The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
The cruise industry is rapidly changing. Younger generations of travelers aren’t interested in bingo, all you can eat dessert buffets, and slot machines. Instead they want to connect to nature and each other, to enjoy unique cultural experiences, and to stay healthy while traveling. From eco luxury cruises to conservation expeditions, there are many new and exciting ways to explore the high seas.
Over the past few years I’ve been working on sustainable design and brand development with a number of companies creating floating housing and infrastructure. Underwater ecosystems thrive in a delicate balance, and in order to keep the Earth’s air and water quality and food supply chains intact we must pay close attention to our actions.
Traveling on a cruise ship has a huge impact on the environment, and even the most ‘eco friendly’ cruises have a long way to go to become sustainable. The typical vessel burns hundreds of tons of fuel and creates around 80,000 liters of sewage a day, plus oily bilge water, toxic waste, and diesel exhaust emissions, with some ships dumping poorly treated sewage into the seas. But progress is being made, so if you do choose to book a cruise for your next vacation, be sure to travel with a company that’s moving in the right direction to protect the planet.
Here are some of the newest, most unique and eco-conscious trips you can book on the water!
Peace Boat Ecoship
The ship will generate its own power and create nearly zero waste. Power will be generated using retractable solar sails and wind generators. The Ecoship will carry up to 2,000 passengers. The decks include greenery to absorb water, and vertical farms where organic vegetables will be grown for meals.
The Ecoship requires 50 percent less electricity and 20 percent less propulsion energy than current ships, and will emit 30 percent less carbon dioxide.
Hurtigruten – Roald Amundsen and the MS Fridtjof Nansen
Ful consumption and CO2 emissions will be reduced by 20%. These will be the first ships in the world to use this technology. The added benefit of electric energy is a silent ride, which will allow passengers to experience nature in an exceptional way.
Blue World Voyages
The food served aboard will include sustainably caught fish, farm to table cuisine, and organic produce. Blue World Voyages maintains a ‘Nothing Overboard’ policy, meaning all waste is disposed of properly on shore. Each passenger will receive a reusable water bottle, the staff uses environmentally friendly cleaning products and are trained in environmental requirements.
The adult only voyages will focus on wellbeing, with ample relaxation spaces, fitness classes, a state of the art spa, and healthy food. Virgin Voyages will be the first cruise line to adopt the Climeon Ocean Clean Energy System, which turns waste heat into clean-burning energy. No single use plastic will be used on board. The first ship will sail from Miami to the Caribbean.
The Boat Company
- If you’re more of a river than an Ocean cruiser, Aqua Expeditions runs exquisite trips to Peru along the Amazon River, Cambodia and Vietnam. You’ll experience five-star cuisine made with local ingredients, and during the day you can view birds, fish, monkeys, and many other animals. Behind the scenes, the team works with local environmentalists to preserve the health and beauty of the regions.
- Discovery Voyages runs small ship cruises in Alaska featuring photography, whale watching, birding, hiking, and kayaking. The intimate size of the trip allows for a more genuine encounter with Alaska. The small ship can sail into coves and channels that larger cruise ships must avoid. Discovery Voyages meets the highest standards of economic, social, and environmental sustainability according to the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association.
The perfect way to visit the Galapagos on an eco cruise is with Ecoventura. The company works to reduce and offset their carbon emissions, and they donate funds and supplies to the local community. Enjoy hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and zodiac rides to view wildlife and the stunning terrain.
Earthwatch Institute – Amazon River Expedition
Join the Earthwatch team to help conserve wildlife in the Amazon while enjoying a river boat cruise. You’ll get to see river dolphins, macaw, primates, and exotic fish, and will work with the local Cocama village. Earthwatch organizes expeditions all over the world for travelers to learn about and contribute to a variety of environmental causes.
Sail to the Galapagos Islands and become part of a research expedition with the Oceanic Society. You’ll collect data about microplastics in the water while snorkeling with turtles, penguins, sea lions, and marine iguanas.
Volunteer with the Sea Shepherd
For the more extreme traveler, consider volunteering to crew with the Sea Shepherd. Expect long hours, hard work, dangerous conditions, and extreme weather, along with the adventure of a lifetime. You’ll be working with a team of experts to save ocean wildlife. The Sea Shepherd prefers for volunteers to stay for over a month, and they provide you with living quarters, food, and water.
‘No whiners, malcontents, mattress lovers, or wimps need apply.’
Have you been on any of these cruises? Let me know in the comments below!