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Whether it’s on the issue of low-sulfur fuels or single-use plastics, ocean cruise lines are pushing for greater environmentalism. Knowing that the destinations travelers visit can only continue to exist if they can be sustained, brands are banding together in solidarity to make a difference and ensure their longevity.
At TravelAge West’s inaugural Future Leaders in Travel Retreat, held in September in Aspen, Colo., I had the opportunity to speak about what I foresee for the cruise industry, and the environment was at the forefront of my discussion. In fact, just before the event, Aida Cruises had just launched its new Aidanova as the first cruise ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) both at sea and in port.
LNG is significant because it is known to be the world’s cleanest-burning fossil fuel, and Aida is not the only line set to utilize it as a power source. Corporate cousins Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises and Princess Cruises are set to follow, as well as the likes of Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.
This may sound familiar: Gas turbines were previously implemented on cruise ships to reduce sulfur emissions, but the expensive fuel required then proved not to be economically viable. But there are some past and current eco-friendly technologies still in play. Among them are solar cells to augment electrical production; exhaust scrubbers to remove particulates before they reach the air; and cold ironing to draw electricity from the shore.
In fact, Carnival Corporation & Plc has signed an agreement of cooperation with The Bellona Foundation to aspire toward a zero-emission future in ports and in sensitive areas.
Of course, the latest environmental headlines have been about the elimination of single-use plastics, an issue that has also emerged in the cruise industry — with many corporations reaffirming their stance.
The most recent to do so is MSC. The line plans to stop using single-use plastic straws onboard by this December, as well as remove or replace virtually all other single-use plastics in its supply chain, where alternatives are available, by March 2019. MSC is already utilizing Ocean Guardian software to stay compliant with all the latest environmental regulations worldwide.
Also explicitly cracking down on single-use straws is World Wildlife Fund partner Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. By the end of this year, single-use straws will no longer be offered on its Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International brands. The company is further auditing other plastics and just signed an agreement with Southern Power to offset up to 12 percent of its emissions with wind energy starting in 2020.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. is also working to reduce single-use plastics. It has already eliminated straws from its Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises ships, as well as in its Great Stirrup Cay and Harvest Caye private destinations. The company has additionally joined Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance.
Smaller operators have gotten on the bandwagon, too. Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic has cut out single-use plastics across its fleet; Peregrine Adventures will this year; and G Adventures will remove them in the Galapagos for 2019. Poseidon Expeditions is also removing plastic straws and stirrers and providing paper straws upon request onboard Sea Spirit.
Virgin Voyages hasn’t launched yet, but it has already committed to forgoing plastic straws, beverage bottles, condiment packets, shopping bags, food packaging, stirrers and takeaway cups.
Meanwhile, Ponant, like several companies listed above, is bringing multiple efforts together. The small-ship line supports Sea Plastics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expeditions studying the impact of plastics on the marine environment. The line will also launch a hybrid-electric polar ship propelled by LNG in 2021.