How To Choose A Sustainable Cruise

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cruise sailing on large river next to mountains

In the past, the cruise industry has had a reputation for its negative effects on the environment. In response, many companies have been making strides in improving their sustainability standards in a number of significant ways. In this blog, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know when choosing the right sustainable cruise. 

cruise ship sailing through polluted harbor
Photo by Eduardo Goody on Unsplash

There are many different factors to consider when planning your cruise vacation. Destinations, cruise companies, durations, costs…all of these factors contribute to our travel decisions. When adding sustainability into the mix, it can be overwhelming to consider every variable in your decision-making process. Here are four environmentally-related criteria to consider when choosing a sustainable cruise. 

1. Public Commitment

As sustainability becomes more mainstream within the cruising industry, evaluating different cruise companies based on their public commitments to combat climate change is important. A popular goal within the industry is to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero over the next few years, and a key component to this plan is to switch out dirty fossil fuels for greener, more sustainable options. It is important for cruise companies to publicly declare their commitment to such a plan, as it will allow consumers and environmental agencies and organizations to hold them accountable.

When choosing a sustainable cruise, be sure to research how different cruise companies have committed to implementing more environmentally sustainable regulations, including but not limited to their transition away from fossil fuels. 

2. Pollution

According to a study conducted by the University of Exeter, one cruise ship has a larger carbon footprint than 12,000 cars. Cruise ship pollution comes in many forms, from the dumping of raw sewage into the oceans to the emission of dirty fuel fumes into the atmosphere. These actions have dangerous effects not only on the environment and marine ecosystems, but also on local communities and the cruise passengers themselves. While aboard a cruise ship, guests are forced to breathe in heavily polluted air. And this same toxic air is pumped into the atmosphere above port destinations, meaning that local communities also suffer from these toxic effects. 

There are many possible solutions to this problem, some outlined by the environmental charity Friends of the Earth. When choosing a sustainable cruise, research different cruise companies’ measures to reduce their pollution emissions. 

3. Ecosystem Impact

The cruise industry also impacts diverse, unprotected ecosystems by constructing new ports and dumping sewage into the ocean. In addition to introducing harmful chemicals and bacteria into marine environments, this also causes the ocean temperature to rise, drastically impacting arctic ecosystems and causing global sea levels to rise. Cruise companies not only need to be aware of this impact; they need to be firmly committed to changing their habits to prevent these harmful environmental effects. 

When choosing a sustainable cruise, be sure to research how different companies manage their waste and what measures they take to protect natural habitats and wildlife. 

4. Transparency

Lastly, cruise companies need to be transparent about their impact on the environment and their plans to reduce that impact in the future. It is not enough to simply publicly commit to improving sustainability standards in the company; it is also essential that they publish the results of their sustainable changes so they can be held accountable. 

Many cruise companies have been accused of greenwashing, or exaggerating the measures they’re taking to protect the environment. When choosing a sustainable cruise, be sure to research whether different cruise companies are truly being honest and transparent about their sustainable practices. 

Sustainable Habits

person holding reusable water bottle on a boat
Photo by Bluewater Sweden on Unsplash

Despite what cruise you choose for your next vacation, there are small steps you can take to make your trip more sustainable. Here are three habits to remember during your voyage that will help minimize negative impacts on the environment. 

1. Bring Your Own Toiletries

One of the easiest and most effective ways to cut down your environmental impact on a cruise is to bring your own toiletries. Solid soap and shampoo bars allow you to avoid plastics while also supporting environmentally friendly companies. There are also plastic-free alternatives for toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, and moisturizer. 

2. Minimize Consumption

Many of the sustainable habits you practice at home can also be implemented on a ship. Take shorter showers to use less water, turn off lights and electronics when you’re not using them to consume less energy, reuse bed linens and pool towels so they don’t need to be washed as often. All of these simple habits will help ensure that you are conserving as much energy as possible. 

3. Minimize Waste

A habit that goes hand in hand with minimizing consumption is minimizing waste. One easy way to do this is to bring reusable water bottles onboard to avoid using single-use plastics. Similarly, bring reusable bags whenever you go shopping in port. When you do need to throw something away, recycle whenever possible, and avoid littering in the ocean at all costs. 

iguana in foreground with large cruise ship in the background
Photo by Karl Callwood on Unsplash

While each guest needs to take their role in practicing sustainable habits aboard cruise ships seriously, it can’t be overstated that the responsibility for solving these problems lies with the cruise companies. Luckily, many cruise companies have already begun implementing green solutions, and in my next blog, I’ll be sharing some environmentally-friendly cruise ships to consider for your next voyage. Stay tuned!

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