7 Ocean-Friendly Eco Cruises Hitting the High Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Deck Chairs Photo
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Image via: Flickr.com

Green cruises? Sounds like an oxymoron, right? When it comes to carbon emissions, these floating monstrosities can pack a punch greater than an airplane. Yikes. Surfrider reports that a typical cruise ship with 3,000 passengers generates 1 million gallons of gray water; 210,000 gallons of sewage; 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water; 100 gallons of hazardous or toxic waste; 50 tons of garbage and solid waste; and diesel exhaust emissions equal to thousands of cars on the road. But whether it's a spring break getaway or a trip with the family, even your favorite love boats are going green these days. New government regulations set the benchmark for cleaner burning fuels, and many lines are spending thousands to millions of dollars upgrading fleets, saving money on fuel and energy costs over the long term. Here are seven green cruises that are doing their part to to keep our oceans clean.Just remember, whether you choose one of these cruises or find your own, there are things you personally can do to reduce your carbon footprint, such as taking public transit to port, turning lights out while not in your room and not wasting food as you graze through their mile-long buffets. Anchors Away.

1. Holland America Cruises

Holland America Cruise Ship Line ms Ooterdam Ocean Photo

Holland America ms Oosterdam Ship. Image via: Holland America Holland America has done a very thorough job considering every aspect aboard their vessel and improvements for both energy efficiency and waste reduction. Black water treatment system? Check. Reduced their 8 tons of waste generated each day by working with their supply chain? Check. No waste going overboard? Check. Environmental officers on every cruise as well as staff eco-educated? Check and check.

Like a floating hotel, Holland America first covered the basics with towel reuse programs and installing low-flow showerheads and faucets throughout the ship. Bilge water is also treated by two systems before discharge. Each ship is ISO14001 certified, which means that a specific environmental management plan was created to give them guidelines for going green and maintaining that status. Some of the changes include converting to all non-toxic, green cleaning supplies, replacing the current dry cleaning detergents with new detergents that use soy, banana and orange extracts, and adding a system at each photolab that can recover the spent silver from the developing process and recycle it.

Holland America also takes power and power reduction very seriously, saving both fuel and money. New, shorter routes take into account tide schedules to maximize fuel. Silicone paint was added to the hull of the ship to reduce drag, also helping the engines be more efficient. New scrubbers were added to reduce SOx emissions and particulate matter, and like most ships, Holland America ships run on plug-in power at port so they don't have to continue running, thereby reducing particulate emissions while at shore. To keep rooms cooler, a dark film was added to each window to blow out some of the sun, which also helps cut down on the work that air conditioning units do, also saving money and energy.

2. Celebrity Cruises - Solstice

Celebrity Solstice Cruise Liner Pool Deck Chairs Solar Panels Photo

Solar Panels on Top Deck of Celebrity Solstice Cruise Ship. Image via: Celebrity Cruises.

A solar powered cruise line? How could we not include a ship that has 216 solar panels onboard to power the elevators or the 7,000 LED lights? Onboard the Solstice, Celebrity Cruises updated the lights, saving 50% on energy demands and the solar panels did the rest. Then to improve efficiency and save on fuel, the boat is designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. Passengers aboard the Solstice are treated to a 7-night Caribbean cruise, a 10-night Mediterranean cruise or a 14 day transatlantic cruise, complete with a glass-blowing class.

Just like many of the other ships, the Solstice includes a water filtration system to return all black water and waste water to near pristine conditions before it is dumped back into the ocean. They also installed heat-transfer windows to cut down on cooling needs and to allow in more natural light, which cuts down on electricity needs. While the solar panels provide a very tiny portion of electricity needs, they are a step in the right direction--it's good to see new technologies incorporated into new applications.

As for eliminating waste materials, aluminum and tin are recycled, and glass is crushed before it is offloaded on shore. Other materials like batteries and light-bulbs are collected, but unfortunately all other materials are incinerated on the boat. Engine oil is separated and cleaned to ensure it does not end up in the water and is also left when the boat docks at port cities. The ship also has an actual grass lawn on the upper-deck, which seems strange for a featured attraction but it seems those land lubbers need constant reminders of terra firma.

3. Disney Cruise Lines

Disney Magic Cruise Ship Ocean Photo

Disney Magic Cruise Ship. Image via: Disney Cruise Lines

The Mouse House set sail in 1998 and 1999 by launching two ships--the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic. Guests can choose between Bahamian, Caribbean and European cruise options which last as few as three nights and as long as 14 nights, find a vacation perfectly geared towards families, and even party with Disney Channel stars.

The laundry facilities all use water that is generated from the air conditioning system--specifically 280 tons a day of water, all of which is generated on board. Excess heat is used to power evaporators that turn 1,200 tons of seawater into potable water each day. Each ship has an environmental officer onboard to monitor ships and teach environmental education classes to both staff and guests. All staff are involved in the environmental initiatives department which includes cast and crew from the resorts as well as the cruise lines to come up with new ways to improve the environmental footprint of the entire company.

Energy use and carbon dioxide emissions are a big problem for the two Disney cruise ships, which accounted for 48% of the company's total carbon emissions and generated 270,000 tons of carbon equivalents in 2007. Meaning, Disney has a great opportunity for improvement and their efforts over the last year--installing efficient lighting, reducing weight on the ship and installing automatic air conditioning controls to optimize cooling resources--resulted in a 5% energy savings. Disney Cruises was also the first to apply a non-toxic coating to the hull of the ship to improve the ship's ability to glide across the water, creating less drag.

The ships are also trying innovative things like reusing waste cooking oil on their private island Castaway Cay to power heavy machinery, which saved 8,000 gallons of fuel last year. Recycling traditional materials from the ship, like aluminum and cardboard, resulted in over 405 tons of materials diverted from the waste stream. Non-traditional materials like ceiling panels, scrap metal and excess plastics, are also recycled through a partnership with Keep America Beautiful. Reusable furnishings and materials from the ship are donated to needy communities in port communities.

If that weren't enough, crew and guests can also support a variety of environmental and education programs that Disney Cruise Lines is involved in. Guests can participate in the Add-A-Dollar program, which to date has provided over 12 million dollars to 750 wildlife programs around the world. Crew are involved in cleanups and habitat restoration projects as well as a wide variety of educational and conservation programs that guests of Disney can also support and get involved in.

4. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean Deck Pool Guests Chairs Ocean Photo

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas Pool Deck. Image via: TechAquarium.com Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is also turning its ship around when it comes to environmental performance. They qualified for both ISO14001 and ISO9001 certification, which establishes an environmental management plan. Ships also have environmental managers aboard and environmental training for all staff, requiring them to be able to explain the environmental policies to all guests.

Being at sea limits your resources and also creates a NIMBY situation as there is no easy way to get rid of generated wastes. But when it comes to waste, Royal Caribbean decided 'Nothing Goes Overboard!', which means that officers have to come up with a way to limit waste and responsibly dispose of everything else. To reduce waste, they eliminated disposable utensils and started buying condiments in bulk and worked with suppliers to only purchase items with minimal packaging, which saves them a nice chunk of change considering many of their cruises house 3,000+ passengers and an additional 1,000 crew and staff. All plastic water bottles were eliminated in exchange for biodegradable and reusable options. Royal Caribbean recently spent $100 million to convert their waste water treatment system onboard to an advanced purification system.

To save energy and fuel around the ship, Royal Caribbean shuts off one engine during winter months because air conditioning demands are less--thus engines don't work as hard. While several of the ships mentioned added a new coating to the hull to reduce drag, Royal Caribbean decided on a new hull shape and propulsion system to maximize performance, which resulted in an 8% energy savings. Royal Caribbean purchased 15 million tons of biodiesel in 2007 and then agreed to purchase 18 million tons for the next four years. Other easy changes include an update to compact fluorescent bulbs and lowering air conditioning cooling demands. New ice-makers, using 65% less water than previous machines, were installed and all generators were updated to more efficient models.

Since 2000, the 3,144 passenger Explorer of the Seas has used part of its huge infrastructure to not just throw a good party, but to house two laboratories onboard, which study both water pollution and climate change as part of a partnership with the University of Miami's Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).