by Emma Featherstone, The Telegraph, August 31, 2018
Cruise holidays, somewhat unfairly, are often perceived as detrimental to the environment – both in terms of emissions and the impact on already overcrowded destinations. But there are simple ways that cruise passengers can minimise their footprints.
Slash your food miles
Tucking into regional fare on board Hurtigruten’s Norway Coastal Kitchen you can be safe in the knowledge that the food has travelled fewer miles to your plate. Sample dishes include baked Arctic char (a cold water fish) from Sigerfjord served with pickled vegetables, baked beetroots and Gulløye (highly prized) potatoes from Tromsø – plus there’s a vegan menu, also locally-sourced.
Norway’s Coastal Kitchen is available on selected voyages including the Classic Voyage North for a seven-day trip, starting from £629pp (hurtigruten.co.uk/inspiration/experiences/norways-coastal-kitchen/).
Choose locally-operated tours
On a Mediterranean cruise many ships will call in at least one overcrowded port. You can inject some goodwill among harried locals by investing your holiday money in the local economy. On a voyage to Croatia, for example, you might try Dubrovnik Food Tours, which is run by a team born and raised in the city. While if you’re cruising into Barcelona you could take part in a street art walk and graffiti workshop with Be Local, a tour company set up by a group of friends living in the tourist hotspot.
A three-to-four hour Old Town food tour is €85pp (£76.50). (dubrovnikfoodtours.com)
Be Local Tour’s Street Art Tour and Graffiti experience runs from 3pm every Sunday and is €28pp (£25.07). (belocaltours.com)
Dabble in ocean research
You can now quiz marine scientists and even assist with their research onboard some voyages with One Expedition Cruises. This is thanks to its five-year partnership with not-for-profit organisation Ocean Wise. The Canadian expedition cruise line provides 120 onboard research days a year to charitable organisations. It is also enhancing onboard research facilities to provide a dedicated space to search for ocean debris, microplastics and specimen samples.
Perhaps you know a curious youngster who’d love to learn more about antarctica? With the Young Explorer Programme onboard Hurtigruten’s MS Midnatsol they’ll be introduced to topics such as wildlife, local food, environmental protection and famous explorers – the experience might even ignite a future career in science.
The Antarctica Off the Beaten Track cruise 12-night voyage departing on November 16 onboard the RCGS Resolute from Punta Arenas, Chile starts from $12,295 (£11,353) per person. (oneoceanexpeditions.com)
The Young Explorer programme is offered free of charge onboard Hurtigurten’s MS Midnatsol while it is in Antarctica until March 2019. (hurtigruten.co.uk)
Overpacking can actually be a benevolent act, if you plan ahead. Initiatives such a Pack for a Purpose (an organisation based in North Carolina, US) advise and help travellers to donate supplies that are needed in their holiday destination, from colouring pencils to surgical gauze. Check port destinations before your trip, find out what donations are needed and if there’s a convenient drop-off point.
For some trips, cruise lines might suggest what to donate. As part of the AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong itinerary, for example, passengers can visit the ODA Free Village English School in Siem Reap, Cambodia (which the cruise line sponsors). Suggested donations for visitors include school and personal hygiene supplies.
Pack for a Purpose lists the destinations where supplies are needed, what specific donations are required and which hotel or tour provider has a collection point. (packforapurpose.org)
Join a beach clean
Want to play your part in cleaning up the oceans? You could join CLIA UK and Ireland, the cruise industry body, and take part in the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean. Last year the event attracted almost 7,000 people. Information collected by volunteers has helped to bring about the current focus on plastic pollution, with results such as the plastic bag charge and the ban on microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic and personal care products.
Volunteers should register to attend one of the beach clean events taking place across the UK from September 14 to 17, 2018 ( mcsuk.org/beachwatch/greatbritishbeachclean ). CLIA is joining events on September 14 in West Wittering, West Sussex and on September 17 in Formby Freshfield, Lancashire.
Break bread with locals
Living in a tourist hub can have its disadvantages, from overcrowding to antisocial behaviour. So when the residents of cities such as Athens or Barcelona invite us into their homes, we should really oblige. On social eating website Eatwith hosts can list dining experiences for others to buy – and there are plenty to choose from, particularly if you are staying in port overnight. You might, for example, opt for feasting on Greek flavours with a view of the Acropolis or a journey through Portugal’s best plates in Lisbon.
Prices are listed per person and guests request bookings before confirming with the host. (Eatwith.com)
Join a building project
Volunteering on a cruise (or cruise voluntourism) may stem from good intentions, but it’s a trend that’s gathered some backlash. One suggested downside is that travellers overestimate what can be achieved during their time onshore. Planning a few nights’ stay before or after a cruise could help you make a greater impact. You could volunteer with local people for two days on a sustainable project as part of Uniworld’s five-day Me to We pre-cruise extension before the India’s Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges 13-day voyage.
The five-day Me to We extension from Uniworld starts from $2,375 (approximately £1,860 per person), the 13-day India’s Golden Triangle and The Sacred Ganges cruise and tour starts from £6,199 per person. (uniworld.com)
Reject single-use plastic
Public awareness of plastic consumption is at a high – at least in part thanks to Blue Planet II. And a number of cruise lines are making commitments to cut onboard single-use plastic, whether through a total ban or by no longer stocking plastic straws. You could opt for a cruise line showing a clear commitment to cutting plastic consumption – and one that has a comprehensive plan of action, how will it dispose of their current stocks of single-use plastic, for example?
Norwegian Cruise Line, Virgin Voyages, Lindblad Expeditions, Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises and Hurtigruten are among the cruise lines who have pledged a fleet-wide plastics ban.
Sail on a small ship
You can fit more than 6,000 people onboard the largest mega-ship. Despite strict recycling and waste management efforts, mass consumption is inevitable. Consider choosing one of a growing number of small ship or expedition voyages on which there might only be 19 other passengers or fewer. These ships are able to call at smaller, less frequented ports – thus taking the pressure off busier destinations. Ask your cruise line if they are involved in any projects locally.
Responsible Travel’s eight-day Seychelles Sailing holiday starts from £1,009 per person. An additional conservation fee goes directly to island communities and local NGOs to support vital environmental work. (responsibletravel.com)
Care for animals
Endangered species might capture animal lovers’ attention, but volunteering time could be of real benefit to more familiar creatures when travelling abroad. When stopping in Cozumel, Mexico, for example, you might cuddle up to the residents of an animal clinic and – if you plan ahead – donate some vital supplies, from tick prevention medicine to cat treats.
A little closer to home, Crystal Cruises offers a voluntourism excursion to the Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as part of its You Care, We Care excursion programme. You could offset your luxurious sailing experience with a day mucking out horse stalls or walking rescue dogs.
ShoreTrips runs the Give… Animal Assistance and Care volunteering trip Monday to Friday for $58 (£45) for two people. (shoretrips.com)