The Future of Luxury Cruises
Luxury cruises are a refreshing way to explore the world and experience various destinations from a fresh point of view. However, just how eco-friendly is a luxury cruise trip? Cruise ships and maritime vessels are responsible for nearly 3% of global greenhouse emissions. As such, initiatives to become more sustainable have become a priority for most cruise lines. Last year, all ocean-going members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced their aim for all ships to call at ports where shoreside electricity (SSE) is available by 2035. Ports with SSE allow ship engines to be switched off while docked, reducing CO2 emissions and minimizing damage to local communities.
This is just one example of the industry moving towards a greener future. To further understand how different sustainability efforts in luxury cruises can provide a more fulfilling ecotourism experience for sustainable travelers, we’ll look at how some luxury cruise companies are approaching the sustainability challenge.
The nature of luxury cruises
Luxury cruises offer travelers a leveled-up tourism experience by providing trips to various destinations via high-end ships. As its name suggests, a luxury cruise often entails a comfortable cabin experience and high-quality dining options, among many other first-class amenities. Explora Cruises highlight how these ocean journeys are designed to help create more immersive travel experiences, with all-inclusive amenities to ensure comfort. These include sophisticated culinary experiences, access to onboard spa services, and top-notch service from a team of hospitality experts.
As cruises become more popular, companies have been working on further advancing their luxury services. Notably, Regent Seven Seas Cruises recently announced its 2026 World Cruise, a round trip luxury cruise and cultural exploration that will take place over 154 nights around the world. Named “The Sense of Adventure”, the World Cruise is a round-trip journey from Miami, Florida. Guests will explore 77 ports in 41 countries across six continents, including South Pacific, Asian, and European destinations. Some luxury amenities include unlimited valet laundry and a comprehensive visa package to accommodate the ambitious journey.
The worldwide cruise trip will also provide guests access to 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Monastery of Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve from Praslin, Seychelles, and the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns, Australia. In line with offering an overall luxurious experience, guests will also spend a one-night pre-cruise stay in a luxury hotel in Miami and attend a pre-cruise gala event.
With so much comfort and excess offered on the high seas, it’s natural not to immediately think of sustainability and ecotourism when it comes to luxury cruises. However, as mentioned in the introduction, the industry has been working towards greener goals in recent years.
How luxury cruises are moving forward and going green
Aside from CLIA’s plans to use shoreside electricity ports in the introduction, cruise companies are working to meet customers’ sustainability demands. In addition to the plan for SSE, CLIA members also want to swap out carbon- and sulfur-emitting heavy fuel oil for cleaner alternatives.
Other eco-conscious initiatives from notable cruise companies include Norwegian Hurtigruten, which is using greener fuels like marine gasoil and biofuels as opposed to regular heavy fuel oil and Monaco-based Star Clippers’ trio of wind-powered passenger sailing ships. In fact, the aforementioned Explora Cruises plan to debut the world’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered vessel in 2027 to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions while out at sea and emit little more than water vapor and heat when in port.
In partnership with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, Explora announced the construction of the Explora V and VI (in 2027 and 2028 respectively). LNG and hydrogen will likewise power the vessels through a six-megawatt fuel cell; the partners note that these third and fourth ships will utilize “the cleanest marine fuel currently available”—eliminating local air pollutant emissions like sulfur oxides (99%), nitrogen oxides (85%), and particles (98%). LNG engines also have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 25% compared to standard marine fuels. This shows a promising innovation for cruises to cut down on greenhouse gas production.
Meanwhile, our past post titled “Amazing Ocean Cleanup Technology and Initiatives” highlights how scientists and brands worldwide are continually working on revolutionary solutions to reducing ocean waste. This includes a team of Dutch scientists and their floatation device that collects plastic and other trash without harming marine ecosystems and Suzuki’s micro-plastic collecting device that also functions as a cooler for the boat’s engines. As such, collective efforts to protect the ocean, reduce waste, and minimize carbon emissions seem promising.
In the future, luxury cruises may become once-in-a-lifetime experiences for travelers looking for green ways to explore new destinations. The commitment from cruise lines to invest in innovative green solutions beyond banning plastic straws or reusing linens onboard can make at-sea luxury experiences more sustainable. For more insights on sustainable travel and ecotourism, subscribe to our Ecotourism World newsletter.