Royal Caribbean and the Environment

The very essence of our business depends on the health and vibrancy of the oceans and our overall environment. That includes the communities where we conduct business and operate our ships. We feel a strong responsibility to conserving and protecting our environment, and we are extremely committed to following through.

We carry out our commitment by following strict company policies, practices, regulations and special initiatives that we call Above and Beyond Compliance or “ABC.” Our ABC policy is designed to help us achieve the highest possible standards of environmental and community stewardship.

One of our initiatives is the Save the Waves® program, which we established in 1992. It started as a program that focused on waste management and evolved into a company-wide philosophy of social responsibility, environmental protection and eco-friendly sustainability practices that guide many facets of our business.

Using the latest technology, our ships are built and retrofitted to operate more efficiently with less impact on the environment. We repurpose or find other uses for 100 percent of all cargo-associated and operational waste, and our wastewater purification levels on many of our ships exceed national and international standards.

We have generously supported climate change research through our Ocean Fund, created in 1996. More than $13 million has gone to support marine conservation and education programs including climate change and environmental research projects at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Employees at our global offices and on all our ships are actively involved in efforts to be good stewards of the oceans and coastal communities at RCL’s ports of call. Our guests believe in our philosophy and have encouraged us to adhere to it. We also provide our guests opportunities to help honor our commitment by inviting them to participate in fundraisers and other supportive activities.

Sustainability and environmental protection are an ongoing effort at RCL. With the help of our employees, partners, guests and other like-minded collaborators, we will continue to uphold our commitment to protecting our resources and achieve the highest possible standards in the process.

Save the Waves

Save the Waves

For nearly 40 years, our company has carried out its strong commitment to environmental stewardship. Save the Waves® is one example of that. Established in 1992, Save the Waves started out as a company-wide practice of reducing, reusing and recycling waste during the daily operations onboard all of our ships. It has expanded into a broader sustainability platform aimed at preserving the oceans and protecting coastal communities. We incorporate energy-saving features into our new ships as well as the older ones, and we continue to look for ways to minimize our ecological footprint by improving our supply chain processes.

Fish swimming in coral of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Royal Caribbean International.
Fish swimming in coral of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Royal Caribbean International.

The four key principles of Save The Waves® are:

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle – Reduce the generation of waste material, reuse and recycle wherever possible, and properly dispose of remaining wastes.
  • Practice pollution prevention – It is strictly forbidden to throw anything overboard.
  • Go Above and Beyond Compliance (ABC) – Do more than the regulations require.
  • Continuous Improvement – Change is the only constant. Innovation is encouraged and rewarded.

Our Save the Waves philosophy extends well beyond shipboard operations and our employee workforce. We collaborate with educational institutions, conservation-focused nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other entities to help our Caribbean, Latin American, and South Pacific destinations strengthen policies and protect resources so their marine environment can remain vibrant and healthy.

Oceans and Coastal Communities

The oceans are the essence of our cruise business. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. relies on those vast bodies of water to transport the millions of guests who board our ships annually seeking fun and memorable vacation experiences. Without oceans, our business would be grounded.

oceans-inline-imageBut outside of being the lifeline for our company, the oceans are the life sources for the world. Oceans transport the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the products we consume. It is our responsibility to protect the oceans, which allow Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to provide cruise experiences to our guests. Coastal communities at our ships’ ports of call rely on tourism and the influx of cruise ships guests to keep their economies healthy. But along with tourism, it takes a strong infrastructure to help these coastal communities survive. Some of the communities are not built to handle the heavy and steady flow of cruise ship tourists over time. Also, climate change and natural disasters, such as the typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013 and the earthquake that shattered in Haiti in 2010, can devastate coastal communities and cause their infrastructure to collapse. Without assistance, recovery can be extremely difficult.


We are committed to being good stewards of the coastal communities where we operate and have programs and initiatives in place to help improve the quality of life.

Some of those initiatives are:

L’Ecole Nouvelle de Royal Caribbean

Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. funded the building of a school complex in an area near Labadee, our private destination. L’Ecole Nouvelle serves Haitian children from pre-kindergarten through 9th grade.

Disaster Relief

When natural disasters threaten the livelihood and well-being of communities where our ships sail or where our employees live, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. reaches out to help. We recently provided disaster relief to communities affected by the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines. The Royal Caribbean Crew and Employee Disaster Relief Fund gives our employees a way of helping those affected.

Supporting Local Businesses and Artisans

The presence of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. in nearly 490 ports around the world is a boost for local businesses and artists. We also have several outreach programs that provide active support.

Our work in partnership with the Pan-American Development Foundation helps support small businesses and artisans throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Celebrity Xpedition, in the Galápagos Islands, offers local artisans the opportunity to come onboard and sell their goods directly to guests.

One of our sustainability goals for 2015 is to have 50 percent of our shore excursion providers become third-party certified as sustainable. We are making great progress in achieving that goal.

Destination Sustainability

Our plan is to initiate and expand sustainability projects beyond our private destinations to ports of call throughout the Caribbean.

Through a grant from The Ocean Fund, and a partnership with Sustainable Travel International, we are engaged in efforts in Roatan, Honduras, and Cozumel, Mexico. We also joined with partners from a variety of sectors to launch the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas. That project supports sustainability projects in Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas and Dominica. These destinations will undergo in-depth assessments led by Sustainable Travel International and will then be in a position to incorporate sustainability measures into their policies and practices.

Four additional destinations will receive funding for sustainability efforts carried out by the Organization of American States. One of them is the Jamaican port of Falmouth, which RCL played the lead role in building in 2011. We have also joined the South Pacific Destinations Alliance to support similar projects in small-island destinations in the region.

Private Destinations

Our two private destinations, CocoCay in The Bahamas and Labadee in Haiti, were the first to achieve gold-level eco-certification for sustainable tourism, by the Sustainable Tourism Education Program™ (STEP).

Signature Projects

We are committed to protecting and preserving the communities and environments where we sail, where we work, and where our employees live.

Signature projects such as The Ocean Fund helps us accomplish that mission.

L’Ecole Nouvelle de Royal Caribbean

Built near our private destination Labadee, L’Ecole Nouvelle provides local children with the opportunity to attend school, from pre-kindergarten through 9th grade.

The Ocean Fund

The Ocean Fund supports marine conservation organizations in safeguarding the health of the world’s oceans. The Ocean Fund’s three primary objectives are to:

  • Support efforts to restore and maintain a healthy marine environment.
  • Minimize the impact of human activity on the marine environment.
  • Promote awareness of ocean and coastal issues and respect for marine life.


Since its establishment in 1996, The Ocean Fund has contributed $13.4 million to support more than 80 non-profit organizations and institutions around the world in projects that relate to ocean science, marine life and conservation, climate change, education and innovative technologies.

In 2013, we awarded more than $700,000 to support such projects.

Ship Design & Technology

Designing Ships With The Planet in Mind

When we build new ships, we build them with energy efficiency in mind.

For many years, through implementation of advanced designs and technologies, we have built some of the lowest emission-producing ships in the industry. Our newest ships emit about 20 percent less carbon dioxide per person per day than ships built only a few years ago. We have also upgraded our existing ships with new technologies that have improved propulsion efficiency by up to 10 percent.

Below are a few more examples of how the latest technology has helped us to build ships that are energy efficient and ecologically kinder.

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Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency

It takes a lot of energy to move a ship through water. Transporting cruise ships actually demands more energy than anything else onboard. Improving the way our ships move through the water is a critical element and the primary focus in our quest for energy efficiency and sustainability.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. takes pride in being a leader in the use of new technologies to build and design ships that are more energy efficient.

Ship Infographic 2014 -1

Air Lubrication

Air bubbles created at the front of the ship’s hull reduces resistance or drag as it moves across the ocean.

In 2013, we tested a built-in air lubrication system on Celebrity Reflection, and debuted the new technology on Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas in 2014.

Hull Configuration

We are constantly upgrading the hull designs of our ships to help them perform more efficiently. Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas’ hull, one of the most efficient ever built, was designed to reduce drag as the ship moves through the water and to limit non-indigenous marine species’ ability to attach to it and be transferred to other ecosystems as the ship moves from port to port. A new hull design and new coatings were also introduced on Celebrity Solstice-class ships.

Hero - Energy Efficiency

LED Lights

The light bulbs on many of our ships have been replaced by LED and fluorescent lighting, which saves energy by producing the same amount of light per bulb using less wattage and producing less heat that would require more energy to be cooled.

High-Efficiency Appliances

We have installed high-efficiency appliances throughout our ships and evaluate them regularly to ensure they are performing in a way that minimizes their impact on climate change. For example, our newest icemakers use 65 percent less water than the previous machines.

Window Tinting

Our entire fleet of ships has window tinting designed for the marine environment. This allows natural light to enter the ship, but reduces both the amount of solar heat that comes through and the amount of air conditioning needed to cool. Tinted windows on our ships also protect our interiors and furnishings from sun damage, thereby reducing waste.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning

Our ships are equipped with the latest and most efficient air-conditioning equipment available. Crewmembers also diligently help reduce air-conditioning energy waste by keeping thermostats in a neutral position when staterooms are not in use, and by ensuring balcony doors are closed. Quantum of the Seas introduced a new stateroom key card system that requires all guests to be present in their rooms for the lights and air conditioning to be activated.

Water and Wastewater

Water and Wastewater

Fresh Water

Our ships require significant amounts of fresh water for drinking and for use in showers, sinks, toilets, galleys, pools and spas. We are continuously studying ways to reduce water consumption and increase the efficiency of fresh water production on our ships.

Hero - Water Conservation

We get fresh water through:

  • Onboard production. We use steam desalination or reverse osmosis to convert seawater into fresh potable water. We also produce water through waste heat recovery. We heat diesel engine cooling water and steam from exhaust gas boilers and turn it to steam.
  • Bunkering. We acquire water from local sources at our ports of call. This is known as “bunkering.”
  • Capturing condensation. The condensation from air conditioning systems is collected for such uses as machinery operation and doing laundry.

To reduce the use of water-producing equipment that consumes fuel and electricity, we have installed water-reduction technology and appliances such as sink aerators, showerheads, reduced flow dishwashers and low-consumption laundry equipment throughout our fleet. We also ask crew members and guests to help us conserve water whenever possible.

The combined efforts have produced good results. According to reports, our onboard guests use about half the water that the average person uses in the United States.

Advanced Wastewater Purification

Our Advanced Wastewater Purification (AWP) system cleans wastewater generated from our onboard sinks, showers, laundry, galleys, toilets and medical facilities. This has produced clean water that exceeds ship wastewater discharge standards throughout the world.

Our AWP systems are twice as stringent as U.S. federal standards for in-port wastewater discharge. Quantum of the Seas’ AWP system is one of the first such systems designed to meet future special area requirements for nutrient reduction (i.e. Baltic Sea).

Currently, 33 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. ships are equipped with AWP systems. All new ships will have AWPs built in.

Ballast Water Treatment System

Ballast water is seawater brought onto a ship to help stabilize it. Our systems treat ballast water and greatly reduces or eliminates its potential to discharge non-native species into other local environments when the ships move to other ports.

Quantum of the Seas was built with a ballast water treatment system before there were any international requirements to have such technology. Other RCL ships have been retrofitted with ballast water systems as part of ongoing initiatives to include this feature on all of our vessels.

Bilge Water Treatment System

Bilge water is oil-contaminated water collected from engine spaces. We treat bilge water with oily water separators that produce effluent at least three times cleaner than required by international regulations. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) standard for discharging treated bilge water is 15 parts per million. In 2013, RCL ships discharged processed bilge water treated to an average of less than 1.5 parts per million.

Waste Management

Keeping Waste Out of Landfills

With 4.8 million guests on our ships each year, it’s easy to generate a lot of waste. We are committed to managing it as efficiently as possible with a keen eye on sustainability.

In 2007, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. made a commitment to reduce our ships’ waste-to-landfill levels by 70 percent by 2015 and increase recycling level by 125 percent. We are pleased with the progress that we are making toward achieving that goal.

As part of our aggressive waste management operation, we hand-sort the waste from every trash receptacle on the ship, including those in staterooms. We carefully separate materials that can be recycled, and when our ships arrive at ports in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Tampa or Port Canaveral, Florida the materials are offloaded to the appropriate places. Recyclable clothing and books are donated, and dry waste and internationally regulated food-contacted waste that cannot be directly recycled are sent to a waste-to-energy facility where they are converted into electricity.


We are very proud of the strides made in 2013 by Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas when they started repurposing, recycling, donating and implementing waste-to-energy conversion of 100 percent of their operational waste.

That effort was promptly echoed by 10 additional ships in our fleet while they were starting and ending cruises in Florida ports.

Special Waste

Although we produce only very small quantities of hazardous or special waste (as defined by the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act), their management is still one of our highest priorities.

Our policy strictly forbids disposal of hazardous waste in trash containers, in gray water systems such as sinks and drains, or in black water systems such as toilets. There is a specific and well-defined process for handling hazardous or special waste products.

Only qualified contractors and hazardous waste vendors who are knowledgeable about our strict disposal processes are permitted to handle the hazardous waste generated at our facilities.

The handlers segregate the waste into leak proof containers to be sent to an approved shoreside disposal facility. Certain types of medical waste can be incinerated onboard.

Recycling is the most sustainable option for disposing of hazardous waste, so wherever possible we recycle items such as spent fluorescent bulbs and batteries that would be classified as hazardous if bought ashore as garbage. At destinations that have no approved recycling facility, the ships’ hazardous materials are packaged and stored onboard until they can be transferred and unloaded at ports that do.

Waste and Chemical Management

Through our chemicals management process, we are able to identify the most sustainable and effective chemical products for use throughout the fleet, thereby reducing potential harm to the environment. We list chemicals that have been approved for use on our ships in a centralized master RCL Chemical Purchasing List. This refers to the Chemwatch database, which contains standardized, easily retrievable information about each chemical; its proper handling and use; the manufacturer’s ratings for health, flammability and reactivity; and minimum requirements for personal protective equipment.


Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants is an essential part of our environmental stewardship strategy. The three main ways we minimize air pollution from our ships are:

  • Reducing overall energy use.
  • Investing in emission abatement technologies. Such technologies include Advanced Emission Purification systems, also known as scrubbers, and Selective Catalytic Reactors.
  • Utilizing alternative fuels or renewable energy sources.
The smoke stack on Navigator of the Seas.
The smoke stack on Navigator of the Seas.

TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3 and Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas are the first vessels to have all engines use a multi-stream exhaust gas cleaning system, or Advanced Emissions Purification (AEP) system, designed to treat exhaust gases created by the ship’s generators. By injecting water into the exhaust stream, the cleaning system removes approximately 98 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, and 60 to 80 percent of particulate matter. The cleaning system is also designed to treat but not remove nitrogen oxides (NOx). The company’s decision to use scrubbers allow the vessels to continue using current fuels, which contributes to reducing the world’s demand for distillate fuels and satisfy environmental regulations.

Since 2010 and in keeping with our commitment to reducing greenhouse gases, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has participated in the internationally recognized CDP climate change program. For more information, visit CDP’s website at www.cdp.net

Sustainability Report

Sustainability Report

At Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., safeguarding and protecting the world’s oceans, the destinations where we operate, and the health and well-being of our guests and crewmembers are of paramount importance.

This commitment to sustainability and sound stewardship is a journey. Our six years of sustainability reporting has provided the framework in which we reflect on our performance, evaluate our progress, and identify opportunities for improvement.

In 2013, we moved to the internationally recognized Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) latest guidelines — the G4 version, at Core level — following its materiality principles. This has helped us generate programs and initiatives that create more value for our company and our stakeholders. You can read about this year’s progress and the latest initiatives on our 2015 Sustainability Report.

Past reports:

View and Download our 2014 Sustainability Report.

View and Download our 2013 Sustainability Report.

View and Download our 2012 Stewardship Report & GRI Content Index.

View and Download our 2011 Stewardship Report.

View and Download our 2010 Stewardship Report.

View and Download our 2009 Stewardship Report.

View and Download our 2008 Stewardship Report.