Cruising: The Case For Sustainability, Part Two

This is part two in a series about sustainability. In this article, we will address some of the responses to the issues posed last week. I recommend reading that article before you read this one. 

As promised last week, today we will look at “harm reduction,” or what cruise lines are doing to reduce or counteract their environmental impact. We learned that cruise lines are large producers of waste, and about the negative impacts of the use of heavy fuel oil, the affects ballast water could have on ocean life, air pollution, and more.

While all of these negative environmental impacts are typical of large ships, some cruise lines are doing an admirable job in their efforts to reduce their footprint.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity tops today’s list because there are noticeable changes that Celebrity has made to its fleet that I have experienced firsthand. One of the most surprising things to me during my time aboard Celebrity Edge was Celebrity’s use of aluminum water bottles. Aluminum is the most recycled material in the word and, unlike plastics, aluminum can be recycled multiple times without any additional resources. Speaking of plastics, Celebrity has banned plastic straws from its fleet.

Another feature aboard Celebrity Edge was the touch control panel for the lights. When selected, an eco-friendly light setting would be implemented, turning off lights that weren’t necessary and dimming the lights to reduce energy.

Celebrity promises commitment to the betterment of the environment through its Save The Waves Program. According to Celebrity’s website, the principles of this program are:

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Reduce the generation of waste material, reuse and recycle wherever possible, and properly dispose of remaining wastes.
  • Practice Pollution Prevention – Nothing may be thrown overboard. Nothing.
  • Go Above and Beyond Compliance (ABC) – Means doing more than is required by regulations.
  • Continuous Improvement – Change is the only constant; innovation is encouraged and rewarded.

Not only are these promises apparent through the initiatives that I mentioned earlier, but also with the constructions of Celebrity’s new ships. Celebrity’s newest ship, Celebrity Flora, will sail the Galapagos. The ship will host youth programs in the Galapagos focused around sustainability in hopes to “inspire champions for the protection and enhancement of the treasured ecosystems of the Galapagos islands.”

In CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo’s words: “We want to leave a destination in a better place than when we found it, and we work with partners who share this mission.”

Celebrity Flora will be energy efficient as well, with a 15 percent reduction of fuel consumption and fewer air emissions.

Though Celebrity does go above and beyond what is required by government regulations, Celebrity does have a few shortcomings. On Celebrity Summit, I noticed that there were no key card slots for the lights. So once the lights were turned on, they didn’t turn off until the light switch was flipped. All in all, though, Celebrity has done a good job with minimizing its impact.


Expedition cruise company Ponant also takes many initiatives to be as sustainable as possible. Remember the Heavy Fuel Oil we talked about last week? By 2021 Ponant will switch over to Low Sulfur Marine Gas Oil and Liquified Natural Gas. This will allow the ships to have 25 percent less carbon emissions, 85 percent less nitrogen oxide emissions, and 95 percent less fine particle emissions. Not only does this help with a reduction in air pollution, but also with sulfur emissions.

Ponant also takes other initiatives to reduce its impact such as: 

  • Sonar systems to avoid contact with icebergs and reefs
  • Refrigerant gas for AC and fridges
  • Low energy and low heat emitting lighting
  • Dynamic position systems to avoid dropping anchor in sensitive marine environments
  • Tin-free antifouling paint
  • Energy-consumption tools to reduce consumption

In 2021, Ponant will welcome a hybrid polar ship to its fleet which will feature all the same reductions in emissions mentioned above.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal announced that as of June 8, 2019 plastic straws would be eliminated across its fleet. Though it seems like a small step, there are plenty of cruise lines that haven’t even taken this small measure that could easily reduce plastic waste. Eliminating straws isn’t the only thing that Crystal is doing to decrease its environmental impact, though.

The line has used water filtration systems in its dining venues for many years, allowing guests to have still or sparkling water without having to use plastic bottles. It’s small things like this that can make a large difference, especially when you look at the years Crystal has had this system in place.

Crystal announced a partnership with ORCA, a conservation program that will bring Cruise Conservationists aboard certain Alaska sailings for training, research, and data collection. On top of these sailings, Crystal also provides guests the opportunity “You Care, We Care” excursions. These excursions allow guests and crew to assist organization in local communities during their time ashore.

Crystal has taken other initiatives such as using low flow showerheads, using LED lights, reducing electricity, and more.

Just Remember There Are Things That You Can Do Too

Next week we will be getting into more about what other cruise companies have done to help reduce their impact on the environment, but I want to leave you with a few things that you can do to help reduce your environmental impact on your next cruise.

Drink tap water. 

Water on cruise ships is potable and simply taking a water bottle on your trip with you can help reduce a lot of waste caused by plastic water bottles.

Turn off your lights when you are out of your room. 

Many cruise lines do this by either having a key card system in place, forcing passengers to use their stateroom keys to turn the lights on so that they will shut off when they leave. But even when you are in your room, there are times when opening the curtains should give you enough light to get through your day.

Take shorter showers. 

This is probably something that we should practice in our life every day, but it doesn’t hurt to apply this practice to vacations as well.

Bring your own shower supplies. 

If cruise line offers toiletries that are made from single use plastics, meaning that they are thrown away after they are gone, try to bring your own shampoo and body wash from home in a refillable bottle. Most cruise lines have switched to pump shampoos and body washes to help reduce plastic consumption aboard.

Do research.

Continue to research the sustainability initiatives put in place by cruise lines to make sure that they are going above and beyond to protect the environment.

Know that your small contribution can make a difference. 

If everyone thought that reducing waste was going to make a difference, our oceans would look a lot different than they do now. Do your best to reuse your towels, fill your water bottles, cut down on your plastic consumption, and all the other things we have talked about. If all of us were able to do that, we could reduce a lot of the negative impacts that cruising has on the environment.

Now that you know a few of my ideas, what sustainability initiatives do you take when you travel?

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