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Cruising with a conscience: planet-friendly cruises

Slipping through clear, blue seas, many cruise passengers are under the impression that their ship is more environmentally-friendly than the planes jetting across them in the sky above. Yet carbon offsetting company Climate Care and their partners Responsible Travel say cruise ships are in fact more polluting than aircraft.

So, is it possible for those with an eco-conscience to enjoy a guilt-free cruise? And if it is, where do you go to find the best green cruises? Thankfully, some good news is beginning to rise from the murky waters. Switched-on cruise companies can see the long-term benefits of going green: many are targeting a wider range of holidaymakers than ever before, including younger travellers and families, many of whom will be eco-savvy and hunting for a responsible holiday. Here are a selection of greener cruise companies that are working hard to keep our oceans clean…

Responsible Tourism Award-winning cruise lines

A few years ago, the Responsible Tourism Awards created a new ‘Cruise’ category to highlight cruise companies that are taking clear steps towards responsible tourism. This is a big help for any passengers wanting to find a well-vetted green cruise company.

A growing number are espousing their eco-credentials, but 2010’s winners Orion Expedition Cruising is the only cruise company with Earthcheck certification, which involves a thorough independent audit of their environmental practises. Despite being a relatively small operator, Orion carries out community research before it establishes new ports of call in order to help protect the destination’s cultural heritage and environment, while at the same time providing tangible benefits to local communities in the places they visit. The company has also persuaded its suppliers to make positive environmental changes – such as shifting from using plastic containers to cardboard, and using aluminium bottles instead of plastic.

The previous year’s winner was Royal Caribbean Cruises, a company which has worked to reduce emissions in their newest ships by 50% over ships built a decade ago. With their ‘Nothing Goes Overboard’ policy, they have introduced waste reduction tactics such as getting rid of disposable utensils and replacing plastic water bottles with reusable options. They also employ energy-saving practises such as shutting off one of the ship’s engines during the winter when air-conditioning is in less demand, and introducing ice-making machines that use 65% less water.

Holland America Line scooped the award in its first year after reducing dockside emissions by 20%, developing and implementing an “Avoiding Whale Strikes” training programme, and increasing their recycling by 50%. They look after the basics such as low-flow shower-heads as well as introducing innovative green features such as replacing dry-cleaning detergents with more environmentally-friendly products.

Other green cruise lines

Since the Responsible Tourism Awards’ Cruise category has only existed for a few years, there are only a handful of winners to choose from. But with increasing pressure on cruise companies to reduce their carbon footprint – both from governments and holidaymakers – the choice of green cruises is expanding rapidly. Plenty of other cruise companies are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint. Celebrity Cruise ships, for example, feature solar panels to power lifts, and LED lights to reduce energy demands – while Disney uses water generated from its air-conditioning systems to do the laundry, and excess heat to power evaporators that turn sea water into drinkable water.

How you can help

You can also help make your cruise even greener by taking public transport to reach the departure port, turning out lights when you leave your cabin, and avoid wasting food and water.

Brought to you by the cruises team.