Cruising relies on oceans, seas, and rivers, like no other industry. Cruise ships also receive (arguably more than) their fair share of blame for environmental issues and overtourism. As issues regarding sustainability, and how we travel impacts both the global environment and the local destinations we visit, become ever more important to us, even influencing our choices for booking holidays, Cruise Select's Amy argues that cruise ships aren't necessarily the 'Baddies' of the environment as they are sometimes painted, but are - in fact - investing heavily into solutions for mitigating their impact on the global and local environments through which they cruise. It is possible to cruise in a more sustainable way!
The rise of environmental concerns
On 29 October 2017, Blue Planet II premiered. Viewed by a UK audience of 14.1 million, the series gained the UK’s highest viewing figures for 2017, and left an indelible imprint on the public consciousness, leading to a long-awaited debate on the use of single-use plastics. For Fiona Jeffery OBE, it is one of the catalysts that has shifted both public concern and the travel industry’s role in sustainability, a movement which has been around for 25 years but – until recently – progression has been too slow.
This year has seen a number of protests by Extinction Rebellion, some of which even brought parts of London to a standstill, the increasing prominence of Greta Thunberg, and many headlines focusing on concerns for climate change. The debate has become a lot wider than single-use plastics.
Environmental concerns and booking holidays
Shifts in public concern has also impacted on attitudes to holidays, with holidaymakers increasingly aware of the impact they have on a destination. This increased awareness correlates with an increased concern, influencing the choices people make when choosing their holidays. ABTA’s 2019 Travel Trends Report cited 45% of respondents reporting that sustainability is an important element when booking a holiday, which saw an increase of 6% from 2018. Furthermore, over a third of respondents said that they would choose one travel company over another if their environmental record was better, which represented another 6% increase from the previous year. This suggests that concerns for sustainability are here to stay, after 2017 saw a marked tipping point in the importance of responsible tourism. In ABTA’s 2018 Travel Trends Report, research showed that almost 70% of people now believe that travel companies should ensure their holidays help the local people and economy.
Research carried out by sustainability consultancy Bouteco on luxury travellers found that sustainability was an important factor in choosing a resort for two-thirds of respondents of their Stop, Think, Discuss survey. Bouteco’s findings also showed that concerns for sustainability were shared across all age groups, and not just – in the words of Holly Tuppen, the sustainability expert, journalist and co-founder of Bouteco, - ‘the reserve of millenials’.
However, whilst 87% of respondents of a survey for Booking.com said that they wanted to travel sustainably, 48% of respondents also reported that they never, or rarely, managed to do so. For some people, there is a gap between what they would like to do, versus what they have done, a dissonance between aspiration and reality. Bouteco’s survey echoed similar findings, as only a quarter of respondents had already actively got involved with community work while on holiday, although 47% said they would be interested in getting involved.
What is sustainable travel?
With 48% of Booking.com’s respondents admitting that – despite their best intentions – they never, or rarely, managed to travel sustainably, it could raise the question: what is sustainable travel? How is it defined? Is it attainable? It’s become a big buzz word, and has taken centre stage in both the news agenda and the public conscience, but it remains a broad church. Whilst many of us have good intentions when it comes to sustainability, some of the difficulties arise from a lack of clarity and understanding what it actually means!
If we are going to change our behaviours – from the individual right up to macro-social behaviours, including government or company policies – we need to understand what sustainability is, in order to best tackle its issues and come up with solutions.
We are already being confronted with the realities of our impact on the environment, with dramatically changing and unpredictable weather. Consumer consciousness has been raised with regards to the health of our oceans and marine life, thanks to Blue Planet II, and we are attempting to come up with solutions to the problems caused by over-reliance on single-use plastics. But sustainable travel isn’t just about the environment, and the impact of our actions; there is as much cause for concern when it comes to our social impact, and how we need to be more responsible for how our actions can affect the destinations and people we visit. Animal welfare has also become a key issue, from the global outcry following from the killing of Cecil the Lion by a trophy hunter in Zimbabwe to consumers turning their backs on traditional dolphin and orca shows at theme parks, with increasing numbers of holiday companies no longer selling tickets to such attractions. The underpinning idea is that when we travel to other places to enjoy ourselves, we shouldn’t be diminishing the area for those who live there, or for future travellers. We need to look after the present to ensure the future.
The genesis of sustainable travel sprung from a movement amongst wildlife tourism businesses some thirty or so years ago, and ‘ecotourism’ (as it became known) was summed up with the pithy mantra ‘take only photographs, leave only footprints.’ The importance of balancing tourism and wildlife was self-evident; in order to ensure that travellers could continue to experience and delight in witnessing the wildlife they came to see, that wildlife (and its habitat) had to be protected. As we approach the 2020s, it’s become increasingly apparent that in order to continue to enjoy exploring the world, we need to protect our environment, local people and places, as well as the wildlife. Sustainable travel is a much wider umbrella now.
There are, therefore, two main strands in which travel needs to consider and tackle to ensure that it’s sustainable: the environmental strand, and the social/cultural strand. Both of these strands are potentially coming to a head, forcing travel companies and cruise lines to respond by changing their policies.
Adventure travel and sustainability
That being said, there are holiday companies out there who have a long and impressive record of sustainable and responsible travel, and many more who are putting increasing efforts into improving sustainability, which in turn should make sustainable travel more achievable for travellers. Adventure travel companies in particular pride themselves on their efforts on sustainability, which has long been a part of their ethos. For some, sustainability has been one of their core values since inception. Intrepid Travel have been carbon neutral since 2010, and in 2018 became a certified B Corporation. To be a certified B Corporation, businesses have to meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. G Adventures, likewise, have always endeavoured to travel in sustainable and responsible ways, ensuring that the impact they have on local communities is positive rather than diminishing. They recently launched their Ripple Score, a transparent tour evaluation that shows you the money spent locally by G Adventures on all the services it takes to run the tour; the higher the Ripple Score, the more positive the impact on the local communities.
Environmental concerns and cruising
However, environmental concerns and doubts about sustainability have long plagued the cruising industry, with many fingers of blame pointed at cruise ships. But is this fair?
It is well reported that cruising’s popularity is on the rise, with a total of 28.5million passengers globally in 2018 (a seven per cent increase from the previous year). For the first time, just over 2 million of those cruisers came from the UK and Ireland last year, a landmark which was achieved two years earlier than predicted! With cruising’s growing popularity, we’re also seeing more ships than ever before – the shipyards are certainly busy with plenty of orders placed for most of the next decade!
However, before the naysayers get too alarmed, it is worth noting that cruising represents only 2% of the overall global travel industry, and its pace of growth remains in line with overall international tourism growth; the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer showed that international tourist arrivals grew by 6% in 2018 (totalling 1.4 billion), while during the same time, cruise travel grew at almost 7 per cent. Furthermore, cruise ships represent less than 1% of the global shipping fleet. Sustainability is an increasingly prominent issue which will affect all sectors of tourism and travel. This does not, however, negate how important environmental concerns are, or should be, for the cruising sector.
Despite representing less than 1% of the global shipping fleet, cruise ships are in fact leading the waves when it comes to sustainability investment and innovation. In December 2018, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) made an unprecedented and historic announcement that the global cruise industry would be committed to reducing the rate of carbon emissions by 40% across the industry fleet by 2030. This commitment is unique across the whole maritime industry. I have said before that ‘cruising is a constantly evolving and adapting industry’ and its finger is ‘constantly on the pulse of customer expectation.’ As environmental concerns become increasingly important for guests, cruise lines will have to work ever harder to ensure that they can deliver sustainable travel. Furthermore, as Andy Harmer the SVP Membership & Director of CLIA UK and Ireland, points out, ‘no single industry relies more on the splendour of our planet’s oceans and seas, or the pristine beauty of the world’s harbours and seaside communities, than the cruise industry.’
What are cruise lines doing for sustainability?
Sustainability is important for the cruising industry, not just for its success and survival, but because it’s the right thing to do. Cruise lines are constantly looking at ways to protect oceans and communities, as well as leading the way in recycling, and investing in new technology and new fuels.
CLIA has identified three main areas to focus on for its environmental work: meeting IMO emission goals in order to improve air quality, by improving fuel standards, emission control and requirements, and engine technology. In addition, CLIA cruise lines are committed to achieving the reduction of Greenhouse gasses from global shipping in line with IMO’s goals. The two other areas CLIA and the global cruise industry have identified as the main focus points for their environmental work are to invest in new technologies and designs in order to transform the global fleet’s efficiency and performance, and to collaborate with leading national and international organisations to advance and enhance sustainability efforts.
In many of these areas, great work has already been achieved and the cruise industry is already leading the way; for example, the advanced waster water-treatment systems on cruise lines produce cleaner water than the systems in most coastal cities in the USA! Furthermore, CLIA cruise line members’ ships save more than 22 million gallons water every year, by reclaiming the condensation for air-conditioning units to reuse to wash the decks onboard.
Achieving emission goals
There have been massive strides in technologies which will enable cruise lines to achieve their goals of reducing the rate of carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. Five to ten years ago, technologies such as exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), shore-side power capabilities and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) as fuel for passenger ships, did not exist, but their early adoption by cruise lines will benefit the entire shipping industry. CLIA cruise lines have invested over $22billion in ships to improve sustainability with new, energy-efficient technologies and cleaner fuels. It is serious business, even if it is still in its infancy.
Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean have invested particularly heavily in new technologies, and Royal Caribbean’s newest ships are noted for emitting 20% less carbon dioxide than ships that came out just a few years ago, making them amongst the lowest emission-producing in the industry. Amongst the new technologies they’ve employed, air lubrication (which reduces friction by sending billions of microscopic bubbles along the hole of a ship) and AEP scrubbers (which clean exhaust gases before the leave the ship) have contributed to Royal Caribbean’s dedication to ‘innovation, continuous improvement, and environmental responsibility.’
Liquefied Natural Gas is currently the greenest fuel on the market, reducing carbon emissions by 25%, as well as emitting 85% less nitrogen oxide and 95% less fine particle emissions. The first LNG-powered ship was launched towards the end of 2018, with the launch of AIDA Cruises’ AidaNova, marking the first of many. By 2025, there will be 25 LNG-powered ships sailing the seas, including P&O’s Iona (2020). However, as LNG-powered ships are such a recent development, not all ports can currently support such ships, although the number of ports which can support LNG-powered ships will grow in the future, as more and more ships are powered using this fuel. In the meantime, the currently planned LNG ships will also run on distillate fuel. In September 2019, CLIA produced their third annual Global Cruise Industry Environmental Technologies and Practices Report, which found that 44% of new build capacity will rely on LNG fuel for primary propulsion, which represented an increase of 60% in overall capacity compared to 2018!
Cruise lines aren’t just relying on the continued development of LNG, however, with Royal Caribbean working on the introduction of the use of fuel cell technology, which – alongside LNG fuel – will ‘[usher] in a new era of shipbuilding that will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’ Hapag-Lloyd announced that they would be using low-pollutant marine gas oil on all of their expedition ships from July 2020. Another alternative developed by a cruise line has come about from Hurtigruten, who earlier this year launched Roald Amundsen, the first ship with full hybrid capabilities, which will reduce emissions by as much as 20%. The innovative hybrid technology was developed in a partnership with Rolls Royce, and will be featured on at least three of their ships, with each subsequent ship improved to enable progressively longer and further sailings on the battery-powered propulsion. Furthermore, Hurtigruten aim to further protect the environments through which they sail as their new ships’ engines have been designed to be near-silent in order to not disturb wildlife. This is just one step towards ensuring a ‘silent and emission free’ future for shipping (to quote Daniel Skjeldam, Hurtigruten’s CEO). The cruise line hasn’t ignored their current fleet whilst planning for the future, replacing the propellers on their current vessels with more fuel-efficient ones. This move alone has successfully reduced fuel consumption by 10%.
In 2020 and 2021, Hurtigruten will also transform three of their existing ships – MS Trollfjord, MS Finnmarken and MS Midnatsol – into full-fledged premium expedition cruise ships, installing battery packs to support the ships’ engines, and drastically cut emissions. All of the ships will be equipped for shore power, ensuring that they will produce zero emissions whilst docked in ports with shore power facilities, and will get substantially up-graded low-emission engines. Once transformed, the greener ships will be renamed as MS Maud, MS Otto Sverdrup, and MS Eirik Raude respectively.
These are just a couple of the initiatives which have given rise to Hurtigruten’s reputation as the greenest cruise line. Along with their hybrid-powered ships, Hurtigruten announced that they aim to be ‘the first cruise company to power ships with fossil-free fuel’, and plan to introduce ships powered with liquefied biogas (LBG), produced from dead fish and other organic waste, ensuring that the fuel is renewable and entirely fossil-free.
It’s not just ocean ships that are concerned about the environment, with river ships also increasingly playing their part. AmaWaterways’ AmaMagna was pioneering in more ways than one; whilst its unique double-width is its most visible innovation, it also debuted a quieter, more fuel-efficient engine, that is turned on as needed based on energy, for example when cruising against a strong current, enabling a fuel reduction of 20-25%. A-Rosa also aim to use new onboard technology to reduce the line’s environmental footprint with their upcoming ship, due for delivery in Spring 2021, with environmentally-friendly innovations including battery propulsion to enable sailing emission-free into and out of cities, and air bubble technology to reduce fuel consumption. Amadeus River Cruises are the only river cruise line in Europe to hold the Green Globe certification for sustainable travel, having demonstrated the requisite energy and water-saving measures, plus ongoing ecological awareness in everyday routines. Another eco-friendly river cruise line is Uniworld, which is spearheading the Sustainable River Cruising project in partnership with the Travel Foundation.
Transforming the global fleet’s efficiency and performance
It’s not just about the fuels that are used by cruise lines, either. In order to lower energy use, cruise ships use LED lighting which lasts 25 times longer, whilst also using 80% less energy and generating half the heat of incandescent bulbs! Other methods employed by cruise ships to provide emission-free energy have included the installation of solar panels, as well as tinting windows onboard to ensure interiors are cooler, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning! Amongst many of the measures CroisiEurope has implemented – which has seen the river line go far beyond legal requirements – CroisiEurope has successfully saved 35% in drinking water and reduced waste by 35% by installing water savers on all of their fleet.
Technologies to improve efficiency and performance and ensure that ships are as green as possible are increasingly being factored into ship design for new, upcoming ships. We’ve already seen how this has had an impact on some of the upcoming or recently launched ships. This is especially important for cruise ships which are especially designed for particular areas, such as the Galapagos. Expedition cruising has seen a big boost in popularity in recent years, and is one of the fastest growing areas of cruising, but because the areas in which expedition cruising focuses on – such as Antarctica, the Arctic, Spitsbergen, or Galapagos – are particularly vulnerable, it is of vital importance that ships mitigate their impact. Between 2019 and 2020, fifteen new expedition and adventure ships are due to launch, but they are also utilizing the latest technology such as dynamic positioning systems (DPS) to enable the ship to stay in position without anchors, in order to protect the seas, seabed, and wildlife.
A couple of years ago, my friend and I were in Barcelona before joining an Azamara cruise, and whilst we were enjoying some tapas, we were talking to our waiter, David, a young lad in his early 20s who told us that he had to commute from quite far out of the city centre as rental prices were simply unattainable for him. City living, particularly in Western Europe, is often notoriously expensive, but David explained that living costs were particularly expensive in Barcelona because rich investors bought up a lot of the properties in order to rent out to holidaymakers on AirBnB.
Barcelona was one of the cities which saw a considerable backlash against overcrowding in the summer of 2017. Venice and Dubrovnik completed the triumvirate. However, it’s not a new issue; Venice in particular has long been suffering from tourist overcrowding.
Although the cruise industry is only a small part of overtourism, it is easy to see why cruising can be viewed as antagonistic to destination sustainability. Ships are highly visible and tangible, making them easy to target, and there are arguments that cruisers spend less money shoreside, but cause more congestion.
At the end of 2018, the city of Amsterdam announced a new daily tax of €8 per person for ‘day visitors’, levied on passengers visiting the city mid-cruise, taxing cruise lines for each day spent in the city (unless the ship was embarking or disembarking). Following the announcement, MSC and CMV amended itineraries to avoid the charge, switching from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. The move caused anger from CLIA and cruise lines, partly because the city didn’t liaise with CLIA to come to a solution, but also partly because the tax was felt to be (in the words of Tony Roberts, the chairman of CLIA UK and Ireland) ‘blaming a bystander’. CLIA UK and Ireland’s director Andy Harmer explained that whilst transit cruise passengers were just 1% of Amsterdam’s total tourist traffic, cruise calls to the city accounted for over €60 million in net revenues from the Port of Amsterdam. ‘In comparison the remaining 99 per cent of the tourist traffic are expect to contribute via all tourist taxes, just short of €80 million in 2019. It is self-evident that the contribution of cruise passengers is extremely disproportionate.’ Whilst cruise passengers may be accused of contributing little to local economies, seen only to buy the occasional coffee or snack ashore, the overall contributions of cruise calls to local economies may be far greater than meets the eye!
The accusations of congestion of people caused by cruise lines in their contribution to over-tourism may be harder to shake. They’re certainly more visible! Tourist taxes have also been announced by the city of Venice, whose citizens have long felt beleaguered by cruise lines. However, since 2014, CLIA cruise lines have voluntarily agreed not to send ships larger than 96,000 tonnes to Venice, which has helped steadily reduce the number of cruise passengers visiting the city. It could be argued that this might need to go further; after all, the MSC ship (Opera) which crashed into the pier (and the lovely River Countess) in the summer of 2019, refuelling debates about whether cruise ships should be allowed in Venice, is just over 65,000 gross tonnes!
Collaborating with local communities
The city of Dubrovnik is another popular destination, and with popularity, often comes overtourism. However, CLIA is already working with Dubrovnik’s local politicians to collaborate on their ‘Respect the City’ programme. This collaboration has seen scheduling adjustments from CLIA cruise lines that will help relieve congestion at the Old Town’s Pile Gate, and it could (should) become a workable model for other over-saturated destinations. This move to collaborate with the local authorities of Dubrovnik came in response to learning that the city’s mayor had decided to limit the number of ship visits to the port.
Dubrovnik is not alone in collaborating with cruise lines; CLIA is liaising with national governments and local and port authorities in key destinations. The over saturation of some destinations is an issue which is recognized by the wider tourism industry (not just cruise lines) as an issue which needs addressing, and the best way to do so is to collaborate with local stakeholders.
Cruise lines collaborate amongst themselves in Alaska to mitigate the impact of cruising in the region. Earlier this year, Adam Goldstein – the global chairman of CLIA and vice chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises – suggested that cruise lines could co-ordinate European itineraries to ease pressure on popular destinations, just as they already do in Alaska.
Collaborating isn’t just key to tackling the issue of overtourism, either. Some cruise lines individually have been working with organisations to come up with solutions to environmental questions. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines became the first cruise line to work with the environmental campaigning organisation, City to Sea, as part of its Refill Campaign. The campaign will see Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines install free water stations across their fleet, and encouraging guests to ‘bring their own bottles’ on their next sailing, as well as being able to take their refillable bottles to any bar onboard, or to bring along reusable tea and coffee cups for use in the Bookmark Cafes or hot drinks stations across the fleet. As we have already seen, Hurtigruten are renowned for their high levels of environmental awareness ashore and at sea, and in 2018 the Hurtigruten Foundation was formed to help local initiatives, including Clean Up Svalbard, which invites passengers to help clear waste washed up on the beaches. They also host auctions onboard their ships to raise funds for global habitat restoration projects, such as an initiative to protect albatross in South Georgia and maintain an Antarctic research station.
It's clear that overtourism has become an issue, and it’s right that we not only talk about it, but that solutions are sought. How ever we travel, whether it’s on a cruise or not, it’s important to remain mindful of the fact that we are often visiting places where people live. The simple fact that cruising remains only a small percentage of overall global tourism doesn’t mean that the cruising industry can simply shrug off any responsibility. It is, after all, highly visible, particularly in smaller areas and compact cities, and a small contribution to a problem is still a contribution. However, cruise lines and CLIA are endeavouring to mitigate their impact on the areas in which they visit. Both the Dubrovnik model and the Alaska model are a good start and a step in the right direction, and perhaps replicating these collaborations elsewhere would ease tensions and hopefully solve the issue of overtourism.
Recycling and plastics
Some of the most innovative recycling and reusing strategies in the world can be found onboard cruise ships, with the industry recycling over 80,000 tons of plastic, aluminium and glass every year. Some ships go even further, recycling or reusing almost 100% of the waste generated onboard, through recycling, donating and converting waste into energy. An American study even found that many cruise ships recycle 60% more waste per person than the average American does on land. Hurtigruten are one cruise line whose waste oil is reused on land as heating fuel.
Cruise lines are also increasingly concerned about reducing the amount of paper printed, with some – such as APT – introducing apps. APT also changed their print policy to reduce the amount of paper printed, which has succeeded in saving 83,000 pages and 562kg of carbon dioxide!
Plastics (in particular single-use plastics) have become an almost emotive issue, thanks largely to what has become dubbed the ‘Blue Planet Effect.’ In the season finale of Blue Planet II, millions of people watched, shocked, as a sperm whale attempted to eat a discarded plastic bucket whilst Sir David Attenborough warned ‘industrial pollution and the discarding of plastic waste must be tackled for the sake of all life in the ocean.’ In another scene, Lucy Quinn, a scientist from the British Antarctic Survey Team, was filmed by the carcass of an albatross, a plastic bag had been the cause of death. Yet one of the producers admitted that much of the footage filmed had been ‘too upsetting’ to feature in the programme. What was shown, however, has left an imprint on the public conscience, increasingly mindful of Sir David’s narration, warning us that ‘since its invention some hundred years ago, plastic has become an integral part of our daily lives. But every year, some eight million tonnes of it ends up in the ocean. And there, it can be lethal.’
Whilst cruise lines aren’t responsible for every tonne of plastic that ends up in the ocean, cruise lines do – as we have seen – have a vested interest in ensuring that our oceans are kept as clean and protected as they can be. Their passengers are as concerned about single-use plastics and the impact they have on our oceans as non-cruisers; guests don’t suddenly leave such concerns behind them as they go up the gang plank on embarkation day. With the tides changing and increased concerns about the impact of single-use plastics, cruise lines are taking action on their guests’ behalf.
At a 2018 launch event, Sir Richard Branson announced that new cruise line Virgin Voyages would be completely single-use plastic-free, smashing a plastic bottle with a hammer to emphasise his point. Beyond the gimmicky plastic bottle smashing, he argued that ‘Business is a force for good and can and must be the catalyst for global change,’ hailing Virgin Voyages’ ‘Epic Sea Change for all.’ The cruise line, due to launch next year, aims to be ‘one of the cleanest fleets at sea’, with the line’s Chief Executive Tom McAlpin adding that they ‘must make a commitment that is bigger than just eliminating straws.’
For Virgin Voyages, it is easier to start a cruise line with a clean slate; for other, existing, cruise lines, policies to eliminate single-use plastics will be implemented, with P&O and Cunard pledging to eliminate single-use plastics across their fleets by 2022, while Disney Cruise Line achieved the elimination of plastic straws and stirrers from their fleet by mid-2019, further aiming to reduce plastics in its passenger cabins by 80% by transitioning to refillable amenities over the next few years. Many cruise lines – from MSC to Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises – have already banned plastic straws from their fleets. MSC started phasing out this elimination by December 2018, and they aimed to remove virtually all single-use plastics by March 2019. Some cruise lines – such as Carnival Cruise Line and Cruise & Maritime Voyages – have stopped placing plastic straws in drinks as default, although plastic straws are still available upon request. However, both cruise lines try to encourage guests to ‘support our efforts to limit the amount of plastic that can be found in the seas today’ (as per a post on Carnival’s brand ambassador John Heald’s Facebook page). Emerald Waterways recently launched their first river ship on the Mekong, the Emerald Harmony, which also marked another first for the river line, as it’s their first no single use plastic Star Ship. Emerald Waterways proudly tweeted that ‘cabin water is in glass bottles, each guest receives a metal refillable bottle, lights are on movement sensors, cabins have refillable toiletries and of course there are no plastic straws.’
Speaking as part of a panel at World Travel Market London, Ian Rowlands, director of Incredible Oceans, described plastics as a ‘scourge’ and a ‘pestilence’, and emphasised the importance of reusability and recyclability for sustainable use. Cruise lines are being proactive in trying to deal with the issue of single-use plastics, with many cruise lines eliminating – or in the process of eliminating – single-use plastics across their fleets. Furthermore, their recycling and reusing strategies have proved to be both innovative and successful.
For cruising, it is imperative that our oceans and seas are protected, and the same is true of rivers for river cruising. The cruising industry relies on this! Environmental concerns have rightly become an important topic in the forefront of public consciousness, and the whole travel and tourism industries need not only to react and respond, but to do so in ways that are correct and sustainable, and most importantly work for the people (and wildlife) that will be most affected. Arguably, cruising gets blamed disproportionately, largely due to is high visibility; whilst cruise ships run on fuel, they are only a small part of the global shipping fleet, and they have been investing heavily in time, resources and energy in order to create solutions to mitigate the impact that they have. CLIA’s global commitment made in December 2018 was unprecedented in the whole maritime industry and has made cruising the forerunners in maritime sustainability. Once upon a time, cruise lines attempted to one-up each other in building the 'fastest' ships (and the most luxurious), but today there's an increasing desire to have the greenest, cleanest fleet. Many fingers get pointed at cruising when it comes to overtourism, too, but this is arguably a matter of perception. Furthermore, collaborating appears to be the future for tackling this issue, and steps are being made in the right direction.
Technological strides are being made, and cruise ships are increasingly taking full advantage of such strides in order to become more sustainable. Will there one day be a golden day in the future when we have ships that are completely green? I hope so, but until then I’m glad to see the advances being made.
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About the author:
Amy's first cruise was 20 years ago, and since then she has experienced around 60 ships from about 40 cruise lines, and seen many changes to cruising, including the increasing importance of sustainability and how cruising can mitigate its impact on the environment. Amy is one of our Marketing Executives, and she's also Bedfordshire's only accredited CLIA Cruise Master. She gives talks about cruising, including the Introduction to Cruising Presentations at our Cruise Shows, and has also written for Cruise Adviser. In 2019, Amy made the shortlist for Travel Agent Marketing Star and Travel Agent Rising Star (Under 35) at the Cruise Star Awards by Cruise Trade News.