Is cruising environmentally friendly?

Updated On
eco-cruises 2022

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Nearly 30 million people went on a cruise in 2019. A staggering number, showing the vast popularity of cruising as a vacation choice around the world.

Unsurprisingly, these numbers have reduced dramatically over the last couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now that the world has reopened and cruising is happening again, it won’t be long until things get back to normal.

At the same time, Eco-friendly traveling is becoming an increasingly important part of the decision on what sort of vacation to take.

Being more sustainable and reducing the impact we have on the world is a huge part of many people’s lives these days, and when it comes to packing your bags and traveling the world, many tourists are looking for environmental options wherever they can.


Is cruising Eco-friendly?

sustainable cruises

At first glance, the answer is no. Cruise ships use an awful lot of fuel to stay running 24/7, have a significant carbon footprint, and dump quite a large amount of wastewater into the oceans.

And that’s before looking at the impact noise pollution can have on marine life, as well as the problems caused by large amounts of tourists arriving for short stays in ecologically fragile ports and exotic destinations.If you are looking for the lowest impact, most environmentally friendly way of vacationing, then cruises probably aren’t for you.

However, as with all aspects of tourism and travel, there are significant initiatives ongoing to improve cruising’s impact and reduce its carbon footprint. There is even a zero-waste cruise ship being developed in Japan!

From increased efficiencies in design and greener fuels to better scrubbing and filtration, the cruise industry across the board is trying to make things better and more sustainable. 

So, is eco cruising in 2022 possible? As we’ve mentioned above, cruising is never going to be the greenest activity you can do. But there are a number of things you can do to make your cruise vacation more sustainable, and to reduce your impact on the planet. Here are some tips to make your next cruise a little greener. 


Choose the right cruise

Unsurprisingly, some cruises are better than others when it comes to sustainability and environmentalism. More than almost every other aspect of cruising, when it comes to Eco-friendliness, doing your research before you book your vacation is vital.


What to look for

Getting an unbiased answer about ‘who is the greenest’ can be tricky when it comes to cruise lines.

There are no official sustainability ratings for cruise vacations, and while there are numerous reports, statistics, and claims, none are 100% reliable or 100% unbiased.

The environmental charity Friends of the Earth have an environmental standards ranking for cruise operators, but cruise companies no longer share their information after falling out over interpretations some years ago, so the data can’t always be relied upon. This ranking is a decent place to start however, even if it is imperfect, and gives you something vague to go on.

It is also worth investigating the reports that cruise lines themselves undertake, as they all do a lot of work on sustainability, environmentalism, and impact on the wider world. Reading these reports alongside your own research can give you a decent idea of which cruise ships are doing the most to reduce their impact.


Take personal responsibility

make cruising eco-friendly

In the end, the best way to be Eco-friendly when you are cruising is to take personal responsibility, and to do everything you can to reduce your own individual impact. Here are a few things to keep in mind. 


1. Reduce waste

Recycle and reuse everything you possibly can, and avoid bringing waste onboard ship if you don’t have to. It will likely be far easier to dispose of properly ashore. 


2. Use less energy

Cruise ships obviously use a lot of energy at all times, but you can do your bit to help reduce energy consumption. Make sure to turn any lights in your cabin off when you don’t need them or when you leave your room.

Don’t use air conditioning if you don’t have to, and always remember to unplug electrical devices if they aren’t being used. 


3. Avoid plastic

Plastic is one of the worst culprits for ocean pollution, so avoid it whenever possible. Bring a reusable water bottle with you, don’t use straws (or carry a reusable one), and make sure you’ve got a canvas bag for souvenirs!


Ask questions

Finally, if you are concerned about the environmental impact of your vacation, you should definitely ask your cruise operator!

Understandably, they will want to put a positive spin on things, and there is a certain amount of marketing speak that you will need to overcome, but if you are armed with the right questions you should be able to get an idea of how committed they are.

Asking about how they deal with waste, what they are doing to reduce emissions, what fuel they use, whether they turn off power in port, where they source their food, drink, and toiletries, and what sort of environmental programs they have, are a few of the most important queries to make.

Cruises are never going to be the greenest vacation choice. But there are plenty of things that you can do to be more sustainable and ensure that you are reducing your impact when on a cruise.

  • Maggie Diaz

    Maggie is passionate about the environment and a strong advocate of sustainability, advocating for businesses, individuals and even governments to take action on climate change. She's out enjoying nature and the great outdoors in her spare time.

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