Climate-conscious cruises: The future of marine voyages

In the wake of World Ocean Day, we take a look at the future of luxury cruise and marine travel

Where once we’d have been torn between seeing or saving the planet, as we enjoy far-flung travel this summer, sustainability and social impact are firmly on our travel tick lists. With increasing pressure from discerning travellers, savvy travel and cruise companies are taking note, brokering partnerships with local communities, shining a spotlight on important environmental, social, or economic issues, and putting funds toward regenerative projects

In the marine industry, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has been quick to make a move. While landlubbers have a growing roster of responsible travel experiences to choose from, for the cruise sector it’s a more challenging outlook. With nearly 3% of all global carbon emissions generated by maritime vessels, its not a simple shift but a drastic overhaul that’s needed to meet this soaring modern travel mentality.

Aware of this desperate need for decarbonisation, the CLIA has set an ambitious goal to drive the cruise sector to net zero by 2050. To figure out how to get there, they’ve asked the Royal Institute of Naval Architects (RINA) to plot a course to this greener future. The resulting strategy, which is under development and dubbed the Global Investment Plan, will outline real-time energy needs, consider infrastructure development, and recommend essential regulations to help the sector on its journey.

So, in the meantime, if you’re a climate-conscious cruise or yacht-loving traveller, are there any options?  Though the journey to net zero looks to be a slow one for the maritime voyager, luxury travel specialists are still finding ways to drive positive impact. For those that prefer to charter a yacht than join a cruise, tailormade travel specialists Pelorus’ are a great place to start. They offer personalised tours and itineraries with an eye on conservation and restoration, as well as community initiatives. Recently awarded B Corp certification, Pelorus is known for its far-flung approach, steering clear of over-touristed spots to bring valuable tourist investment to less visited communities. Its ambitious Climate Investment Fund outlines its decarbonisation vision, while the company also champions the creation and adoption of clean energy infrastructure at scale.

If that weren’t enough, Pelorus’ recently launched exploration yachts traverse Norway’s arctic waters and Indonesia’s biodiverse seas. The new routes will open up remote areas to marine researchers and conservationists, in partnership with Pelorus’ charitable Foundation, allowing curious voyagers and ocean enthusiasts to travel alongside scientists, taking a peek at life in these vibrant waters. Elsewhere, relative newcomer Explora Journeys is building cruise ships for tomorrow. With alternative energy and hybrid power looming large on the horizon, each ship’s design includes space for battery storage to be added, readying them to switch at the earliest opportunity. With two hydrogen-powered ships under order, the first ship in the fleet, EXPLORA I, is a hybrid model, using the latest environmental-supporting technologies to reduce CO2 emissions.

Aligning itself with conservation and stewardship from the outset, Explora’s introduction to the industry is underpinned by an awareness of the sector’s sustainable needs. Its impressive ambassadors include Dr Sylvia Earle, a pre-eminent oceanographer whose name is synonymous with ocean conservation, as well as explorer and adventurer Mike Horn Finally, for those who place social impact at the heart of their travels, Ponant Cruises has been awarded Green Globe certification across its entire fleet, a mark of the company’s commitment to responsible tourism. Alongside its business commitments, the Ponant Foundation funds conservation and restoration, scientific research, as well as essential social impact initiatives which change the lives of those in far-flung and isolated communities. One such is a remote archipelago in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Guinea Bissau, where they are building schools and supporting healthcare initiatives, bringing long-term benefit to the community.

In a landscape of overtourism, these forward-thinking companies offer the antithesis of cliched floating cities, and offer hope for a considered cruising future.

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All images courtesy of Ponant and Explora 

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