With the stats continuing to stack up, we’re all taking sustainability seriously and that includes the cruise industry. At a time when the likes of David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg are shining a spotlight on climate change, both river and ocean cruise lines are reassessing the ways we can all take our environmentally-friendly tendencies to the seas.

Environmentally friendly cruises

Research by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) found that we recycle 60% more on average when we are on a ship, compared to when we are at home, but what are the cruise lines themselves doing in the search for more sustainability and provide eco-friendly cruises? We took a look at some of the ways those sailing the deepest blue are going green.

Cruise lines in search of sustainability

Carbon offsetting

MSC Grandiosa launched in Hamburg recently and with it came an announcement from MSC Cruises it is to become the world’s first global carbon-neutral cruise line.

The company offset all direct carbon dioxide emissions from its fleet as of 1 January 2020, working with carbon offset projects that take immediate action on greenhouse gas emissions and with a focus on those which protect and restore ocean and coastal habitats.

The new MSC ship is their most environmentally-friendly cruise ship yet and the next in the fleet, MSC Europa, will be the first of five designed to run on liquefied natural gas and launch between 2022 and 2027.

Shore power capabilities

Just as electric vehicles are starting to transform the way we take to the roads, the concept of ‘plugging in’ for power is taking the seas by storm too. In fact, Princess Cruises made history with its shore power capabilities way back in 2001, when the first power distribution system was created in the Alaskan capital of Juneau.

Shore power, or ‘cold ironing’, sees ships turn off their diesel engines and plug into the city’s own national electric grid. Shore power then runs the ship during its day in port. Today, 14 Princess Cruises ships are equipped with shore power capabilities and the technology is delivered in Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Halifax.

The use of shore power remains limited outside of the US and Canada, with just two enabled ports in Europe, but cruise lines are planning ahead. In a nod to how the industry is developing to incorporate the cleanest form of energy available, Celebrity Apex will become the first ship in the existing Celebrity Cruises fleet to use it when launched in 2020.

Banning single-use plastics

By 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.

Pretty startling stuff, right?

The fight against single-use plastics has been well-documented and cruise lines are leading the charge in terms of the travel industry. Ever since Hurtigruten became the first global travel company to ban them in 2018, single-use plastics have become all but outlawed on cruise ships. Sail aboard Celebrity Edge and you’ll drink water from recyclable aluminium bottles. Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Lines will soon follow suit, replacing six million plastic water bottles each year with recyclable, refillable paper cartons.

Fossil-free fuel

They’re already considered the world’s greenest cruise company. Now, Hurtigruten is using dead fish to makes its ambitions to run a fleet of ships which is entirely emissions-free a reality.

Liquefied biogas (LBG) is a fossil-free, renewable gas produced from dead fish and other organic waste. Renewable and clean, it is considered the eco-friendliest form of fuel available.

Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam has high hopes that, while they may be the first to utilise LBG, they’ll be by no means the last:

“Our ships will literally be powered by nature. Biogas is the greenest fuel in shipping and will be a huge advantage for the environment. We would love other cruise companies to follow.”

Work is underway to refurbish the entire Hurtigruten fleet to run on a battery, biogas and LNG hybrid, with at least six ships expected to be completed by 2021.

Waste not, want not

While technology is helping to clean up what cruise lines put out, a more sustainable approach to waste is changing how they give back. Take the likes of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America and Silversea for example, who donate dozens of items such as furniture, linens, appliances and clothing to charity instead of sending them straight to landfill. At a time when single-use toiletries are being phased out, Crystal Cruises have taken a step further, collecting unused toiletries left behind by guests and recycling them to create new products for disadvantaged nations.

How much influence does the eco-friendliness of a cruise line matter affect the way you choose your cruise holiday? Let us know and carry on the conversation.