How can you cruise sustainably? Here’s our essential guide…

Cruise Sustainably

Saving the planet and protecting the environment is the greatest challenge facing us in the next decade.

From floating islands of plastic in the world’s oceans to the world-wide environmental movement led by Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough, the threats from climate change are making headlines across the globe.

This growing awareness in passengers means it’s not surprising there’s a major push in the cruise sector to make it more sustainable.

The cruise industry trade body, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), says cruise lines are now at the cutting edge of responsible tourism.

They’re using innovation and the latest technology to make your cruise greener. Many of these technologies simply didn’t exist ten years ago.

In one key area alone, carbon emissions, the cruise sector has set itself a target of a 40% reduction by 2030.

To meet that, CLIA members have already invested $22 billion in energy-efficient ships using cleaner fuels.

You can read the CLIA’s full report into cruise industry trends in 2020 here.

What are cruise lines doing to make your holiday more sustainable?

  1. They are changing the way their new liners are fuelled – Ships are switching away from diesel to liquefied natural gas (LNG). This cuts the nitrogen oxide and diesel particulate emissions, which are particularly bad for the lungs, and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. There are dozens of LNG ships on order, including the Iona, the P&O ship set to be launched in May. Royal Caribbean is introducing three new LNG ships in 2022. While they’re in port, liners are also plugging into local electricity supplies to reduce the amount of fuel they’re using. MSC says giving its ships access to renewable energy sources in every port would prevent over 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
  2. They’re ‘cleaning up’ the emission systems of older ships – Fitting new LNG systems into older ships is too expensive, so some lines are looking at the emissions being created by their older vessels. Carnival has spent $500 million on systems to scrub sulphur out of the funnel and return it to the sea in waste water. It’s naturally-occurring in the oceans.
  3. They are reducing single-use plastic – One line, Norwegian, has banned single-use plastic completely. It has replaced them with cartons made from a plant-based material, saving six million plastic bottles a year.
  4. They’re researching energy-saving initiatives – From paint which reduces drag in the water by preventing barnacles, cutting the amount of fuel needed, to heating the pool from energy recovered from the kitchens or laundry, the cruise lines are looking at ways to save or re-use energy. Carnival invests $70 million a year on energy-saving initiatives while Royal Caribbean’s ships use an air lubrication system to cut down on drag.
  5. They’re installing systems which deal with waste water – Sea pollution is reduced by systems which clean up waste water and all the new ships on order are set to have systems which exceed minimum regulations. Fresh water is also increasingly produced by desalinating sea water, saving on the energy and emissions needed to ship fresh water.
  6. They’re recycling more – Cruise ships recycle 80,000 tons of material every year. Some lines convert their waste into energy and some have achieved a 100% recycling rate. Carnival, for example, has an innovative project collecting its soap waste which is then recycled into new soap bars. They collect almost 40 tons of soap waste a year. Royal Caribbean is sorting, shredding, and compacting waste on board so it is ready for recycling ashore.
  7. They’re donating food – Some lines have schemes which donate leftover food to local charities, rather than seeing that food going into the waste system.


How can you do your bit?

We can all do something to help.

Did you know that 82% of passengers recycle while 80% cut single-use plastics on their trip?

Bring a reusable water bottle and bag to avoid buying plastic bottles and bags, and use the on-board recycling facilities for card, paper, plastics, and glass. Your cruise staff will let you know where they are.

Be one of the 70% of passengers who refuses a plastic straw.

Use your linen and towels for as long as possible.

When you’re on excursions, choose walking or cycling tours rather than those using buses.

Cut your energy use on board by using the stairs rather than the lift and avoid putting more food on your plate than you intend to eat. That cuts food waste.

Let’s protect the beautiful oceans you love!


Looking for a sustainable cruise? Search through 15,000 itineraries from 15 major cruise lines at

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