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How green is cruising?

25 February 2016

Lush Forest

The cruise industry is working hard to reduce waste and carbon emissions and become more eco-friendly. From solar panels to powering private islands with waste materials cruise companies have been making great strides in becoming greener.

Ship Design

Modern ships are now being designed with the environment in mind, which can only be a good thing.

One of the biggest changes is to the hull on cruise ships. By painting the hull with a silicon based paint, the ships glide through water more efficiently, therefore saving fuel. Royal Caribbean Cruises have taken this a step further by designing aerodynamic hulls, increasing the benefit of this fuel saving tactic.


Air conditioning is one of the biggest drains on a cruise ship’s resources. Constant cooling and recycling of the air around cabins and public spaces requires a lot of energy.

Holland America Line has coated the windows of their ships in a dark film, which protects the cabins and rooms from the heat of the sun, therefore reducing the work for the air con systems.

Royal Caribbean have another approach to this, during winter months they turn off one of the ship’s engines. This isn't to cut down the amount of air conditioning, but is due to the reduced demand. The fact that they do this by turning off an entire engine demonstrates the vast amount of power required to keep the ship cool.


Disney Cruise Line use water generated from their air conditioning to run the onboard laundry services. Rather than storing water or treating water as others do they are using the waste product very productively.

Ships generate thousands of gallons of black and grey water which requires treatment, but following thousands, sometimes millions of pounds of investment (Royal Caribbean have spent $100 million) on redeveloping onboard water treatment facilities ships are now able to turn their waste water into a product often cleaner than the water that comes out of your tap at home. Although this water is still dumped into the sea, as it is technically clean enough to drink and therefore doesn’t result in any pollution.


Fuel is a key economic and environmental issue for cruise lines. Keeping the incredible ships afloat and operating at 100% takes a huge amount of energy. Many modern ships carry up to 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew which is the equivalent of a small town.

There have been some inventive energy saving ideas in relation to reducing fuel requirements. Celebrity Cruises have installed solar panels onboard their Solstice class ships to power the lighting, this coupled with a 50% reduction in energy consumption of modern lights is a great way to save the use of fossil fuel onboard.

Royal Caribbean have made a couple of changes to help reduce their use of diesel onboard. The first is the use of biodiesel, they purchase in the region of 18 million gallons per year, and the second is their use of electric gas and steam turbine engines onboard their Radiance class ships — reducing emissions by up to 98%.

A couple of cruise lines recycle their waste cooking oil. Disney Cruise Line keep the oil, store it and take it to their private island, Castaway Cay, where they use it to power machinery — saving around 8,000 gallons of fuel per year. Norwegian Cruise Lines donate their used cooking oil to farmers in port cities as part of their ‘Free fuel for farmers’ campaign — which is a great way of helping communities and recycling.

Regional Environmental Regulations

The state of Alaska has put in place some strict regulations to protect their coastline.

All ships have to have a permit to cruise along the stunning coastline. The permit ensures that each ship meets regulations in regards to air and water pollution, the dumping of treated water and biodegradable food waste and other environmental impacts.

Ships engines must have vastly reduced carbon emissions to be permitted in Alaskan waters, hence Royal Caribbean’s gas turbines on the Radiance class ships, and they must also turn their engines off while in port. The ports offer power hook-ups, which are like those found in a caravan park but on a much larger scale.

The US National Park has also taken measures to reduce the environmental impact of cruising in Alaska and there are strict regulations for the passage through Glacier Bay. Only one ship at a time is permitted to enter the bay and the number of total visits per season is also restricted.

Alaska is leading the way in protecting their coastline and it would be great for other endangered coastlines to enforce similar regulations.

Cruising is becoming more popular as a means of exploring our stunning planet so these measures and more are required to ensure that we preserve it’s natural beauty.

Royal Caribbean talk about their efforts to recycle onboard

Royal Caribbean

Celebrity Cruises discuss future proofing and minimising their environmental footprint

Celebrity Cruises

Disney Cruise Line

Holland America Line

Norwegian Cruise Lines

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