Folks who enjoy vacations at sea should be pleased to note that some luxury liners are stepping up efforts to protect the planet. Though a cruise is by no means the most eco-friendly vacation type, if you are going to go on one, taking the time to look at the line’s environmental policies is a must.
Many are choosing to not just pamper their passengers, but also sort their recyclables, lower energy use, reduce waste and boost water efficiency.
In an effort to satisfy environmental regulations, as well as incorporate even stronger voluntary standards, the industry - from ship design and maintenance to on-board activities for kids - is trending toward a greener approach.
“Ship to Shelter” Program
Ever taken home those tiny bottles of lotion or shampoo from your state room? Holland America Line is putting leftover toiletries and other excess shipboard items to good use in various parts of the world.
Along with mini-packets of bath gel and shampoo, the donations from Holland America’s Ship to Shelter program include such items as towels, bed sheets and kitchen utensils. Among the recipients is a social-service organization in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that provides hot showers and food to financially strapped families. Marti Forman, who runs the Cooperative Feeding Program, is delighted to distribute the much-appreciated bounty. Even simple items like disposable packets of soap are a luxury, Forman said, for some of the people served by the programs.
Sometimes, the ships’ loot includes offbeat items like exercise weights and silver-plated ice buckets. Those, she said, are great for fundraisers.
Taking Advantage of Sunshine
Celebrity Cruise's ship, the Solstice, is equipped to create its own energy from the sun's rays. Its 216 solar panels produce enough power to handle 7,000 LED lights, or to run the cruise ship’s passenger elevators throughout the trip.
Other ships with the Celebrity Cruises fleet are also enjoying some green modifications. They include:
- Replacing halogen and incandescent light bulbs with more efficient sources of light, like light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and fluorescent bulbs.
- Adding higher-efficiency appliances. The ice makers, for example, use 65 percent less water and about half the energy of previous equipment.
- Conserving water in various areas, from efficient shower heads to the use of river rocks, rather than ice, in buffet displays.
- Painting hulls (the body of the ship, part of which is underwater) with an environmentally safe product that creates a smoother surface, aimed at improving fuel efficiency.
- Teaching crew members to work toward reducing air-conditioning waste in areas that are not in use.
Zero Waste Overboard
Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises are two lines that are going above and beyond: They exceed environmental regulations and do not permit any type of disposal at sea, according to Tim Rubacky, director of corporate communications for Prestige Cruise Holdings, which owns both the lines.
Some of the wastewater that’s treated on-board is reused for such things as washing the decks or cooling the engines, Rubacky said.
In 2007, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) kicked off a project to include used cooking oil among its recyclables. More than 15,000 gallons went to an organic farmer in Vero Beach, Fla., who converted the oil to 870 gallons of fuel for his farming equipment, according to the cruise line.
Other items recycled by NCL that year include:
- 96 tons of cardboard
- 206 tons of wood pallets
- 364 tons of plastics
- 909 tons of scrap metal
- 1,813 tons of glass
Some of NCL’s other environmental endeavors include:
- Crew members commitment to separate recyclable materials from regular trash.
- The Kid’s Crew program for children includes environmental topics in its games and activities.
- Some projects for teens offer community service hours applicable for their high school requirements.
Disney Cruise Line also supports recycling on-board, totaling about 405 tons a year. Part of that tally includes plastic film containers from tourists' cameras. About 50,000 used canisters - 900 pounds worth - are collected and recycled.
Disney Cruise Line also:
- Recycles used cooking oil from the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder ships. The oil is used to help power some maintenance vehicles on the ships’ private island, Castaway Cay, saving up to 8,000 gallons of traditional fuel annually.
- Staffs ships with Environmental Officers to promote green practices at sea.
It is important to let the people who you are traveling with as well as travel agents and cruise staff, know that these eco-friendly procedures are a must for you. Discuss that aspect in comment cards, conversations and e-mails. The more demand for environmental responsibility, the more the industry will work to comply.
Additionally, keep in mind that even though you’re on vacation, stick to your waste-saving routines like you would at home. In the space of a relaxing retreat, you don't want to forget simple acts lik e turning off lights when you leave a room, water when you brush your teeth or reusing towels and sheets.