As resort vacation companies have pioneered what they term “green” cruises, some have been hit hard by reports of poor on-board water quality and sewage treatment measures and reports that cruise ships consume energy at unpalatable rates. Their mixed record often gets overlooked amid the growth of niche cruises that focus on art, music, or family activities.
Though cruise consumers might not focus on environmental concerns posed by the cruise industry, industry insiders and watch groups are seeking ways to reduce energy consumption in the leisure sector.
A Look Inside
One of the greatest challenges facing those who hope to contain energy waste in the cruise industry is transparency. Cruise lines are reticent about releasing information about their sustainability practices – so much so that the Friends of the Earth (FOE) Cruise Ship Report Card gave 16 out of 17 cruise lines an F for transparency in 2016.
What can we learn from this year’s cruise company rankings? Their refusal to be open about their practices suggests that these firms are in murky waters when it comes to the environment.
Many are so uncomfortable about the negative rankings from FOE that instead of taking steps to improve their sustainability practices, they have announced they would no longer cooperate with the group, though nearly all affirmed their commitment to be good stewards of the environment.
It’s worth noting that given their low level of cooperation before, as reflected in their transparency ratings, the cruise lines’ refusal to cooperate may not pose a significant change in behavior. They weren’t revealing their on-ship practices before, and they don’t plan to in the future either.
Though many cruise lines have resisted the siren song of sustainability, several have taken steps to transform the industry. Royal Caribbean, for example, launched the largest solar-powered ship of its kind back in 2009.
Named Oasis of the Seas, the cruise liner isn’t fully powered by the sun, but does carry 550 solar panels that serve one of seven major ship areas. They supply energy to a number of traveler rooms as well as eight restaurants and several shops.
Around the same time that Royal Caribbean launched Oasis of the Seas, Celebrity Cruise Lines issued a notice that its Solstice liner had also been outfitted with solar panels – though in this case fewer than half as many as found on the Royal Caribbean ship. The 216 panels aboard Solstice, however, are enough to power 7,000 LED lights.
Adopting solar energy is just the start for the cruise industry. Carnival Cruise Lines is actively partnering with climate scientists and environmental groups by gathering information on weather patterns and transmitting climate-related data to universities and other research organizations via satellite.
Less prominent cruise companies are also putting in efforts to act as responsible stewards of the environment, but many aren’t monitored by FOE, so few people are aware of what’s happening in this corner of the industry.
Take the Cunard Line, the venerable and high-end cruise group that owns the Queen Mary 2. On Cunard ships you’ll find low-energy lamps, re-circulated air for heating and cooling, and sensors that turn deck lights off each morning. These features lower energy use while maintaining top-level service.
Finally, Costa Cruise Lines, an Italian company known as the “first Green Cruise Line of Europe,” meets a full array of environmental standards, including energy use reduction practices, to maintain its green label. It has also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund with the goal of learning how Costa can make its business and hospitality practices friendlier to animals.
Being green in the cruise industry isn’t easy, as evidenced by two Disney cruise ships that generated 48% of the company’s entire carbon emissions in 2007 – but it’s not impossible. As cruises become increasingly popular, the industry will have to take steps to conform to consumer and governmental expectations.
Some have begun to take steps in this direction, and if others don’t step up, brands with an eco-friendly bent may come to dominate the industry.