Making Waves in Environmental Consciousness

The vision of a large ship plying ocean or river waters doesn’t necessarily inspire the idea of environmental consciousness, but cruise companies have made tremendous strides in implementing significant green policies, so consumers can visit spectacular destinations in a more sustainable way. 

Since travelers are increasingly concerned about their carbon footprint, travel agents can better and more confidently sell cruising as an option to them because ship lines of all sizes have improved their environmental initiatives without sacrificing any aspect of what makes cruising such an appealing experience. 

Built To Be Green
Being green is not a new idea for the cruise industry, so travelers do have certain expectations – such as recycling bins placed throughout a ship and information being shared about environmental policies. There’s so much more, though, that cruise companies are doing, both with state-of-the-art new-builds and re-fitting of older vessels, ultimately making these “floating cities” far more environmentally responsible than ever before. 

When Hurtigruten, the world’s largest expedition cruise operator, launches its first to Alaska season in 2020, it will introduce the MS Roald Amundsen, the world’s first hybrid electric-powered cruise ship. It will be equipped with large battery packs, cut carbon dioxide emissions by sailing with electrical propulsion, and reduce fuel consumption. Also in 2020, Hurtigruten will debut its second hybrid electric-powered expedition ship, the MS Fridtjof Nansen, exploring Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and the Norwegian coast.  By 2021, the company will have the first cruise ships in the world to run on a combination of large battery packs, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and liquefied biogas (LBG), a clean source of energy, considered the eco-friendliest fuel currently available.

Water World
Part of the distinct cruise experience is being on the open water, appreciating nature’s majesty in relaxing fashion. With water everywhere, how are today’s ocean-going vessels improving their management and usage of this valuable resource? 

By installing low-flow shower heads in cabin bathrooms; instituting advanced water filtration systems; producing the majority of water used onboard from sea water; conserving it through towel and sheet reuse programs; using efficient laundry machines and dishwashers; and purchasing a large percentage of water from suppliers in the ports visited.  

Behind & In Front Of The Scene
There are many behind-the-scenes initiatives that make a large green impact although consumers might not realize them. For example, the implementation of exhaust systems that minimize emissions by cleaning or “scrubbing” exhaust gases from the engine; automating air-conditioning systems in some parts of a ship to optimize energy efficiency; use of energy-efficient lighting; food composting; being outfitted with energy-proficient appliances; design enhancements that allow ships to more effectively cut through the water; and bulk product purchasing to minimize packaging. 

And, when some ships are docked in a port, they connect to an electrical power source instead of idling and creating noise and air pollution. 

But, there’s more that travelers can see and experience first-hand. Ships have installed eco-minded appliances such as dispensers for coffee creamer, shampoo, soap, and other personal care products. Some ships are even reducing usage of plastic shopping bags and selling reusable totes onboard.

Plastic – Be Gone
The amount of plastic that ends up in the world’s oceans is a serious environmental danger, but fortunately, several cruise companies have made inroads toward dealing with this problem. Last year, Hurtigruten banned all unnecessary single-use plastic—including straws, drinking cups, and plastic bags—from all of their ships with the goal of becoming the world’s first plastic-free expedition cruise company.

Smart Waste Management
There’s no denying that cruise ships produce a lot of waste, but smart waste management makes a huge difference on environmental impact. Waste is often incinerated and processed onboard and then delivered to an approved land-based facility for proper handling. Materials, such as plastic, glass, cooking oil, petroleum oil, electronics, and more, are off-loaded for disposal on land. 

One man’s perceived waste can be transformed into another’s wealth. Many cruise companies are recycling to do extra good beyond the environment itself. Unused toiletries are made into new products for third-world countries, and items, such as furniture, clothing, and kitchenware are donated to charities instead of placed in landfills. 

Cruise companies are also raising awareness about ocean conservation through key partnerships with organizations around the globe, such as the World Wildlife Fund or UNESCO, plus many donate the proceeds from onboard souvenir sales to environmental foundations. Hurtigruten, in another sustainability initiative, established the Hurtigruten Foundation to raise awareness for marine conservation and financially support global and locally projects in the areas they explore.


When it comes to cruise vacations, travel agents can convey to their clients a new kind of green peace of mind, thanks to the exceptional sustainable efforts ship lines have made to act responsibly, from new ship-building technology and innovative environmental policies to enhancements in energy efficiency and water and waste management. The cruise experience has transformed from plying blue waters to sailing the green waves of environmental consciousness.

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.