Royal Caribbean and the Environment

We have a responsibility to the guests who sail with us, the people who work for us, and the communities we visit, but most critically we have a responsibility to the oceans, which are at the very essence of our business.

For nearly 40 years, our company has carried out its strong commitment to environmental stewardship by following strict company policies, practices, regulations and special initiatives that we call Above and Beyond Compliance. The initiatives help us achieve the highest possible standards of environmental and community stewardship.

One such initiative is our Save the Waves® program, which was established in 1992 as a program that focused on waste management and evolved into a company-wide philosophy of social responsibility and sustainability practices that guide many facets of our business.

Additionally, our ships are continuously 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 also partner with organization like World Wildlife Fund and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to fund and support ocean conversation and research.

Sustainability and environmental protection is 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

Over the course of 20 years, Save the Waves has been our unofficial philosophy behind our commitment to environmental stewardship.  Stemming from a company-wide recycling program in 1992, Save the Waves branched out over the years to include more ambitious goals such as emissions reduction and waste water treatment.

The four key principles

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.

As our knowledge of the oceans grew, so did our program, which evolved into a broader sustainability platform aimed at preserving the oceans and protecting coastal communities.

In 2015, we took a step back and formalized that program into an official platform that spans all operations from our new building to our charitable giving.

Extending well beyond shipboard operations and our employee workforce, the platform drives our collaboration with educational institutions such as the University of Miami, World Wildlife Fund, PADF and other entities to help strengthen policies and protect resources so our marine environment can remain vibrant and healthy.

Ship Design and Technology

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.

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.

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.

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.


Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants is an essential part of our environmental stewardship strategy.

3 main ways to minimize air pollution

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.

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 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

Water & Wastewater

Fresh water on a ship is a precious commodity that we go to great efforts in ensuring it’s used most efficiently.  Onboard, fresh water is used for drinking, showers, sinks, toilets, galleys, pools and spas and is obtained in one of two ways:

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.


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

Keeping Waste Out Of Landfills

Special Waste

Special Waste

Waste & Chemical Management

Waste & Chemical Management

With nearly five 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.

Keeping Waste Out of Landfills

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.

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.

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 sustainability reporting has provides a 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 2018 Sustainability Report.