NEW YORK • When Norwegian Encore, the newest ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, launches next month, it will carry no plastic water bottles to offer guests.
The 4,000-passenger ship will instead stock Just Water, with a carton made mostly of paper, and a cap made of sugar cane.
The company aims to switch its entire fleet over to the more sustainable drinking water option by the beginning of next year, an effort that it said will eliminate six million single-use plastic bottles a year.
The announcement by Norwegian, the third-largest cruise company, comes amid a flurry of new sustainability announcements in the travel industry as it responds to pressure points.
These range from disaster recovery in the aftermath of massive hurricanes and increased wildfires to “flight-shaming” of those consumers who travel by plane, requiring a large carbon-emission footprint.
Leading new initiatives on sustainable travel, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the industry’s private sector globally, called on Tuesday for climate-neutrality by 2050 at its Climate Summit in New York City.
The announcement outlined a new programme to encourage its members – a broad spectrum of travel and tourism operators that include airports, airlines, hotels and tour and cruise companies – to adopt or accelerate sustainability programmes and share best practices.
Last spring, the group announced a partnership with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to take action to address global warming and set sustainable development goals.
“We want to be part of the solution and this is our chance to move faster and contribute,” said WTTC chief executive Gloria Guevara, noting the size of the travel and tourism industry, which accounts for a little more than 10 per cent of global gross domestic product and one in 10 jobs globally.
From a consumer standpoint, the new WTTC initiative aims to establish standards for sustainability that travellers can understand, in the way that the star system used by hotels indicates quality.
Within a year, the WTTC plans to establish a turtle logo that a member can use to indicate it has met basic sustainable goals, with future higher levels, based on performance, to come.
Environmental promises by cruise lines, however, have plenty of sceptics who point to Princess Cruise Lines, which was fined US$20 million (S$28 million) in June for violating the terms of its probation on a US$40 million penalty for illegal dumping.
Friends of the Earth, which advocates environmental causes, issues a periodic Cruise Ship Report Card that compares the carbon footprint of 16 major cruise lines.
In this year’s evaluation, Norwegian came in second with a C minus while half of the cruise companies measured got an F.
Disney Cruise Line – which is the only company to get an A for transparency by responding to Friends of the Earth – ranks highest with an A minus.
The author of the report card, Ms Marcie Keever, the oceans and vessels programme director for Friends of the Earth, acknowledged that plastics bans “have an impact”, but called on the industry to take bolder steps to clean up their air pollution emissions, which lag behind sewage treatment generally.