How cruise lines are using new routes and smaller cruise ships to attract eco-conscious travelers
At Atlas Ocean Voyage’s World Navigator (price starting at $ 5,799 per person), a superyacht-type vessel that launches in July, an entire day can be spent at the ship’s 947-square-foot L’Occitane spa. But the brand’s philosophy is to take advantage of lesser-known ports and unique experiences that are only accessible through its compact, luxurious yet sustainable fleet. The Mediterranean and Black Sea routes include unconventional stops like Pripyat, a ghost town near the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone; a 12-night Patagonia expedition across the Strait of Magellan sails through the English Passage and stops in Castro, Chile and Punta Arenas. The ship looks like a floating boutique hotel but has environmentally friendly technology, including a hydrojet propulsion system that reduces underwater noise pollution.
Destinations demand greener ships
Part of the appeal of small ships is that they can access ports that are off-limits to 6,000-passenger ships, especially now that some destinations like the historic center of Venice have banned large cruise ships altogether.
In a historic movement, Norway ad it will not allow zero-emission ships to enter its World Heritage fjords until 2026. Norwegian University of Science and Technology has already started work on a ‘green dock’ project at Geirangerfjord, where passengers will likely switch to smaller, emissions-free ships in order to see the area’s majestic snow-capped mountains and sinking waterfalls.
â€œMore and more destinations are developing their own sustainable cruise charters and guidelines,â€ says Wassim Daoud, sustainability manager at Ponant, a small ship cruise line with environmentally conscious maritime origins. â€œOften they require the use of low sulfur fuels; for example, Marseille or Dubrovnik. Ponant recently unveiled its latest expedition vessel, The Commander-Charcot (price starting at $ 13,970, based on double occupancy), the first hybrid electric vessel powered by LNG to sail at the poles. This fall, a new 15-day itinerary will transport nature lovers to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, the only region in the world where the December 4 total solar eclipse will be fully visible. With two laboratories on board, the ship will provide an opportunity for scientific researchers to explore and share their ideas with guests, Daoud said.
A favorable guide / guest ratio on small cruise ships is especially useful for discovering sea lions, penguins and the elusive blue-legged boobies of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. It is part of the philosophy of the shipping company Ecoventura (inquire about the price), which is distinguished by both its luxury yachts of 20 passengers and its experienced naturalist guides (one for 10 people). In 2022, the company will welcome a brand new vessel, aptly named To evolve, in its Relais & ChÃ¢teaux fleet, which will reduce fossil fuel consumption by more than 30% and include an advanced water treatment plan that prevents gray water and untreated black water from being discharged into the ocean.
â€œOur goal is also to help the island recover from the global tourism hiatus,â€ says Santiago Dunn, CEO of Ecoventura. “In the first two months of the pandemic alone, the island economy lost almost a quarter of its annual income.” To help, Ecoventura has partnered with local nonprofit organizations that disseminate microcredits and grants for education, food security and conservation initiatives, and support local guides – many of whom have seen their incomes rise. dry up when restrictions have been put in place, Dunn said.
As Ecuador and other tourism-dependent destinations around the world open their borders, travelers have even more reasons to set sail and choose their boat wisely. With small changes that have a big impact, cruising takes on a new lease of life.