Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean’s Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green?
Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Powering a Floating City: Fuel Cells and Hybrid Engines
When you're moving a floating city across the ocean blue, you need some serious horsepower. Royal Caribbean's new Icon-class ships are no exception. To keep these massive cruise liners running, some innovative propulsion solutions are coming online.
Fuel cells and hybrid engines aim to make Icon-class ships cleaner and more efficient. Traditionally, cruise ships have relied solely on heavy fuel oil. But burning fossil fuels creates pollution and greenhouse gases. New power systems help mitigate the environmental impact of cruising.
Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen electrochemically to generate electricity. The byproduct is simply water, rather than carbon emissions. Fuel cells have powered submarines and spaceships for decades. Now the technology is making its way to the high seas.
Carnival Corporation partnered with Shell Oil to pioneer a fuel cell system for its ships. The prototype will be installed on Carnival's Mardi Gras vessel. If successful, it could reduce emissions by 5-10%. Royal Caribbean is also exploring fuel cell applications. The company recently received a grant to test a fuel cell on Freedom of the Seas.
In addition to fuel cells, hybrid engines are gaining traction in the cruise industry. Hybrid systems combine diesel engines with battery power. Batteries provide added boost and capture energy from braking. This improves efficiency and leads to less engine runtime overall.
The first hybrid cruise ship, Hurtigruten's MS Roald Amundsen, launched in 2019. Its hybrid propulsion cuts fuel use by 20% compared to conventional diesel engines alone. Sister-ship MS Fridtjof Nansen also utilizes a hybrid powertrain.
MSC Cruises plans to bring hybrid engines to its new World-class ships. Abb will deliver the Azipod electric propulsion system paired with batteries. Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line's Project Leonardo ship will reportedly feature a hybrid powerplant as well.
Fuel cells and hybrid engines are expensive to implement. But the investment should pay dividends in efficiency and sustainability. As the industry adopts these cleaner technologies, cruising's carbon footprint will shrink. Royal Caribbean's Icon-class vessels will no doubt take advantage of the latest innovations in ship propulsion.
What else is in this post?
- Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Powering a Floating City: Fuel Cells and Hybrid Engines
- Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Feeding Thousands Sustainably: Local Food and Onboard Farms
- Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Construction Innovations: Lighter Materials and Efficient Design
- Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Managing Water and Waste at Sea
- Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Cruising Without Carbon: Offset Programs and Itinerary Planning
- Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Passenger Choices: Promoting Conservation Onboard
- Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Ports Under Pressure: Managing Overtourism
- Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - The Price of Being Big: Are Giant Ships Worth It?
Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Feeding Thousands Sustainably: Local Food and Onboard Farms
Feeding thousands of passengers and crew sustainably is no small feat, but cruise lines are finding innovative ways to source responsibly. Locally sourced ingredients and onboard farms help reduce the carbon footprint of cruise ship dining.
By buying local food at ports of call, cruise chefs gain access to the freshest and most sustainable ingredients. Seasonal produce comes with a lower carbon cost than imported or warehoused foods. Several cruise lines have committed to expanding farm-to-ship programs that feature regional delicacies on menus.
MSC Cruises recently partnered with suppliers in the Caribbean to bring local Bahamian flavors on board. The company plans to source more ingredients this way at ports around the world. Royal Caribbean also emphasized increasing its local food purchases for basic provisions and gourmet specialties.
Additionally, cruise ships are setting sail with acres of open deck space. Forward-looking lines have begun converting these areas into onboard farms. They grow herbs, fruits, vegetables and more to garnish passengers' plates.
AIDA Cruises became the first company to have hydroponic farms on its ships in 2016. They built a greenhouse farm on AIDAprima that grows tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and herbs hydroponically with minimal water. It provides a portion of the garnishes for restaurants on board.
Queen Mary 2 features a floating farm as well with over 200 plants. Dubbed Bolette's Garden, crops include strawberries, apricots, cherries tomatoes and peppers. Bolette's Garden provides Queen Mary 2's chefs with ultra-fresh organic ingredients.
Carnival Cruise Line embraced farm-to-ship dining on its newest ship Mardi Gras. Named Bonsai Sushi, the first seagoing sushi eatery features sustainably raised ingredients. Salmon is sourced from land-based aquaculture farms that use natural fish waste as plant food. Cucumbers and avocados are grown hydroponically onboard.
While sourcing locally and growing onboard doesn't meet all dining needs, it reduces the distance ingredients travel. This shrinks the carbon emissions generated before food even hits the plate. Cruise farm programs also cut down on food packaging, spoilage and waste.
Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Construction Innovations: Lighter Materials and Efficient Design
When you're building the world's largest cruise ships, every pound matters. Lighter and stronger construction materials help reduce fuel consumption by decreasing the ship's overall weight. At the same time, efficient architectural design maximizes energy savings. Royal Caribbean's forthcoming Icon-class vessels will feature innovative engineering to strike the optimum balance of size and sustainability.
Titanium and aluminum alloys enable lighter superstructures compared to traditional steel. By using lightweight metals, engineers can maintain strength while trimming mass. For example, Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Edge has an aluminum superstructure that is 40% lighter than steel. This lessens displacement, allowing the engines to work less to move the ship. Lighter ships also require less ballast and enjoy improved fuel efficiency.
Fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) composites present another weight-saving structural material. FRP uses glass or carbon fibers embedded in polymer resins. Components can be formed in complex curved shapes ideal for ships. FRP costs more than steel but offers strength similar to aluminum at half the weight. MSC Seaside incorporates FRP in its aft staircase and pool deck structures. FRP accounts for over 70% of the composite materials on AIDAprima as well.
Efficient naval architecture further bolsters energy savings. Thoughtful design elements like hull coatings, optimized hull forms, and streamlined aesthetic profiles reduce drag. Installation of systems like air lubrication, which forms bubbles along the hull to decrease friction, also improve hydrodynamics.
On deck, LED lighting cuts down on electrical loads, while specially glazed windows prevent heat transfer. HVAC systems utilize heat recovery to warm pool water with engine cooling jacket heat. Advanced wastewater treatment systems even convert sewage into energy.
Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Managing Water and Waste at Sea
When you have thousands of people living together in a floating city, water and waste management become critical. Cruise ships require massive quantities of fresh water for passengers and crew. They also generate tons of sewage, gray water, food waste, and solid refuse. Responsible handling of water and waste is crucial for sustainability.
Modern cruise liners tap energy-efficient technologies to optimize water usage. Low-flow fixtures, intelligent metering systems, and specialized membranes for purification cut down on excess water needs. Some ships even recycle and reuse heat from engine operations to power distillation.
Meanwhile, advanced wastewater treatment facilities onboard process sewage and graywater. Bioreactors use microbes to digest pollutants. Membranes filter out solids, sediments, and pathogens. The end result meets or exceeds international regulations for marine discharge.
For solid waste, lines aim to minimize disposables while aggressively recycling glass, cardboard, aluminum, steel, and even carpeting. Some ships feature balers and crushers to compact trash. This allows more to be stored onboard before coming into port for unloading and disposal.
Despite these efforts, a mega-ship the scale of Royal Caribbean's Icon class poses huge water and waste demands. Their sheer size makes meeting sustainability goals around fresh water and sewage a complex challenge. Some environmental groups argue that managing resources responsibly becomes nearly impossible once ships reach a certain economy of scale.
Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Cruising Without Carbon: Offset Programs and Itinerary Planning
While fuel cells, efficient design, and sustainable dining make progress, the sheer scale of large cruise ships guarantees a massive carbon footprint. Until zero-emission technologies mature, offsets help mitigate environmental impact. Creative itineraries also reduce time in port and cruising in sensitive areas.
Offsetting involves calculating emissions from a trip and investing to compensate the effect on climate. Cruisers can offset through recommended vendors or via cruise line programs. Carnival Corporation's cruising brand Holland America Line lets passengers offset by donating to preserve Alaska's Tongass National Forest. Royal Caribbean's offset program supports renewable energy projects like wind farms.
Meanwhile, Costa Cruises claims to be fully carbon neutral across its fleet. The line purchases certified credits funding conservation and emissions reduction. These offsets make up for all emissions generated by its ships. However, critics argue that purchasing offsets does not directly eliminate cruise pollution. Some view depending on offsets to claim "carbon neutrality" as problematic.
Beyond offsets, cruise lines explore alternative itineraries to reduce environmental harm. Many ships congregate in places like Alaska, the Caribbean, and Mediterranean during peak seasons. This inundates popular ports with tourists and emissions. Spreading out geographically eases pressure on crowded destinations.
Some companies reposition ships to different regions depending on the season. For example, Hurtigruten cruises in Norway during summer and Antarctica in winter. Varying destinations cuts down on retracing routes and idling in port. Constant repositioning also moves emissions away from heavily trafficked areas.
Sailings in the Arctic, Antarctica and Norway's fjords feature spectacular sights. However, these fragile environments are exceptionally vulnerable to human impact. Expedition cruise lines like Hurtigruten and Lindblad build sustainability into polar itineraries. Their ships use advanced waste systems and run on low-sulfur fuels. Crew are educated in environmental practices while supporting research. Avoiding sensitive ecosystems unless designed consciously shows respect for nature.
Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Passenger Choices: Promoting Conservation Onboard
Cruise guests aren’t just passive participants when it comes to sustainability. The choices passengers make onboard can reduce environmental impact as well. Lines are empowering cruisers to get involved through education, incentives and activities.
Royal Caribbean’s Save the Waves program encourages conservation-minded decisions. It starts by making passengers aware of the environmental implications of daily cruise life. Interactive displays illustrate the relationships between fresh water, energy, and waste onboard. Guests also learn how seemingly small actions add up. Simply turning off lights and towels not needing washed makes a difference.
Save the Waves uses friendly competition to motivate greener behavior. The program pits different decks against each other through a point system. Passengers rack up points for their deck by being mindful. Using cabin towels again, declining tray service, or reusing cruise cards at ports all earn points. At the end of the sailing, top point earners win prizes like spa treatments or behind-the-scenes tours.
Several cruise operators also promote ecotourism at destinations. Shore excursions focus on low-impact activities that support conservation. Hurtigruten offers battery-powered snowmobile tours and hiking through Finland’s national parks. UnCruise Adventures guides passengers on wildlife viewing, snorkeling, and kayaking day trips. Besides reducing environmental harm, eco-conscious tours educate about local habitats.
Voluntourism provides another avenue for cruisers to get involved. Carnival has partnered with Projets Abroad on a turtle conservation program in Turks & Caicos. Guests can participate in beach cleanups and night patrols protecting hatchlings. Holland America Line works with the Student Conservation Association to facilitate volunteerism in Alaska’s parks. Projects include trail restoration and invasive plant removal.
To cut down on cruise waste, some ships also feature water stations encouraging use of refillable bottles. MSC Cruises installed water dispensers across its fleet to lower plastic bottle consumption. Passengers receive an MSC print reusable bottle to fill for free. Royal Caribbean guests can similarly bring refillable containers to leverage water stations around its ships. Fewer single-use plastics means less waste headed for the ocean or trash heaps.
Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - Ports Under Pressure: Managing Overtourism
Cruise tourism concentrates thousands of passengers in port cities often for just a day. This deluge of visitors strains infrastructure and disrupts communities unprepared for the influx. Dubrovnik, Venice, and other destinations suffer under excessive crowds. Meanwhile, ships queue while awaiting entry adding to port emissions. Managing this overtourism presents a sustainability challenge.
A ship like Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class carries over 6,000 guests. Even a mid-size vessel transports 2,000 tourists or more. When multiple ships visit a port on the same day during high season, the tourist balance is overwhelmed. Transport, security, waste systems and other services are taxed trying to accommodate throngs of travelers. Residents deal with inconvenience like blocked streets and crowded buses. Rents and goods inflate pricing out locals. Cultural attractions and historic sites become swarmed losing their charm. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Santorini and other hot spots already suffer under excessive tourism. Cruise ships amplify the effect, creating economic and social disruption.
The cruise industry recognizes overtourism issues at coveted havens like Dubrovnik. In 2019 the city hosted 139 ships and 838,000 passengers. Troves of cruisers clog Old Town's alleys while buses idle spewing exhaust. To alleviate pressure, some lines implemented passenger limits there. MSC Cruises halved the number of guests it allows ashore in Dubrovnik to 2,000 per ship. Royal Caribbean also pledged to cut its passenger count in the walled city by 1/3. Spreading visits throughout the day further prevents bottlenecks. However, limits alone aren't enough to counter overcrowding from growing cruise demand.
Meanwhile, congestion grows as ships queue for entry to strained ports. Cruise Critic reported over 20 vessels waiting to dock at Greece's Santorini at once in 2019. Besides frustrating passengers, this keeps engines running for hours, increasing air pollution. Some ports limit ships per day, but again cannot meet ever-expanding cruise arrivals.
This unsustainable dynamic exposes the need for holistic destination management. Cruise lines must cooperate regionally to moderate tourist inflows. Ports can impose booking quotas, passenger fees and mandatory reservations for attractions. Expanding alternative sites inland spreads visitors across the region. And sustainable planning ensures tourism yields long-term socioeconomic benefits for residents.
Titan of the Seas: Can Royal Caribbean's Goliath Ship Truly Sail Green? - - The Price of Being Big: Are Giant Ships Worth It?
The cruise industry constantly pushes the envelope on ship size, with vessels becoming progressively more massive. Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships surpassed 220,000 gross tons, while its new Icon class is projected at up to 250,000. But many wonder, is there a point where too-big becomes detrimental? Scaling up introduces sustainability issues and health factors that raise real concerns.
Mega-ships guzzle fuel, require extensive supplies, and concentrate human waste. Their sheer scale makes energy efficiency difficult, even with new technologies. Burning thousands of gallons of fuel harms air quality in port cities. And while advanced wastewater treatment has come a long way, huge ships still dump millions of gallons of treated sewage into the oceans.
Providing food, water and provisions for thousands of passengers also has an outsized environmental footprint. These floating cities must produce massive amounts of fresh water through energy-intensive desalination. Keeping that many people fed means importing tons of food, with associated waste and packaging.
When illness strikes crowded enclosed spaces, diseases spread quickly. During the early days of Covid-19, outbreaks on cruise ships like Diamond Princess demonstrated this vulnerability. Critics argue that ultra-large ships elevate public health risks because containing infection proves extremely challenging.
But cruise lines contend that bigger ships provide economies of scale. They transport more guests efficiently, with less fuel burned per person. Megaships also offer a wider range of amenities given expanded capacity. Modern propulsion and sustainability measures aim to curb the downsides of scale.
Yet many argue these measures only go so far. At a certain point, the cruise experience itself suffers from megaships'own success. When 6,000 passengers mob ports or cue for attractions, overcrowding diminishes the quality of travel. Some travelers prefer smaller, more intimate vessels where overtourism issues rarely surface.
In the quest for gigantism, cruise companies may lose sight of the human impacts. Quality of life for crew crammed into windowless quarters erodes aboard these floating behemoths. And locals at destination ports face increasing disruption to accommodate cruising masses.