As the world prepares to welcome tourism post-COVID, more travelers have expressed a desire for authentic experiences that leave a light footprint. And beyond “doing no harm”, many also want to give back to the destinations and local communities they visit. This is the essence of the regenerative travel movement: The principle of leaving a place in a better state than when you arrived.

Sustainable Cruising and Regenerative Travel

The cruise industry is stepping up to do just that with its focus on measurable sustainability goals. When most of us think of sustainable cruising, we envision ships equipped with the latest green technology, reduced carbon emissions, and onboard practices that include the ban of single-use plastics. As these measures and many more continue to be implemented, other initiatives are taking sustainability to the next level: regenerative travel. 

Many cruise lines are committed to not just preserving the environment, but reversing the damage done to it. They want to ensure that the world’s most beautiful and treasured destinations not only survive but thrive. They are accomplishing this by:

  • Protecting natural environments, wildlife and natural resources when developing and managing tourism activities
  • Providing authentic tourist experiences that celebrate and conserve heritage and culture
  • Creating community partnerships to provide socio-economic benefits

In short, these cruise lines aim to be good stewards of the planet and support local communities to create a positive impact for future generations.

Here are just a few examples of how cruise lines are helping the planet and people:

CELEBRITY CRUISES – Giving Back in the Galapagos

Galapagos Tomato
The Galapagos tomato

In the Galapagos, Celebrity has constructed greenhouses and provided support for local farmers’ associations through an organic agriculture initiative, which resulted in the creation of the hybrid “Galápagos tomato.”

Celebrity also led the effort to create a fishing co-op that allows local fishermen to have a safe, clean processing plant in which to prepare, store, and more efficiently sell their fish. Now, hundreds of kilos of their organic, locally sourced produce and “daily catch” of fresh fish are purchased and served to guests, financially supporting the community.

COSTA CRUISES – Creating Sustainable Food Gardens in Africa

Costa Cruises-Slow Food - Food Gardens in Africa
Sustainable Community Garden

The reduction of food waste on Costa ships has been turned into support for the non-profit organization Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. Since 2018, Costa has set up 100 Food Gardens in Africa: 60 ‘community gardens’ set aside for the whole community, and 40 ‘school gardens’ serving as open-air classrooms.

Using a sustainable model, the network is developing thanks to the work of local coordinators who are teaching young people and farmers. So far the project has involved approximately 4000 beneficiaries, with some 3000 children and over 700 women in Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, and Madagascar.  

CRYSTAL CRUISES – “You Care. We Care” Voluntours

Crystal Cruises You Care We Care Program - Planting trees at the Heidmork Natural Reserve in Reykjavik, Iceland
Planting trees in Reykjavik, Iceland

Crystal’s “You Care. We Care” voluntourism program gives guests and crew an opportunity to get directly involved in worthwhile causes in the destinations they visit. Crystal sets up all the arrangements, including transportation, and offers these opportunities for free. The program helps travelers give back, while also bolstering cross-cultural understanding and local economies.

Whatever speaks to guests’ interests – whether it’s environmental and wildlife conservation or interacting with children and elderly – Crystal offers opportunities to contribute. Crystal also provides financial and other needed resources annually to many of the charities visited during “You Care. We Care.” adventures further benefiting the programs and the people they serve.

HURTIGRUTEN – Helping Coastal Communities Thrive

Hurtigruten Helping Coastal Norwegian Communities
Norwegian Indigenous

Hurtigruten cares deeply for the year-round prosperity and long-term sustainable development of all the destinations they visit. The expedition cruise line respects and supports indigenous communities, values culture and traditions, and maintains close cooperation with the communities in these places. Strong local communities are a way to ensure responsible contact with vulnerable areas, and authentic experiences.

Hurtigruten’s Norwegian heritage is important to them. By employing local partners, buying services like excursions, and sourcing ingredients from local suppliers, Hurtigruten contributes to the livelihoods and welfare of small coastal societies. They are by far the largest player in locally sourced food in the Norwegian travel industry.

LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS – Whale Monitoring & Rescue

Breaching Whale

The cold and icy waters around Alaska are home to several species of whales. The Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund supports the work of the Alaska Whale Foundation (AWF), a nonprofit organization that protects and studies whales.

One aspect of the AWF’s multifaceted work involves collaborating with other research groups. Through visual and auditory monitoring, scientists can learn more about the presence and vocal behavior of whales around Alaska. AWF scientists then publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, adding to the scientific knowledge of the field and spreading conservation awareness.

MSC CRUISES –  Supporting Local Communities in Mozambique

Inhaca Island MSC Cruises
Inhaca Island, Mozambique

MSC has a strong relationship with the small tribe of people who live on the island of Inhaca in Mozambique, about an hour from the capital of Maputo. Due to its remote location, cruising makes an important contribution to the economy.

In addition to providing employment, MSC has found other ways to help the community flourish: by donating 100 desks to their schools, building a deck for the King’s us to conduct tribal meetings, donating a ferry for transporting residents between Inhaca and the capital of Maputo, as well as supporting them to create a marketplace for the trading. MSC Cruises is also planning to build a soccer field for the inhabitants of the island.

PONANT – Protecting the Poles

Antarctic Penguins

The conservation of the polar regions is imperative: the Poles keep the planet balanced by regulating the Earth’s climate and slowing the rapid warming of the oceans. PONANT works alongside NGOs and consultative bodies to ensure the conservation of the poles and supports projects that studies the effects of climate change.

In addition, PONANT offers its ships to the scientific community, in the belief that in-depth knowledge of the polar regions will accelerate conservation actions and raise awareness with the general public.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL – Exploring the World Sustainably

Royal Caribbean now offers 2,000 GSTC-certified tours

Royal Caribbean is focused on making destinations and shore excursions more sustainable by working with tour operators and local governments and offering GSTC-certified tours to their guests.

The GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) Criteria are organized around four main themes: effective sustainability planning, maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community, enhancing cultural heritage and reducing negative impacts to the environment.

In May 2020, seven months before their target date, Royal Caribbean surpassed its initial goal by achieving GSTC certification for 2,000 tours. These sustainable excursions will be offered to cruise guests all around the world – from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and beyond.

Keeping up With Sustainable Cruising

For more news about cruise lines at the forefront of sustainability, please visit Landry & Kling’s new website, SustainableShips.com, catch up on our “Future of Cruising” Livecast interview series, and subscribe for sustainable ship updates.