More bubbles mean better mileage: 7th annual report shows how innovation drives environmental gains

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Everyone knows – and frankly loves – the tiny bubbles that flow effortlessly into sparkly champagne flutes.  Those celebratory bubbles, first introduced by French monks, took ingenuity and years of perfecting to get them just right.  A new set of bubbles are now making their mark in the cruise industry, with no doubt the same excitement those French monks must have felt. Royal Caribbean’s air lubrication system, which creates a reduced friction layer of billions of microscopic air bubbles on a ship’s hull, has helped the cruise company launch some of the lowest-emission ships in the industry.

Whether bubbles or robotic bars at RCL, the same commitment to innovative design and creates crowd-pleasing consumer features also leads to a dedicated search for improved environmental performance.

With 43 ships sailing all seven continents to provide memorable experiences for more than 5 million guests a year, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. views sustainable practice not only as a matter of self interest, but as a solemn duty.

The company’s progress in its ongoing Save the Waves environmental initiative is just one element of the 102-page 2014 Sustainability Report. It is RCL’s seventh such annual analysis, and the second prepared in accordance with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines.

Highlights of what RCL Chairman and CEO Richard Fain calls the “never-ending journey” of improving environmental practices include:

  • A 21 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2014.
  • A decrease in waste sent to landfills – 1.14 pounds per available cruise passenger day in 2012 to 0.55 pounds per ACPD in 2014.
  • Contributions of nearly $40 million to The Ocean Fund, 2012-2014. RCL set up the fund in 1996 to provide grants to marine conservation organizations around the world.
  • Creation of the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA) – a partnership between RCL, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Organization of American States, U.S. State Department and Sustainable Travel International – the beginning of the next era of RCL’s work to support sustainable tourism.
  • Launching the 43rd ship in the RCL fleet, Quantum of the Seas, outfitted with “best-ever energy efficiency, state-of-the-art waste treatment – and not a single incandescent light bulb.”
  • The start of retrofitting 19 older RCL ships with advanced emission purification equipment that “scrubs” engine exhaust of up to 97 percent of sulfur dioxide before it can be released into the air.
  • Continued progress toward 2015 Save the Waves goals of processing bilge water to an effluent quality three times more stringent than international standards; having fully half of all shore excursions third-party verified to an internationally recognized sustainability standard; increasing by 125 percent the volume of waste recycled from RCL ships since 2007; and ensuring that 80 percent of guests, 100 percent of crew and key people at cruise destination are familiar with the cruiseline’s environmental principles, Save the Waves and The Ocean Fund.

Additional information on those principles; RCL’s Above and Beyond Compliance (ABC) approach to existing laws and regulations; the company-wide Safety, Quality and Environmental Management system (SQM); and more can be found in the 2014 Sustainability Report, available here.