Fuelling the future

The pressure is on for the cruise industry to become more eco-efficient – and it is responding with initiatives such as battery-powered ships and greener excursions, says Jeannine Williamson

Walking out onto the top deck of Havila Castor I breathe in the crisp Norwegian air and look out over the equally breath-taking views of the snow-capped Norwegian Fjords glistening in the morning sunlight. The thing that immediately strikes me is the sound of silence.

I’m aboard the second ship to be launched by all-new Havila Voyages, which has two more identical vessels on the way. The line won the contract to operate alongside Hurtigruten on the Bergen to Kirkenes coastal, which calls at 34 ports and provides a ferry and freight service for locals and a spectacular scenic voyage for passengers in its 179 cabins.

I go back inside and sit in one of the cosy lounges next to a ‘crackling’ faux fire before heading to lunch in the restaurant showcasing local specialities. 

That afternoon I embark on a thrilling husky sled expedition. It’s one of the sustainable shore excursions, which also include e-bike and e-bus tours, on this eco-friendly line boasting the largest battery capacity of any cruise ship.

Havila Castor’s battery weights 86 tons and is equivalent to 600 Teslas. The ship can sail silently under battery power for up to four hours and is leading the way for the Norwegian government’s requirement that all sailings in the UNESCO-listed fjords must be emission-free by 2026. It certainly makes sense in this pristine natural environment.

Eco cruise view

Green and clean

Sustainable travel was on the agenda at this year’s CLIA UK & Ireland conferences and the Seatrade Cruise Global event held in Miami. Data from Google has also shown that 70% of people questioned were interested in travelling more sustainably.

Ocean and river lines have risen to the challenge with a raft of initiatives. This year A-ROSA broke the mould with the launch of the first-ever hybrid river vessel, A-ROSA SENA, which can sail in and out of ports under battery power. The line is also retro-fitting its other ships to have a fully hybrid-powered fleet by 2030.

“Whilst most customers may not be making holiday decisions based on sustainability yet, agents know that it won’t be long before they simply expect companies to be doing the right thing,” said Lucia Rowe, Managing Director at A-ROSA River Cruises UK & Ireland. 

“We are seeing that agents are becoming more and more engaged on the topic of sustainability and our new ship A-ROSA SENA gives us something really incredible to talk about. We have a responsibility to protect the rivers and destinations we sail through for future generations, and we want to deliver genuine change.”

For clients that want to reduce their carbon footprint, agents can suggest no-fly cruises out of UK ports or train travel.

Tim Fleming, Sales and Business Development Manager, Arena River Cruises, said:  “All of our four-star European river cruises come with a choice of joining options, allowing passengers to make the selection that best fits their schedule, budget and, in many cases now, environmental concerns. We offer options to join both by coach and by rail. 

Of these, according to carbon footprint comparison site ecopassenger.org, it is travel by rail that most significantly reduces a passenger’s individual Co2 emissions.

Eco cruise seals

What’s new

LNG ships: Heralded as the cleanest marine fuel, the next generation of cruise ships are being powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras was the first LNG ship in North America and will be joined in November by Carnival Celebration. MSC’s new flagship, the 6,774-passenger MSC World Europa, is set to become the world’s largest LNG ship when it launches in October. The line has also set a target to be emissions free by 2050. Setting sail in 2023, Icon of the Seas is the first of Royal Caribbean’s new Icon Class vessels and the line’s first LNG-powered ship. Also debuting next year is hybrid-powered Silver Nova, Silversea’s first Nova Class ship, which will be the first low-emissions luxury cruise ship.

Green initiatives: On the river front, Avalon Waterways has partnered with Trees4Travel and is offsetting the carbon footprint of every passenger’s cruise in 2022 by donating tens of thousands of trees. Its parent company Globus has unveiled the Lighthouse Project spotlighting nearly 50 causes including The Ocean Cleanup, which includes buying sunglasses made from recycled plastic. 

Ambassador has partnered with marine conservation charity, ORCA as well as the launch of the first ever cruise line “Anti-Whaling campaign”. This campaign will see that two Ocean Conservationists are aboard the flagship, Ambience, in 2022 and 2023, for 11 sailings to collect important scientific data from key areas. 

Amadeus River Cruises has partnered with climate protection organisation atmosfair, becoming Europe’s first river cruise operator to offer guests an opportunity to offset their Co2 consumption with a donation. Both Amadeus and AmaWaterways have received Green Award certification which recognises high environmental standards. CroisiEurope has initiated a partnership with UNESCO in order to promote sustainable development projects for African river ports.

Tall ship line Star Clippers is the first line to be certified as Pura Vida Pledge Approved by the Costa Rican Tourism Board for its sustainable and eco-friendly itineraries. It has been recognised as part of an initiative to promote the country as the ultimate natural escape. 

Small ship line Variety Cruises was the first line to sign the Tourism Declares Climate Emergency initiative promoting sustainability at sea and visits off-the-beaten-track islands, supporting local communities.

Technology: Windstar’s Star Plus Initiative upgrade saw new environmentally-friendly engines fitted to its three Star Class ships, which sail under wind power. 

Eco cruise rhone

Green experiences

Step out: Explore on foot on CroisiEurope’s Cruise & Hike river sailings along the Rhine, Danube, Douro and Italy’s Bianco Canal. Guides accompany gentle walks which take in unspoilt areas such as vineyards and nature parks. A full itinerary with alternative excursions is provided for non-walkers.

Plant life: Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new Eco-connect excursions connect clients to nature. From Hue, Vietnam, they can hike through Bach Ma National Park with a naturalist pointing out the diverse flora and fauna, including one fifth of all Vietnam’s plant species.

Slow down with sloths: Meet the world’s slowest-moving animals on one of Oceania’s all-new Go Green excursions. The sanctuary in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, is home to sloths that have been orphaned, injured or lost their habitat. 

Deforestation is one of the biggest threats to sloths and clients also plant a tree.

Have a heart: With Royal Caribbean clients can volunteer at the Open Heart Charitable Commission in Falmouth, Jamaica, and plant trees and vegetables that will eventually feed locals. They can also prepare and serve a hot meal for families facing tough times and interact with the community by reading and playing games.

Experience eco-projects: See conservation work first-hand on the all-new Great Lakes Explorer itinerary on Viking’s first expedition ship, Viking Octanis

These include wildflower restoration projects in the fragile Great Lakes and Georgian Bay ecosystem. If the timing coincides, guests can see rescued turtle eggs being incubated before the turtles are returned to the wild.

Cheers: Sip cocktails and wines that taste good, and do good, on Norwegian Prima, the first of Norwegian’s Prima Class ships. The Metropolitan Bar is the line’s first Sail & Sustain bar featuring zero waste cocktails made with surplus ingredients (such as banana skins), fully sustainable spirits and organic wines.

Eco cruise food

Where to book it

Havila Voyages – 03455 280026

The six-night northbound voyage on Havila Castor from Bergen to Kirkenes starts from £763pp, departing December 5 2022, cruise only. havilavoyages.com