For bluer skies, we think green

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To reduce environmental impact, we do more than recycle ideas.

Even those who know that a ship leaves an environmental “footprint” as it travels the seas might be surprised to learn that a roomful of frozen trash and a blanket of tiny bubbles can help make it smaller.

It’s for this reason that crew members sort waste by hand while others oversee equipment that monitors the ship’s exhaust. Many millions of dollars have been spent and continue to be invested in new technologies and partnerships to protect water, air and ecosystems, often going beyond industry standards and guest expectations.

These and other actions are part of an ongoing effort by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to reduce the environmental footprints of its cruise ships, whether at sea or in port.

Here are seven ways Royal Caribbean is reducing its environmental impact: 

  1. Air lubrication. When Royal Caribbean International’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas was built, it was equipped with a system that blows compressed air onto the ship’s hull, creating a blanket of countless “microbubbles” between the hull and the sea. This reduces friction and saves fuel. “While Royal is not the first cruiseline to test this technology, the others haven’t begun exploring its potential,” says Richard Pruitt, Royal Caribbean’s vice president of safety and environmental stewardship. “When the data comes back from Quantum, we can consider retrofitting older ships with this technology.”
  2. Cold remedy. To maximize the amount of waste recycled, much of what’s generated onboard is frozen until it can be disposed of at a recycling facility on land. Crushed glass, aluminum cans, cooking oil and other recyclables are stored in special onboard freezers to prevent bacteria and foul odors.
  3. Water work. Wastewater equipment on Royal Caribbean ships treat gray water (from showers and sinks) and black water (sewage) to very high standards before discharging miles out to sea. “Most municipalities would envy the process we have on board to treat wastewater,” Pruitt says, noting that more than $100 million has been invested in advanced purification systems to ensure environmental safety. Celebrity Xpedition, which sails in the Galapagos Islands, goes so far as to give guests the chance to take part in a reforestation project, planting

    Celebrity Xpedition, which sails in the Galapagos Islands, goes so far as to give guests the chance to take part in a reforestation project, planting native Scalesia trees that are at risk of extinction. (Celebrity)
    Celebrity Xpedition, which sails in the Galapagos Islands, goes so far as to give guests the chance to take part in a reforestation project, planting native Scalesia trees that are at risk of extinction. (Celebrity)
  4. Sun power. Celebrity Silhouette features advanced solar technology that generates about 19.5 kilowatts of electricity, more than enough to power 7,000 LED light bulbs. The ship is one of seven across the company’s fleet to include solar power. “Although it’s not a huge output, it’s pretty unusual to see solar panels in the maritime world,” Pruitt says.
  5. Beach brightening. Royal Caribbean crew members participate in beach cleanup programs around the world. Celebrity Xpedition, which sails in the Galapagos Islands, goes so far as to give guests the chance to take part in a reforestation project, planting native Scalesia trees that are at risk of extinction.
  6. Vital signs. “We’re helping scientists understand climate change, which is not a typical mission of a cruise line,” Pruitt says of a joint project with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Oceanographic and atmospheric data is collected with equipment on two Royal Caribbean ships and one Celebrity Cruises ship. “That equipment helps scientists track the effects of climate change on the oceans and improve the ability to forecast weather for the Caribbean,” he adds.
  7. Hand picked. Every scrap of trash generated on Royal Caribbean ships is sorted by hand for environmentally friendly disposal. All crew members, from stateroom attendants and bartenders to waiters and incinerator room personnel, take part in making the most of onboard recycling and reuse.