Sustainable Cruising: 5 Companies Making an Impact

For many, cruising brings to mind the image of huge floating cities housing 5,000 guests churning their way through ocean waters — hardly an example of sustainable tourism when you consider the energy required to run these ships. But cruise lines of all sizes are working to improve the sector's sustainability and make cruising an option for travelers who are concerned about their carbon footprint. Here are five of our favorite options for responsible cruising. 

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    Luxury line Azamara Club Cruises, which is a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises, recognizes the vitally important role that the ocean play to the global environment and acknowledges its strong tie as a cruise line to this crucial ecosystem. The company recently started a five-year partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) focused on helping maintain the long-term health of the world’s ocean.  “This is a partnership I am personally very proud of, as efforts will reduce our company’s environmental footprint, raise awareness about ocean conservation among the company’s more than five million guests, and support WWF’s global oceans conservation work," said CEO Larry Pimentel. This partnership will have an on-board presence for guests as well: WWF experts will lead lectures on board, and 100 percent of proceeds from select souvenirs will go to the foundation.

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    Small-ship luxury line Seabourn Cruises has founded a partnership with UNESCO to help protect cultural and natural features around the world. Guests benefit from on-board educational talks by experts on World Heritage Sites — typically related to ports on the itinerary — and the company is donating a portion of the proceeds of all shore excursions back to the foundation. “Seabourn is proud to be partnering with UNESCO to promote and support sustainable tourism,” Seabourn President Richard D. Meadows said.

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    Uniworld River Cruises has literally written the book on sustainability. In partnership with the Treadright Foundation, Uniworld has produced the Sustainable River Cruising Project, meant to serve for a model for the entire industry. Recognizing that river cruising is growing exponentially, the company wanted to help document and provide guidance so that growth can continue in a sustainable manner —specifically as it relates to water use, waste management, and energy consumption. 

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    Lindblad Expeditions

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    Lindblad Expeditions has sustainability in its DN: A longstanding relationship with the National Geographic Society has led to fantastic educational opportunities for guests onboard, and itineraries focus on natural and cultural attractions — think tours of old Viking settlements in Canada, whale-watching expeditions in Alaska, and hikes to old forts in Dominica. Lindblad practices what it preaches, too: The cruise line only serves sustainable seafood and board; recycles trash onboard; and has donated more than $15 million to conversation efforts via programs such as the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund.

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    Aqua Expeditions does a fantastic job of working with the local communities where they operate — including more remote regions of the Amazon and Mekong Delta. The ships will often drop off their ship doctor in remote villages while guests are out for the day so that they can assist with basic health care needs in local communities. The shore excursions are also focused on cultural education.