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Blue Waters, Green Goals

April 12, 2010 By: Susan Young Travel Agent

Cutting-edge eco-friendly technology and practices have become the norm aboard ships


Holland America’s Veendam in Alaska
Holland America’s Veendam sails into the pristine waters of Alaska


Cruise lines have invested millions of dollars on high-tech wastewater treatment, onboard recycling and eco-friendly corporate policies.

In 2008, Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group, graded major lines. Some passed, others failed. The highest grade, “B,” went to Holland America Line. “We take this issue very, very seriously, and it’s not just because it is the current concern of all of us in respect to how we impact the environment in our daily lives and in our businesses, but, in our case, it’s really the right thing to do,” says Stein Kruse, Holland America’s president and CEO, who often speaks for the industry about green progress.

THE EVOLVING AWARENESS: Kruse says cruise industry “greening” followed the general trajectory of growing consumer awareness. Yes, pre-2000, several lines dumped garbage or wastewater in coastal areas. Sadly, the industry became “the poster child for bad environmental behavior using those well-documented few incidents of 12, 15 and 20 years ago,” Kruse notes. Today, the industry fields corporate environmental programs and meets strict maritime/government regulations and certifications.

In a recent survey, 38.1 percent of CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. agents cited Royal Caribbean International as being the most proactive and communicative on environmental issues, 15.1 percent mentioned Princess Cruises and 10.8 percent Holland America. Norwegian Cruise Line followed with 10.1 percent, Celebrity Cruises with 9.4 percent and Carnival Cruise Lines 7.2 percent.

ECO-DILIGENCE: Most ships sail with full-time environmental officers who train crew and monitor compliance. With 15 ships and 17,000 employees, Holland America sets targets, measures performance and communicates progress to staff, says Kruse.

New ships have high-tech wastewater purification systems, which treat wastewater to a higher quality than most municipal treatment systems; many older ships have been retrofitted. Sulphur oxide emissions are reduced using scrubber technology.

Cruise lines use green cleaning products, recycle cans, paper, glass and cooking oil, and have replaced perchloroethylene with a nonhazardous orange extract for dry cleaning. Toilets and showers have low-flow water conservation systems. Written materials are printed with soy-based ink. Elevators on Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships now run on solar power, an industry first.

Recently, Cruise West’s crew on Spirit of Oceanus picked up trash on an Andaman Sea beach and brought it onboard for proper disposal. Both Holland America and Princess Cruises have installed new equipment to tap into cleaner land-based power while ships are docked in Juneau, Seattle and Vancouver, as well as California.

GUEST INVOLVEMENT: The reality for some guests? “My clients don’t care if a ship is green,” says June Sloane, luxury travel advisor, Protravel International of Boca Raton, FL. “They just want comfort and good food.” Still, Kruse says lines try to enlighten guests about recycling bins, towel reuse, turning off lights, closing doors and conserving water.

“We fully recognize that it is our privilege to operate these fabulous ships in some of the most pristine waters of the world and,” says Kruse, “and we have a heightened responsibility to ensure that we touch these places in a way that is environmentally sustainable and that we leave them pristine.”

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