All the best new sustainable cruise ships for 2022
By Jane Archer | 18 May 2022
From battery power and lower emissions to banana peel cocktails, Jane Archer rounds up the eco-innovations that are making this year’s new ships more sustainable than ever.
For years, cruise lines have vied with each other to offer the most restaurants at sea, the scariest waterslides, the most breathtaking feature (you know, the one where you gasp, ‘You can do that on a cruise ship, really?’). Now there is a new contest – the one to be the greenest, most eco-friendly and sustainable cruise ship of them all.
Driven by changing public attitudes and tougher environmental regulations, companies are investing billions in new technologies that will keep our oceans and atmosphere as clean as they can be.
All the best new sustainable cruise ships for 2022
At its simplest, it’s about banning single-use plastic as much as possible; at its most complex, it has meant developing engines that run on alternative fuels (liquefied natural gas is the current favourite, said to reduce sulphur emissions by almost 99% and nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 85%), as well as finding ways to reuse heat generated on board and treat waste water so the end result is almost as clear as drinking water.
Here are all the innovative ways cruise ships are becoming more sustainable and the cruise lines and new ships with the best eco credentials in 2022.
It has taken time for technology to keep up with aspirations, but things are starting to move fast and you can count on one hand the number of LNG-powered ships that have entered service since the technology debuted in 2018.
But, this year alone Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, P&O Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line all have LNG-powered ships launching, and almost 20 more are slated to come out by 2027. Hybrid vessels that use a mix of LNG and battery power are also starting to set sail.
It’s not just new ships that are going green. Hurtigruten, which sails the Norwegian coastal route, is converting three of its existing fleet into hybrids and installing SCR (selective catalytic reduction) units that reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) gases by up to 80% on another three vessels.
New British cruise line Ambassador has fitted an SCR system to its flagship Ambience, which was built in 1991, showing that efforts can be made to retrofit older ships alongside investing in the ships set to launch.
Additionally, by cutting the ship’s average speed from 18.5 knots to 16.25 to comply with new energy efficiency standards that will be in force from 2023, the line says NOx and CO2 emissions will fall 75% and 7% respectively.
Battery powered ships
When it comes to eco-friendly cruising, Norwegian coastal start-up Havila Voyages takes some beating. Its first ship, Havila Capella, sails between Bergen and Kirkenes using a combination of LNG and massive battery packs that can power the vessel for up to four hours.
For lovers of stats, they weigh 86 tons and have capacity of 6.1 megawatt hours, which is equivalent to 600 top-of-the-range Teslas. Havila says they are the largest battery packs in the world designed for passenger ships.
“We had the luxury of building now, when the technology is viable,” says UK country manager Matthew Valentine. He says sailing on battery power is just one part of the eco-equation on the ship. They also power it in port so it’s not kicking out emissions while docked – an important point because from 2026 Norway will only allow ships with zero emissions to enter popular Geirangerfjord.
The batteries are recharged en route using clean hydropower as well as waste energy from the engines (a process known as ‘peak shaving’). Finally, a heat exchange system warms fresh air entering all cabins and the water used on board, and captures heat from showers and sinks.
Havila has invested around £43 million to make its ships as environmentally friendly as possible (a second ship, Havila Castor, will enter service in May, with Havila Polaris and Pollux expected later this year). Valentine adds: “Sustainability is a big part of our focus. It also forms part of the buying decisions for a lot of people.”
A-Rosa Cruises’ new river ship A-Rosa Sena, which launches on the Rhine in Germany in May, is also a hybrid. It operates on diesel (A-Rosa says an SCR filter captures at least 75% of NOx emissions and more than 90% of particulate matter) and switches to electric when arriving at and leaving ports. An exhaust heat recovery system generates electricity, which is then stored in the batteries.
The vessel, based in Cologne, is the first on the Rhine with four inside decks. It runs on shore power when docked, and that shore power will also be used to recharge the batteries, topped up by peak shaving waste energy from the engines.
“Everything to do with river cruising is about the destinations, so we have to protect the places that we visit,” says A-Rosa UK and Ireland managing director Lucia Rowe.
The company will be refitting all of its river ships into hybrids by 2030 and is looking at how to use solar panels for charging batteries. “It is a big investment, but an investment protecting what we have. People will choose [who to cruise with] based on sustainability. We have to be ready.”
Ships with heat transfer systems
Several ships launching this year have heat transfer systems that pipe surplus energy from one part of the ship to another instead of letting it disappear into the ether.
MSC World Europa
On MSC World Europa, launching in December, heat from the laundry room and machinery will be used to warm up swimming pool water and other areas of the ship. It will also have an underwater radiated noise management system so marine mammals are not disturbed by noise coming from the hull and engine room.
Viking Octantis and Polaris
On Viking’s new expedition duo Viking Octantis and Polaris, heat recovered from the engines warms water to produce steam that helps keep the fuel tanks heated.
Seabourn’s new expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, has a novel waste disposal system that uses self-sustaining gasification to generate heat without harmful exhausts. The bio-char by-product that it creates can then be used as a fertiliser.
Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Traveller
Expedition line Atlas Ocean Voyages’ new World Traveller has a smart engine that uses only the amount of low-sulphur marine diesel fuel it needs, and can switch to quiet, electrically powered hydrojets.
“We can stop [the ship’s] propellers and engage the pump engines to quietly cruise up to five knots in wildlife-rich waters,” says Mario Ferreira, chairman of Atlas holding company Mystic Cruises.
Innovative, eco-friendly ships
From a low-friction coating on the hull that cuts fuel consumption to ditching plastic cruise cards, all sorts of innovative eco-ideas are appearing on ships this year.
On Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Beyond, an app and QR codes for passengers reduce the amount of paper used on board, while those on Aurora Expeditions’ new Sylvia Earle will be provided with coral-safe sunscreen.
Look out for the first sustainable bar from Norwegian Cruise Line, set to open on Norwegian Prima when it launches this summer. It will serve wines made from organic grapes and zero-waste cocktails such as the primadonna, made with surplus banana peel and sustainably produced Flor de Cana rum, so you can sip away without the slightest hint of guilt.