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Sustainable cruises:

Small premise: despite the green efforts made by companies in recent years, the The road towards sustainability of cruise ships is still long. Indeed, judging by what the Guardian, it’s still a long way off. In this video investigation taken from International, the English newspaper lines up a series of strong statements, many of which are corroborated by less than reassuring updated data, such as: “the carbon dioxide that large ships emit per passenger is four times higher than that of air travel” , or: «The 218 ships operating in Europe in 2022 released four times more sulfur oxides than all the cars on the continent». Even LNG – the liquefied natural gas that reduces carbon dioxide emissions currently considered the cleanest and most efficient marine fuel available on a large scale today – is scaled down: “it would be better to use fuel cells or renewable hydrogen and methanol, which emit fewer greenhouse gases.”

In short, the one painted by Guardian It looks like a situation very unsustainable. Yet, cruise companies announce notable efforts on the topic: from reducing the speed of ships to their connection to the electricity grid in ports to changing fuels and raising awareness of the supply chain. These are noteworthy choices but they only represent steps towards the future 2050the symbolic date indicated by shipowners as the year in which the goal of net zero emissions should be reached, even more important if we consider that cruise traffic is increasing considerably.

Waiting for truly green times, here are five companies that are investing in technologies capable of guaranteeing greater sustainability of cruises. For each of them we also chose a symbolic project implemented: something which, beyond technological development, has the merit of hitting public opinion and tourists in the gut, raising their awareness of the issue. It’s all a game when it comes to safeguarding the planet.

Norwegian Cruise Lines

The greenest and smartest ships in the fleet: the Prima class

There First class it is the top of the range of the Norwegian Cruise Lines company. The ships already built belonging to this special family – Norwegian Prima And Norwegian Viva – are equipped with systems for reducing harmful emissions which reduce the overall environmental impact of the ship. On board there are catalysts that filter sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, advanced exhaust gas cleaning systems and waste water treatment systems. Cold Ironing technology is finally used to connect these two giants of the sea to onshore electricity grids, so as to reduce their emissions in port.

In the Norwegian Cruise Lines Sail & Sustain program it is expected that the fish products – in the photo a dish prepared at the Onda By Scarpetta restaurant, on board Norwegian Prima – come from certified sources

The flagship project: sustainable proteins on board

Within the global sustainability project called Sail & Sustain one chapter promotes the sustainable sourcing of chicken, eggs, pork and seafood, some of the most consumed proteins on board. The Miami-based company is updating the standards of its purchasing policies to favor suppliers who use cage-free confinement systems for laying hens, raise pigs without the use of gestation cages and are able to certify the sources as sustainable from which the fish products come. Norwegian Cruise Lines states that “the goal is to achieve, by 2025, 100% of these supplies made in an ethical and sustainable way, also promoting animal welfare”.

Royal Caribbean Group

The Destination Net Zero plan

Royal Caribbean Group, the brand that includes the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises brands, announced a large-scale decarbonization plan in 2021 called Destination Net Zero, with the aim of almost entirely reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this, the American cruise giant is working in its R&D laboratories to create more efficient hulls, improve energy efficiency on board, develop alternative fuels and review the entire supply chain. The first net-zero emission ship is expected to be put into the water in 2035.

Carlos Mora is one of the Galapagos farmers who grow and sell local products to the Silversea company

Carlos Mora, one of the Galapagos farmers who grow and sell local products to the Silversea company

Lucia Griggi

The symbolic project: zero waste in the Galapagos

Silversea – Royal Caribbean Group’s luxury boutique ship brand – has activated a Galapagos conservation project, the delicate ecosystem off the coast of Ecuador attracts cruise passengers from all over the world every year. The ship covering this route, Silver Origindifferentiates its entire collection of paper, plastic, glass and other waste generated on board, then entrusting their treatment to waste management companies that use waste oil to fuel the incinerators and guarantee traceable processes.

Silversea’s commitment to sustainability in the Galapagos also extends to the culinary offerings onboard Silver Origin. In recent years, with a view to the supply of ingredients such as dairy products, fruit and vegetables, the company has favored farmers and independent suppliers in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, so as to strengthen the local economy and support ongoing conservation efforts. «The consumption of zero kilometer products also reduces the importation of products from the Ecuadorian mainland, reducing the risk of invasive species entering the islands» states Silversea.

Carnival Corporation

Drinkable sea water on board the Costa Smeralda and Costa Toscana

On Costa Smeralda and Costa Tuscany – two of the most modern ships of Costa Crociere, an Italian company part of the American Carnival Corporation group – almost all disposable plastic objects have been removed. Even the single-dose samples have been eliminated while two thirds of the fresh water used on board comes from the sea: it is first desalinated and then purified so as to become drinkable. Both Costa Smeralda and Costa Toscana use liquefied natural gas for propulsion.

The interior of Archipelago, the sustainable gourmet restaurant operating on six Costa ships including the Smeralda

The interior of Archipelago, the sustainable gourmet restaurant operating on six Costa ships, including the Smeralda

The symbolic project: the sustainable gourmet restaurant

Archipelago is the gourmet and sustainable culinary format of Costa Crociere: a restaurant – present on board six ships of the fleet – which combines design and taste with respect for the environment: for the choice of part of the furnishings, branches brought to shore from the waves and recovered during operations to safeguard the marine environment by the Costa Crociere Foundation. The menu is entrusted to three world-famous multi-starred chefs: Bruno Barbieri, Helene Darroze and Angel Leon who have designed a journey of taste in five courses and three different menus. The main dishes? The gramigna al torchio with aubergines and sausage for Barbieri; confit cod for Darroze; plankton rice for Leon.


Euribia, the greenest ship in the fleet

Over the last few years there have been numerous declarations relating to sustainability released by the country manager for the Italian market of MSC, Leonardo Massaalmost all aimed at concretely explaining the green technologies adopted by the Italian-Swiss company, others at reiterating the importance of the sea for the group, still others at broadening the scope of the issue: “to the shipowners, as well as to the airlines, they are large investments are required to meet sustainability needs, and rightly so” Massa recently specified, “but we are truly sure that each of us, at home, does everything possible to concretely reduce, every day, our own impact on the environment?”

MSC’s most sustainable ship is called Eurybia: it is powered by LNG and is equipped with advanced systems for waste water treatment, waste management and sea water purification. Euribia also uses innovative underwater radiated noise management systems to reduce the impact on the marine environment.

View of Ocean Cay, a former industrial site transformed by MSC into a marine reserve

View of Ocean Cay, a former industrial site transformed by MSC into a marine reserve

Conrad Schutt

The symbolic project: the marine reserve in the Caribbean

The most symbolic operation carried out by MSC from a sustainability perspective is the transformation of a former industrial site in the Bahamas into a Caribbean atoll that can only be visited by its cruise passengers. TO Ocean Cay – reachable both on board the large MSC passenger ships such as Seascape And Seashore or the fleet’s new luxury boutique ships Explore Journeys – tens of thousands of trees, shrubs and palms have been planted as a corollary to a marine reserve, which can also be visited, in which entire families of coral have been relocated. Single-use plastic is banned in Ocean Cay; sunscreens are usable, but only those without oxybenzonea substance present in common UV protection, responsible for modifying the DNA of corals and acidifying the seas.


The prototype ship powered by the midnight sun

Together with a consortium of twelve partners and the SINTEF research institute, Hurtigruten – lin the company of the famous Norwegian fjord postal service – is working on a prototype, called Sea Zeroof a zero-emission ship that is expected to sail along the Norwegian coast in 2030. In the summer the ship will use the energy produced and stored by Northern Norway’s midnight sun, while thanks to sensors and artificial intelligence it will be possible to configure a more aerodynamic hull at the bow of the ship, which means more space for guests and larger observation areas on the upper decks. The development phase of Sea Zero will last until 2025, then – if everything goes according to plan – we will move on to the construction phase.

The Sea Zero prototype, Hurtigruten's first totally green ship.  The ship is expected to be operational in 2030

The Sea Zero prototype, Hurtigruten’s first totally green ship. The ship is expected to be operational in 2030

The flagship project: Lofoten goat’s cheese for the fleet

Hurtigruten can be considered the pioneer in Europe when it comes to sustainable expedition ships. The first two ships to have adopted hybrid propulsion were the Roald Amundsen and the Fridtjof Nansen: the company is converting the rest of its fleet to greener fuels, also using biofuels obtained partly from dead fish waste. «Single-use plastic has been completely eliminated and the supply chain revised to select only suppliers who use sustainability criteria» states the company. “Some of the crew’s uniforms are made from recycled fishing nets, while the food served on board is locally sourced, such as the goat’s cheese produced on the Lofoten Islands on a family-run farm.”

Source: Vanity Fair

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