These days, most of us are aware of the impact our lives have on the environment, or if not, we’re being persuaded to be more aware. From washing our clothes at a lower temperature and unplugging electrical devices when not in use, to making our cars more fuel efficient and thinking about how many journeys we make – whether it be by road air or sea – eco-friendly living is certainly here to stay. It’s certainly true that the travel industry has had a fair amount of criticism levelled at it when it comes to impact on the environment. Gone is the golden age of care-free travel, when petrol was cheap, the roads not as busy and air and sea travel not as readily available to the masses. Nowadays, we’re all encouraged to be aware of our carbon footprints – the impact our journeys have on the environment – whether that be by reducing the amount of unnecessary car journeys we make or the impact that our leisure travel is having. But should we be made to feel guilty for going on holiday? Will our holiday really make a difference? And how does the cruise fit into all of this?
Well, we shouldn’t feel guilty, but our holiday does make a difference. Initially, it was air travel which was associated with the notion of the overly large carbon footprint, but in these days where many vessels function as huge floating hotels and leisure complexes, many cruise lines have realised that their ever-expanding fleets are just as responsible for carbon emissions and having an adverse effect on the environment through the sewage and waste they produce, too. But what steps are they taking?
Perhaps the most visible indication of Celebrity Cruises’ green credentials is the advent of solar panels on the line’s Solstice class vessels, which are used to power the ships’ lifts. There’s also heat transfer windows which allow for more light and reduce the need for cooling in cabins, which of course, means less power used. The ships also utilise a water filtration system, which ensures that waste water is in a non-harmful condition before it is returned to the ocean and the line ensures that all their ships’ oil is cleaned and left ashore at city ports. As for more general recycling, all tin and aluminium are recycled on-board.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line has certainly got its ship (s) in order when it comes to being green. Their vessel’s laundry facilities are run using water which is generated by the air conditioning system and any excess heat is used to power evaporators which turn seawater into drinking water. The line also installed automatic air conditioning throughout its fleet to save energy and was the first to use a non-toxic hull coating, designed to ease a ship’s passage through the water. In terms of eco-savvy staff, the line has it covered with an environmental officer appointed on each ship, to better educate all staff and crew on green issues, while the line supports a number of environmental programmes which raise money for a number of worthy causes. Disney Cruise Line also recycles aluminium, cardboard and scrap metals widely on all its vessels.
Holland America Line
HAL has certainly grabbed the environmental bull by the horns in a big way. All their vessels boast water treatment systems, and the line has taken great steps to reduce the waste generated on-board its ships and ensures that none of it goes overboard. They’re another line which utilises fuel-efficient heat transfer windows, a silicone paint hull and an environmentally aware staff programme, too. In the same way as today’s hotels, the line also operates a towel reuse programme and low-flow showerheads and taps to help to reduce water wastage. Holland America Line also has a policy of using all non-toxic cleaning detergents on-board, while on a larger scale, has considered fuel -saving by introducing shorter routes and taking advantage of tide schedules.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Making a big impact, NCL was the first to introduce an eco-ballast system on its ships, which ensures that any water which leaves the ship is toxin-free. They also operate the same environmental initiatives as other cruise lines, such as water treatment and donate the used cooking oil from their kitchens to farmers working close to some of the ports which they visit.
You’d hope a line which operated the world’s two biggest vessels to take responsibility when it comes the environment and indeed, Royal Caribbean have a strong environmental management plan in place on all their ships, with environmental managers responsible for training staff, who in turn inform the guests of the line’s environmental policy. The line ensures that no waste goes overboard and introduced biodegradable bottles and vastly minimised the packaging used in its condiments. On a much larger scale, they redesigned their vessels’ hull shape and propulsion system which lead to an energy saving of 8 per cent, upgraded their water treatment systems to advanced purification systems and use 18 million gallons of bio diesel each year.
What can you do?
Just because the cruise line you choose to travel with has taken steps on the path to greenness, it doesn’t mean that, as a passenger, you’re absolved of responsibility. There are lots of little things that you can do that will help to make a big difference. Be sure that you always comply with towel re-use programmes and that you don’t waste water and always ensure that you comply with your ship’s recycling policy. Don’t throw anything overboard and make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your belly when it comes to the buffet – as we know, waste food is a big problem and we throw around 15 tonnes of it away each year in the UK alone.
By Simon Brotherton