This article is featured in MMJ Issue 09.
For most, the phrase green cruising may seem paradoxical. After all, the cruise industry has long been associated with environmental challenges, including carbon emissions from its ships, excessive waste generation, sewage, and port pollution. High-profile environmental violations have further tarnished the industry’s reputation. However, amidst mounting pressure from stricter regulations and growing consumer demand for sustainable vacations, some cruise companies are actively working to make their at-sea stays more environmentally friendly.
Considered to be worse than flying in terms of carbon emissions per passenger, a report by Pacific Standard revealed that a person’s average carbon footprint triples in size while on a cruise. Cruise ships and other maritime vessels are responsible for nearly 3% of global greenhouse emissions each year, putting them at odds with the United Nation’s global net zero emission targets for 2050.
While banning plastics and reusing linen are popular environmental pledges, across the travel and tourism industry, cruise ships are expected to focus on decarbonization or risk the ire of greenwashing watch dogs. Technological breakthroughs, especially around cleaner alternative fuels and greener port infrastructure, are the way forward as these five cruise lines prove:
Back to Basics is often a common theme in sustainability initiatives as evident by Star Clippers. This sailing company based in Monaco, operates three tall sailing ships accommodating 166 to 227 passengers. These ships primarily rely on wind power, up to 80 percent of the time, with low-sulfur gas oil as an alternative. Their smaller size minimizes environmental impact and grants access to less-visited ports.
Sustainability is at the core of this 130-year-old Norwegian adventure travel company, who are considered to be pioneers in green energy. Having abandoned heavy fuel oil (HFO) and opted for cleaner alternatives like marine gas oil and biofuels for smaller ships in their fleet, decades ago. In 2019, they introduced the world’s first hybrid battery electric-powered cruise ship and are currently converting their expedition fleet to hybrid battery power. They aim to launch the world’s first zero-emissions cruise ship by 2030, offering fleet-wide shore-power connectivity to reduce port emissions.
Norway’s commitment to sustainability is reflected by her companies across various industries. Launched in 2022, Norwegian cruise line Havila Voyages has introduced two out of four planned hybrid ships for itineraries along Norway’s coast. These ships feature the largest passenger-ship batteries globally, enabling silent and emissions-free journeys into Norway’s UNESCO-protected fjords for up to four hours. Additionally, the batteries can recharge using clean hydropower from local grids and are robust enough to power the ships while docked.
In 2021, the luxury French cruise company Ponant introduced a hybrid expedition vessel, Le Commandant Charcot, powered by LNG and electric batteries. They aim to launch a “zero-impact” ship by 2025. As the first cruise line with Green Marine certification, Ponant o‑sets 100 percent of emissions, offers shore-to-ship power connections, and conducts environmental impact assessments for all itineraries.
Swiss-based shipping company MSC Group is set to launch their luxury cruise brand this summer with a target to debut the world’s first LNG-powered vessel to feature hydrogen fuel cells, along with methane slip-reducing technology in 2027. Developed in partnership with Italian shipbuilders Fincantieri, Explora Journeys’ innovative vessels will substantially lower greenhouse emissions at sea and produce minimal emissions (mostly water vapor and heat) while docked in ports. Other noteworthy features of the anticipated brand includes certification for reducing underwater noise to protect marine wildlife