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How New Technology Will Make Cruising More Sustainable

21 July 2023

Scarlet Lady

Throughout the years, protecting the environment has become of higher importance to both cruise lines and passengers. And with the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) at the forefront playing a critical role, it’s fascinating to see how the industry is evolving with the times.

The world’s largest trade association within the cruise industry, the CLIA fosters an environment of sustainability and has several goals, including striving to reduce the carbon footprint of the ships (both whilst at port and at sea) by promoting the use of fuel with virtually zero sulphur emissions, and investing in new, eco-friendly technology to be used on board; such as incorporating hybrid solutions (the use of batteries and fuel cells on new ships).

In the 2018 Seatrade Global Conference, CEO Cindy D’Aoust made the following statement:

“Because we are at sea, we must do better. We must be more efficient, we must be more effective, and we must be more mindful than the land-based resorts. No single community has a great imperative to protect the environment and ensure that the ports and destinations cruise ships visit thrive sustainably”.

Several major cruise lines, including MSC Cruises and Virgin Voyages are introducing technology onboard their ships with sustainability in mind. From utilising hybrid scrubbers onboard to using sustainable advanced waste biofuels, cruise lines are looking to the future and aiming to reduce the impact they have both on the ocean and on land.

Read on to find out more about the major technological advancements cruise lines are adding onto their fleets, along with how they are prioritising sustainable tourism.


  1. Cruise Lines Striving for Sustainable Cruising
  2. What is Sustainable Tourism?
  3. Which Cruise Lines are Promoting Sustainable Tourism?

Cruise Lines Striving for Sustainable Cruising


Hurtigruten is one of the main cruise lines paving the way for sustainable cruising. Its CEO Hedda Felin stated:

“We are now upgrading our entire fleet, cutting CO2 emissions by 25%. Still, for our precious nature and for future generations, we have to do more. It will require a lot of hard work, a lot of investment, and a lot of collaboration with very clever partners. But I know we’ll get there.”

Alongside striving for sustainable cruising fleet wide, Hurtigruten has recently announced the news of an extraordinary ‘zero-emission’ ship that’s setting sail in 2030. With several innovative technologies, including 50 metre-tall retractable sails that are fitted with solar panels, retractable thrusters and an interactive mobile app that guests can use to control the cabin ventilation and how much water/energy they consume onboard.

VARD Design
VARD Design

The impressive, sustainability-conscious ship will also run on a combination of both wind technology and a state-of-the-art 60 megawatt battery; which utilises renewable energy onshore to charge.

Hurtigruten’s Sea Zero project that starts with this new ship is an exciting step in the direction of sustainability in the industry. And Hedda Felin echoed the importance of this to Hurtigruten:

“When we initially announced the ‘Sea Zero’ project over a year ago, we were faced with the challenge of not knowing which technologies would be available to us in 2030. Our task was to pave the way for new innovations and enhance existing ones to align with our sustainability objectives. We have pinpointed the most promising technologies for our groundbreaking future cruise ships. We are committed to delivering a ship that surpasses all others in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability within just a few years."

Virgin Voyages

Another key cruise line that’s utilising technology that’s more sustainable is Virgin Voyages.

"There is nothing more important in this world than our oceans, and we're on a mission to protect them and set an example. Success needn't compromise sustainability." - Richard Branson

A relatively new cruise company (with their first ship, Scarlet Lady first setting sail in 2021), the importance that Virgin Voyages places on sustainability throughout their fleet is clear. For example, onboard their ships they have smart cabins, which contain the following features:

Resilient Lady
Resilient Lady

Alongside smart cabins, onboard their fleet, they utilise hybrid scrubbers. Using a combination of seawater and freshwater, the scrubbers are said to be more environmentally friendly than that of a traditional closed or open loop system and were built into the ships to meet the 2020 International Maritime Organization (IMO) sulphur cap. Alongside the Virgin Voyages fleet, Celebrity Apex and Symphony of the Seas also use them.

Virgin Voyages also use an advanced water filtration system designed to purify ocean water into drinking water, alongside optimising and reducing the amount of fuel that the ships use by using technologies like Climeon (aiming to transform the heat that’s created by the ship’s engines into ‘clean’ energy).

Shore power capability is also installed on Resilient Lady and Brilliant Lady with plans to add it to Valiant Lady in the near future.

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises frequently promotes sustainability and discusses the importance of it within their business. Actively engaging in the development of environmental technology, their journey towards a more sustainable cruising future is split into four pillars: planet, people, place and procurement which drive the continuous improvement of the fleet’s performance.

MSC Euribia
MSC Euribia
“We are steering a course towards a lower carbon future and, by 2050, will achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.” - Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman

With their cruise sustainability programme, they are putting several strategies in place, including recycling and reusing waste produced on their ships by using advanced systems, producing their own freshwater by purifying ocean water and introducing cleaner fuels.

MSC Cruises will be operating the first net-zero greenhouse gas emissions cruise aboard MSC Euribia (the first in the cruise industry). An LNG-powered vessel, with the sailing MSC aims to showcase the possibility of carbon zero cruising. They also want to promote how renewable waste biofuels (which are said to provide ‘significant savings in terms of the emissions they produce compared to that of fossil fuels'), and advanced energy transition technologies will transform the industry.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has introduced their ‘Save the Waves’ programme which is at the foundation of their sustainability work. Within the programme is the aim to reduce carbon intensity as part of its ‘Destination Net Zero’ project, supporting ocean communities through the ‘Blue Green Promise’ and opening a cruise terminal in Texas that will be the world’s first net zero port.

Wonder of the Seas
Wonder of the Seas

Onboard Icon of the Seas, they have also introduced sustainable technology including, Microwave-Assisted Pyrolysis and Micro Auto Gasification which convert waste onboard to energy that’s then utilised in different systems throughout the ship.

A way of repurposing the waste in a more efficient way, this along with using innovative AI to adjust the food production (to prevent excessive food waste), LED lights, tinted windows and advanced water treatment are clear steps in the right direction to a more sustainable future in cruising.

Royal Caribbean has also been welcomed into the Methanol Institute; a way of showing its commitment to improving energy efficiency and the sustainability of its fleet. The CEO of the Methanol Institute, Greg Dolan stated:

“We are very pleased to welcome Royal Caribbean Group to the Methanol Institute. Royal Caribbean has long been an innovator in the cruise industry, as shown by their recent announcement that the 5th ship ordered in their Celebrity Cruises’ Edge-series will be powered by Wärtsilä 46 methanol-capable engines. MI looks forward to working with Royal Caribbean Group as they embark on their methanol journey.”

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line has recently revealed a climate action strategy which includes steps to reduce the emissions that their fleet produces by 25% by 2030. Featuring greenhouse gas targets, alongside their aim to reduce the emissions by 2030, there is a longer term goal of going net zero by 2050.

Norwegian Viva
Norwegian Viva

Future ships within NCL's fleet that sit within the Prima class will have the ability to utilise green methanol.

What is Sustainable Tourism?

Even though sustainable tourism isn’t technically a type of technology, how cruise lines are promoting it alongside the new sustainable technologies they are introducing showcases its importance to the industry as a whole. The primary aim of sustainable tourism is to reduce the negative impacts and increase the benefits that come with tourism.

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Rio de Janeiro

From trying to promote the culture and heritage of an area to protecting the natural environment and creating local economic growth, sustainable tourism within the cruise industry is rapidly becoming a key policy.

Which Cruise Lines are Promoting Sustainable Tourism?

Virgin Voyages

A cruise line that’s actively promoting sustainable tourism is Virgin Voyages. Taking several steps both onboard their fleet and onshore, they aim to create “authentic, responsible, inspiring experiences” for their guests. Some examples of their sustainable tourism actions include:

MSC Cruises

Alongside their other sustainability projects, MSC Cruises also promotes sustainable tourism through their PROTECTOURS. Each of these tours are designed to produce little waste and have a low environmental impact. Examples of the tours they offer within the programme include:

Carnival Cruises

Whilst on a cruise with Carnival Cruise Line, there’s the opportunity to take part in volunteer activities as part of a shore excursion. Known as ‘Give Back with Purpose’ excursions, they include the likes of visiting orphanages, children’s homes and churches to learn about non-profit organisations.

The tours themselves help the communities as they donate money to them (by means of a portion of the tour cost) and guests can bring supplies to the areas to donate themselves, such as toys and clothing.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean and its family of brands (including Celebrity Cruises and Azamara) offer GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) certified sustainable tours. A goal that was set to match the World Wildlife Fund’s 2020 target to provide 1,000 GSTC accredited tours, within the GSTC criteria there are four key themes:

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line is another major cruise line that places importance on sustainable tourism. With their outreach programmes, they aim to support the local communities at the ports the cruise ships stop off at. They do this by:

Silversea Cruises

A luxury cruise line that has launched a significant sustainability initiative is Silversea Cruises. With the Silversea Fund they aim to safeguard the wellbeing of the Galapagos Islands by supporting several projects each year. A long term conservation strategy, it aims to protect the environment by:

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