7 Ocean-Friendly Eco Cruises Hitting the High Seas

5. Lindblad Expeditions

National Geographic Explorer Ship. Image via: Lindblad Expeditions

Smaller than many others on this roundup, Lindblad Expeditions works with National Geographic (NG) to provide a cruise that gets passengers directly in touch with nature, without actually touching nature. The ships contain only 148 passengers, and travel to remote places, as well as the Galapagos Islands, Egypt and Antarctica. Launched in the 1950's by explorer Lars-Eric Lindblad, the expedition group hoped to bring tourists to far-flung and remote places to give them an appreciation for all of the mysteries the planet has to offer, and promote the ideal of "travel philanthropy".

Just because they're small, doesn't mean they can't do their part, and Lindblad Expeditions ensures it stays clean and green by adhering to strict environmental standards, including sourcing local food for each of its meals, depending on where the boat is. They also choose to catch and serve only fish that are sustainably harvested. For example, they stopped serving shrimp in 2001 because they could no longer find a source or fishing practice that was not environmentally destructive.

Partnerships with some top environmental organizations both help improve the experience for customers and cement environmental practices for all expeditions. The partnership with NG allows guests to visit NG-funded sites, work on board with NG photographers and researchers, and get a much more in-depth knowledge of destinations. Working with Clean Air-Cool Planet, Lindblad Expeditions developed a climate action strategy that includes carbon offsets, education and measurement. Part of this strategy includes an energy audit, a forum aboard each ship where guests can talk about environmental issues impacting the seas and carbon offsets with Native Energy.

6. Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Lines - Norwegian Sun Ship. Image via: Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Cruise Lines travels throughout the Caribbean, down to South America and up along the American Pacific coastline to Alaska, with the youngest cruise ships on the market. These floating villages hold several thousand passengers plus crew, and have things like the only bowling alley on board a ship and a two-story high Wii video game screen to entertain guests.

The ships include many of the same basic environmental upgrades as the other cruise lines, such as treating all black and gray water to standards that are better than municipal drinking water and dumping it at least 12 miles and 4 miles offshore, respectively. Unfortunately, the ships still burn almost everything that is not able to be recycled or dumped overboard.

Norwegian Cruise Lines was the first to install an eco-ballast system to ensure that water leaving the ship does not send out toxins or other invasive species, the only system to be approved by the State of Washington for use in the "pristine" waters of Puget Sound. The ships also donate their used cooking oil to farmers in port cities, as both a way to get rid of garbage on board and provide free fuel for farmers. In addition, annual audits ensure maintained compliance with environmental practices.

7. Costa Cruise Line

Costa Serena Cruise Ship Water Slide. Image via: Flickr

Italian cruise line Costa, the self-titled "first Green Cruise Line of Europe," was the first cruise line to earn a Green Star notation environmental award in 2005. With 15 ships in the fleet, Costa wants each ship to be a "floating palace" and has all types of artwork, rare woods, marbles and other adornments throughout the ship. The boats are large enough to handle roughly 1,500 -3,000 passengers and another 600 - 1,000 staff. The ships are so elaborate you feel like you're in an enormous Vegas casino or even in a floating city. Cruises sail to locations around the world, with most departing from Europe, Asia or the East Coast of the United States.

To get their green designation, all Costa ships "comply with the highest environmental standards." Costa is working closely with World Wildlife Fund to create management plans geared towards reducing energy use, sorting and properly disposing of all refuse and providing environmental education programs to staff and guests.

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Tags: Boats | Caribbean | Oceans | Solar Power | Tourism | Water Conservation | World Wildlife Fund