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Sustainable Travel Greater Focus for Cruise Lines in Protecting the Environment

by Felicity Long

Feb 4, 2020

Family cruise. Photo: Valerii Honcharuk | Dreamstime.com


If you’ve wanted to take a family cruise, but held back over concerns about the potential negative impact cruising has on the environment, take heart. Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest and most influential cruise industry trade organization, is highlighting some key 2020 cruise trends — and environmental sustainability and destination stewardship top the list.


The good news, cruise lines aren’t just talking about these issues — they’re doing something about them. According to CLIA’s 2020 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report, an industry-wide commitment to responsible tourism practices includes a $22 billion investment in the development of new energy-efficient technologies, partnerships with local governments in key destinations and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 2008.


“While demand for cruising has reached new heights, the cruise industry is accelerating our efforts to be a leader in responsible tourism,” said Kelly Craighead, president and chief executive officer, CLIA. “Our members are at the forefront of best practices designed to protect the sanctity of the destinations we visit and enhance the experiences of travelers and residents alike.”


But what are these best practices?


The first is the development and identification of new technologies and cleaner fuels. For example, nearly half (44 percent) of new ships will rely on Liquefied Natural Gas fuel for primary propulsion; some 68 percent of those new builds not using LNG will use Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems. But fuel is only half the story. All new builds will have advanced wastewater treatment systems and — looking ahead — the industry is researching battery-propelled vessels, advanced recycling practices, reduced plastic use, energy-efficient lighting, solar energy and fuel cell.


Cruise ship on glacial water of Norwegian fjord. Photo: Gelyngfjell | Dreamstime.com


In the meantime, the industry is eliminating single-use plastics, and the study shows cruisers are doing their share in this effort. In fact, more than eight of 10 cruise passengers recycle and reduce using single-use plastics while traveling. Seven out of 10 cruisers also forego plastic straws.


Another area where the cruise industry is proactively improving its performance in sustainability is in Destination Stewardship. Simply put, this means not killing the proverbial golden goose by trampling the destinations cruisers are visiting — often just by sheer numbers.


To that end, the industry is exploring new and creative ways to manage the flow of visitors and implement the highest standards of responsible tourism, including partnerships with local governments, staggered arrivals and departures — anyone who’s been on a tiny island when there are several giant cruise ships disgorging passengers at once will applaud this effort — and excursion diversification.


The lines are also looking to encourage local passenger spending, because, while most passengers go ashore at each port of call, they typically take pre-booked tours through the cruise line and rush back to the ship for meals. This means the destinations welcome passengers without seeing a huge return on investment.


Admittedly, the industry has a way to go, but the priority cruise lines are putting into these efforts — spurred in large part by consumer demand — is an encouraging sign and should make families feel better about cruising, which is, let’s face it, one of the most fun family vacation options.


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