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Green Travel: Green Cruises

4/24/2009 4:55:03 PM

Tags: green traveler, green cruises

For an industry that derives its success from the beauty of nature, cruise ships have long been known as environmental polluters. Smokestacks release billowing clouds of pollutants into the air, and millions of gallons of water tainted with sewage and oily engine run-off are released into the ocean where they harm marine ecosystems. Over the past few years, cruise companies have received a lot of flack for this and consequently have begun to shape some of their policies into eco-friendly practices.

Here’s a brief look at what some of the major cruise lines are doing to make their cruises greener – and that might make you feel less guilty for taking one.

Cruise Ship

Cruise lines have been criticized for being environmental pollutions, but many lines have tailored their onboard policies to reduce their air and water pollution, to promote recycling and environmental awareness, and to aid in research about climate change. Photo courtesy Greg7


• Waste: Instead of dumping some of its waste at sea – which international law allows – Carnival chooses to recycle, incinerate or offload its wastes for disposal on land.

• Recycling: To encourage guests and staff to recycle, Carnival has placed bins for food, glass, aluminum and plastic at strategic locations throughout its ships.

• Scientific Research: Two of Carnival’s ships, Carnival Triumph and Carnival Spirit, are equipped with special technology to monitor ocean water quality. The data from the monitors are transmitted to environmental groups, government agencies and universities to assist in research of ocean pollution and global climate change.

• Have questions about Carnival’s green policies? Email them at

Royal Caribbean 

• Waste: Royal Caribbean treats all its waste water onboard with an advanced purification system. Food waste is pulped and discharged 12 miles from land.

• Recycling: Recycling plastic? No need. Royal Caribbean has eliminated all plastic items usually available to guests, such as shampoo bottles and plastic plates, in favor of biodegradable or reusable options.

• Scientific Research: Like Carnival, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas has technology to monitor ocean water and the atmosphere and to send the data to organizations and universities for climate research.

• Energy: Two ships, Radiance and Millennium, will receive new generators that will more efficiently produce electricity.


• Water: Disney cruise line has some unique policies involving water. Excess heat generated from the engine’s boilers is rerouted to power evaporators that turn sea water into potable water. About 33 percent of the water used onboard is taken from condensation created by the ship’s air conditioning units.

• Crew: Disney employs Environmental Officers for each of its ships. The officers oversee recycling, waste minimization, water reclamation efforts and other environmental systems on the ships and on Disney’s private island, as well as overseeing environmental education classes for crewmembers.

Other tidbits:

• Norwegian Cruise Line recently donated used cooking grease to an organic farmer in Florida; it has also donated cooking grease to a farmer in Hawaii in the past.

• Holland America’s and Princess' ships plug into shore power at ports in order to reduce emissions from consuming fuel.

• Costa was the first cruise line to be awarded a Green Star notation in 2005 for meeting the highest environmental standards for pollution prevention and marine preservation.

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