions aimed at reducing the impact of tourism on indigenous communities.
In the face of the current climate emergency, travellers are demanding more sustainable travel options. Cruise lines are dedicating time and money to entering a transformational new era in cruising, aimed at decreasing an even larger share of our environmental impact. This technology and focused mindset need to be adopted across the ports, the cruise lines, and the entire industry as quickly as possible to have the best possible outcome for this beautiful planet. After all, cruising depends on our oceans.