How the cruise industry is approaching sustainable sailing

Things are looking bright for cruising’s eco future, but how do lines and agents get customers on board? Jeannine Williamson reports

Travel and transport are big topics in every sense when it comes to talking about the environment, and in recent years it’s an area where the cruise industry has made huge waves. It’s no secret that in the past cruise has taken the rap when it comes to emissions.

However, the latest ships boast impressive eco-credentials and Clia’s 2022 Global Cruise Industry Environmental Technologies and Practices Report revealed significant progress towards achieving the industry’s vision of net-zero carbon in cruising globally by 2050.

On the rivers, for example, AmaWaterway’s AmaKristina was the first river ship to receive the maritime industry’s Green Award certification after being evaluated on the environmental impact of its engines, fuel consumption and more.

Last year A-Rosa unveiled the groundbreaking A-Rosa Sena, the first river vessel capable of sailing using battery power. Amadeus River Cruises’ newest ships – including Amadeus Riva, which launches this spring and will be sailing on European rivers including the Danube – have engines designed to reduce emissions.

Big Issue

Sustainable fuel

The latest ocean-going ships from lines including MSC Cruises, P&O Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line are powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), currently the cleanest marine fuel.

Virgin Voyages and Norwegian Cruise Line are investing in carbon-offsetting programmes, Ponant and Silversea Cruises’ new ships run on LNG and battery power, while Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Hurtigruten are among lines with energy-saving hull designs. Hugely credible as this is, technical terminology is not particularly glamorous.

Also, while it has been shown that consumers are increasingly interested in booking more-sustainable holidays, they’re not always willing to pay extra for them. This was highlighted at Travel Weekly’s Sustainability Summit in November, when surveys showed that perceived additional costs could act as a barrier.

Edwina Lonsdale, managing director at Mundy Cruising, says: “The whole question is complicated, and it is hard for the cruise lines, and therefore also for agents, to communicate effectively and concisely on this subject.

Consumers are increasingly interested in booking more-sustainable holidays

The technological innovations are hugely scientific, and descriptions of the latest introductions in shipbuilding go over the heads of many people, including me. “I’m also unable to assess whether or not it is good science, so we are in the hands of others telling us this is a good thing, with no way of telling just how significant it is.

“Likewise, it is easy to be impressed by something we understand, such as shore power, enabling cruise ships to plug in while in port to reduce emissions and noise pollution.” This means lines need to communicate sustainability measures in simple terms.

Agents can then help clients make an informed choice, while also stressing the good value of cruises – where so much is included, such as meals and entertainment – to ultimately seal the deal.

The good news is, the message is beginning to filter through. AmaWaterways UK managing director Jamie Loizou says: “Over the past two years, travellers’ questions about sustainability efforts took a back seat to questions related to enhanced health and safety practices. With the return to normal operating conditions we have seen an increase in sustainability questions from travel partners and guests.

“These questions touch on complex subjects, from energy efficiency and minimising noise and air pollution to the removal of single use plastics and reduction of paper consumption, to how we enrich the lives of residents in the local communities we visit.”

Big issue 2

Future opportunity

Havila Voyages’ vessels have batteries that allow up to four hours’ emission-free sailing in the Norwegian Fjords. Matthew Valentine, head of UK sales, says: “We have been pleasantly surprised how much customers value our focus on the environment and how engaged they are not only in what we are doing now, but our plans for the future.

“It is important that agents have some knowledge in this area. Most clients don’t want to know the stats and technical details behind our sustainability strategy.

They do however love hearing examples of how our actions may help the environment, but also create a more positive holiday experience for them.”

We have been pleasantly surprised how much customers value our focus on the environment

Clia UK & Ireland managing director Andy Harmer concludes: “Cruise lines increasingly believe clients will start asking about sustainability and environmental credentials.

Having the answer could make the difference when it comes to closing a sale, and that is a future opportunity not to be missed. The percentage of international travellers who say the cruise industry is a leader in responsible travel reached 51%, a nine-point increase over the past year.”

With that in mind, agents can play a big part in helping to enlighten customers – while selling more cruises.

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