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Greening the OceansApril 10, 2009 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
Holland America ships plug into local energy grids when in port; control rooms monitor the ship's energy
Over the past two decades, the cruise industry’s overall environmental record has shifted from so-so to admirable. While there is still room for improvement, today’s cruise ships are energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly than their counterparts of the past. Onboard programs for both crew and guests celebrate nature’s bounty and the importance of environmental stewardship. Cruise lines are often held to an even higher regulatory standard than land-based tourism entities.
“Research has shown that the vast majority of Americans are concerned about the environment and ensuring a sustainable future,” says Linda Parrotta, vice president of marketing, CostaCruise Lines—North America. “This extends into all areas of their lives—the foods they choose to buy, the products they use in their home and the vacations they take. Positive environmental practices by cruise lines can only benefit travel agents in the sales process.”
“Safeguarding our guests, crews, ships and the environment in which we live and operate is not only the right thing to do, it is essential to the successful conduct of our business,” adds Richard Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs.
Ben Bajak, vice president, Cruise Holidays of Mission Viejo, CA, reported that environmental issues are becoming more important to clients in the overall cruise decision. In the order of things, “clients pick destination first, then cruise line, then green status,” says Bajak, adding that “Alaska is the greenest destination.”
Disney Wonder utilizes a durable hull coating to increase its fuel efficiency
To improve environmental stewardship, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 24 member lines serving North Americans, and Conservation International signed an agreement in 2008 to renew the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance; it’s designed to minimize the cruise industry’s environmental footprint and protect biodiversity. Conservation International advises CLIA on wastewater management, climate change and destination stewardship.
Individual cruise lines also have formed environmental alliances. Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises both partner with Conservation International; the lines’ Ocean Fund also finances environmental projects. Regent Seven Seas Cruises partners with environmentalist, oceanographer and educator Jean-Michel Cousteau and his colleagues from the Ocean Futures Society for enrichment programs, videos, lectures and shore excursions.
Partnering with the International SeaKeepers Society, Carnival Cruise Lines has installed oceanwater-quality monitoring devices on Carnival Triumph and Carnival Spirit. The data gathered is sent via satellite to environmental groups, governmental agencies and universities.
Since launching the Prince Albert II, an expedition vessel, Silversea Cruises has joined several groups dedicated to managing respectable, environmentally friendly and safe expedition cruising. Costa and its guests are supporting the World Wildlife Fund for the protection of three endangered marine eco-regions—areas of the Mediterranean Sea, the Greater Antilles and Northeastern Brazil.
The Celebrity Solstice is the industry's first ship to utilize solar power for a portion of its electric needs
Parrotta suggested agents visit cruise-line websites to learn about environmental green points. “By taking a simple look at key measures cruise lines are implementing, travel agents can use these actions to their advantage as an added value when making a sale,” she says. For example, all of Costa’s ships have been awarded a voluntary “Green Star” rating by RINA, the Italian shipping classification and certification agency.
Many lines have received certification of their environmental management systems under the ISO 14001 certification model from the International Organization for Standardization. This certification indicates that a line has a management system to identify and control the environmental impact of activities, to improve environmental performance and to systematically approach environmental goals.
Most major lines utilize advanced purification systems to treat wastewater onboard. “Agents should visit [our website] to learn about our many environmental initiatives,” suggests Meadows; for example, Holland America is testing a $1.5 million, cutting-edge seawater scrubbing system on Zaandam.
Visitors to Oceania Cruises’ website will learn that the new Oceania-class vessels will be “green ships” employing the most advanced environmental systems and technology. Disney Magic and Disney Wonder were the first to utilize a durable hull coating that improves hydrodynamic characteristics and increases fuel efficiency. Such lines as MSC Cruises are also giving existing vessels new eco-friendly hull coatings; the MSC Sinfonia got this treatment on a recent drydock.
Several Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises ships are among those plugging into local power sources while in certain ports; the process, called “cold ironing” is designed to reduce emissions and onboard fuel consumption.
An in-house environmental audit onboard Crystal Cruises resulted in measures that have since saved more than 960,000 kWh—equivalent to eliminating 5,000 light bulbs or saving 200 tons of fuel annually.
Royal Caribbean and other lines have adjusted arrival and departure times at ports and altered ship speeds to also save fuel. Seabourn Cruise Line is installing fancoil chillers on the new Seabourn Odyssey to reduce energy required to cool suites and public rooms.
Cruise lines are also enlisting guests and crew members as watchdogs. For instance, those on any Carnival ship may e-mail [email protected] with any questions or environmental concerns.
Moving forward, “travel agents have an opportunity to approach the industry’s environmental practices as a selling tool to an increasingly larger group of clients,” says Meadows. “More and more travelers seek information about the environmental practices of the hotels, resorts and cruises they choose.”
• Carnival Cruise Lines involves guests and crew in onboard recycling. Food, glass, aluminum and plastics are collected in separate bins located in public areas, open decks, steward stations, galleys, crew areas, room-service pantries and bar pantries.
• Celebrity Solstice (www.cruisingpower.com) is the industry's first ship to use solar energy. Its 216 solar panels provide enough energy to power all the ship's guest elevators or more than 7,000 LED lights.
• Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) has introduced 100 percent recyclable EcoHangers on its ships; that’s an eco-friendly way to cut use of wire and plastic hangers that fill landfills. Crystal also utilizes washable, reusable laundry garment bags rather than plastic ones.
• Cunard Line (www.cunard.com) only buys seafood from sustainable sources.
• Native to the Bahamas, sea urchins are being reintroduced on Disney Cruise Line’s (www.disneytravelagents.com) Castaway Cay to help control algae levels that can harm threatened corals.
• The new Seabourn Odyssey (www.seabourn.com) will have a technically advanced system for handling food waste—thus reducing the consumption of fresh water in galleys.
• Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) donates thousands of gallons of used cooking oil for bio-diesel use by farmers in Hawaii and Florida.