Cruises can be a cost-effective and fun way to see the world. But what they’re not is green. “Cruise ships are probably the least environmentally friendly kind of transportation going,” says environmental consultant Pat Maher. Cruises burn huge amounts of fuel, dump untreated sewage into the ocean, and spew sulfur dioxide. Academics and activists have called the industry out for lack of transparency.
Cruise lines have made some progress. Recycling, incinerating, and waste processing are now standard. Companies are structuring itineraries to save fuel and cut noise pollution. And some are partnering with respected environmental organizations on sustainability projects like these.
Royal Caribbean + World Wildlife Fund
As part of a new partnership with WWF, the company promises to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 35 percent over the next five years. That will have a substantial impact—in 2014, Royal Caribbean generated 4.9 million tons of CO2. The company will also get 90 percent of its wild-caught seafood from fisheries deemed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council and other organizations.
Un-Cruise Adventures + Monterey Bay Aquarium
The small-ship line, which specializes in adventure trips, teamed up last year with the aquarium’s Seafood Watch initiative. It promised to serve only fish that are deemed “best choices”—sustainably sourced—or “good alternatives,” which are less ocean-friendly but still better than other options.
Carnival + The Nature Conservancy
In 2014, the world’s largest cruise operator threw its support behind the Nature Conservancy, earmarking $2.5 million to fund projects including mangrove research and coral-reef restoration.
The Peace Boat
The most sustainable concept in cruising doesn’t come from a traditional cruise company but from Peace Boat, a 33-yearold organization that promotes peace through educational voyages. Late last year, Peace Boat announced plans for the Ecoship, which it plans to have built by 2020. Among its impressive features:
The 10 retractable sails harness both wind and sun, doubling as photovoltaic panels. The ship will also be powered by biofuel.
2. High-Tech Hull
Unlike traditional hull coatings, this one will be nontoxic, and will even imitate dolphin skin, for less drag in the water.
The ship’s garden, fed with rainwater and organic waste generated on board, will produce ingredients for meals.