Green Seas


The cruise industry is moving forward in protecting the environments of the destinations (such as Alaska, here) and waters where they operate.


Many agents say it’s still rare for their clients to ask them about the environmental impact of cruising. Yet, it’s certainly clear that many cruisers want to preserve the beauty of the world’s oceans.

So, if a client does ask about the environmental footprint of the industry, what do you say and how do you find out more?

First, understand that the cruise industry of today is not the industry of a decade or more ago. New technology is spearheading fuel efficiency. New programs are recycling cans, bottles and other items. In certain ports, ships are hooking up to shore power rather than running their diesel generators. New wastewater treatment plants are assuring that discharges into the ocean are almost drinking water quality. And many lines have voluntourism or eco programs and environmental activities for guests.

While there is still plenty to do, the industry is moving forward. “The cruise industry is committed to protecting and sustaining the environments of the destinations and waters where we operate,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO, Cruise Lines International Association. “Preserving the environment is always the right thing to do, and it is also important for our passengers who take cruises in order to enjoy the pristine oceans and beaches.” Duffy pointed out that the industry leads maritime technology innovation in the areas of environmental stewardship and sustainability.

“Examples of this leadership include advanced exhaust emission control systems, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment technology, and energy efficiency measures that are on the forefront of the entire maritime industry,” Duffy said.


In certain ports
In certain ports, ships hook up to shore power rather than running their diesel generators to reduce cruise ship air emissions.


To learn more about specific cruise company and cruise line initiatives, check out their websites and search for the keywords “environment [al]” or “sustainability.” For example, Carnival has both types of information in a 2010 report on its corporate website. Royal Caribbean Cruises also has an environmental stewardship report online (

Certainly, though, no one expects an agent to explain a cruise line’s entire environmental program to a client. After all, talking about mechanical systems and scrubbers can become pretty dry topic-wise, especially when clients are all geared up for vacation fun.

You might create a page of key environmental “links” and then hand it to clients who ask about eco issues at sea. Also, why not surf online and pick out six or seven factoids and put as tidbits here and there in your agency newsletter or on your website. Consumers love teasers or factoids and it’s a way to work the environmental messaging into your content.

For example, here are a few factoids we discovered.

Smooth as Silk: In the interest of maximizing energy efficiency, the hull design of Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class ships was born out of an extensive modeling and optimization program that included wind-tunnel and test-tank trials on three different large-scale models.

So the Solstice-class ships are designed around the hull, rather than the traditional method of configuring guest spaces first and then designing the hull to meet those specifications. More than 90 tests were conducted to continuously improve the hull design and optimize the center of buoyancy to reduce resistance and burn less fuel, resulting in fewer emissions.

Separately, Disney Cruise Line made history as the first cruise line to use an innovative hull coating on its ships. According to Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz, the coating is almost “like glass” in terms of how the ships respond in cutting through the water. The coating is 100 percent nontoxic and effective in increasing fuel efficiency by reducing surface resistance in open water.

A Video Story: Agents might refer Norwegian Cruise Line’s clients to an online link, which has a video that explains about ways in which the line is protecting the environment. For the Eco-Smart video, visit

Norwegian has also partnered with NextEra Energy Resources to provide an opportunity to the guests to help build new renewable energy projects and offset their carbon footprint. NextEra Energy Resources’ EarthEra Renewable Energy Trust will direct 100 percent of the contributions from Norwegian’s guests to build new renewable energy projects in the U.S.

Understanding the Big Picture: Merchant shipping accounts for only about 2.7 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and the cruise industry comprises a relatively small fraction of that, according to Carnival Corp.’s 2010 Stewardship Report. “However, we take the responsibility to do our part to address climate change, along with other sustainability-related issues very seriously,” said Micky Arison, chairman, Carnival Corp., in that report.

Carnival Corp., the world’s biggest cruise company, has set an overall corporate target of a 20 percent reduction from its 2005 baseline in the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions from shipboard operations by 2015. The company says it’s achieving that primarily by reducing the energy consumption of existing vessels and by building more energy-efficient ships.

The Human Touch: Jazz up your discussion or information for clients by showing the human touch. CLIA member lines typically have environmental officers onboard their ships.

But what does this type of employee do? Royal Caribbean Cruises’ 2011 Stewardship Report has a brief discussion about “A Day in the Life of an Environmental Officer.” It’s a way to show action on this front, yet in a down-to-earth way.

Monitoring the Seas: Carnival Corp. has forged an alliance with the International SeaKeepers Society to house scientific data-gathering devices that will monitor the ocean water quality onboard five Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line ships; these include Carnival Triumph, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle and Amsterdam.

Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line uses an innovative hull coating on its ships to increase fuel efficiency by reducing surface resistance in open water.

Developed under the direction of scientists at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the devices gather a wide range of data to aid in assessing ocean pollution and researching global climate change and cyclic weather patterns. The data collected onboard the ships is transmitted via satellite to the University of Miami and then to various environmental groups.

Separately, a sea surface temperature (SST) detector placed on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 is helping scientists understand how oceans exchange energy with the atmosphere. Not only are SSTs important in understanding climate change, but they are also used as input parameters to the meteorological models, which in turn generate more accurate weather forecasts compared with government agencies.

Better than On Land: Perhaps, the most difficult environmental issue for cruise ships is onboard sewage, also called black water, which comes from toilets as well as drains and sinks in the infirmary. Cruise lines also have to treat gray water—water that’s been used in onboard showers and sinks. Cruise lines have state-of-the-art wastewater treatment systems that meet all international and U.S. Coast Guard requirements.

Taking that a step further, most Holland America Line ships are fitted with ZENON, Rochem or Hamworthy advanced wastewater purification systems that treat black water with reverse osmosis and bioreactor technology. These systems employ a series of filters and disinfecting steps to treat the water before it’s discharged into the sea. The liquid discharged exceeds the quality of most municipal treatment systems. It’s also clean enough to meet the drinking water standards in many communities ashore.

Powering Up at Dock: A hot trend in reducing cruise ship air emissions is for ships to plug into landside electricity rather than running onboard generators when in port. The cruise industry has spent millions of dollars to adapt ships to use shore power. Seattle and other West Coast ports have been at the forefront of developing landside infrastructure to support shore power.

In 2011, the Port of Los Angeles became the first port worldwide to provide Alternative Marine Power (AMP) to three separate lines—Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. The first port on the East Coast to have shore power capability for cruise ships will be the Port of Brooklyn, which is currently in the midst of a $15 million project.