Carnival Corporation: Greener and Cleaner?

Is Carnival Corporation Creating Waves with its Climate Change Efforts?

With a portfolio of ten brands, Carnival Corporation (Carnival) – a giant in the cruise industry – carried 10.8 million passengers in 2015 onboard their 99 ships, which accounted for 47% of global cruise guests in the industry and generated $15.7 billion in revenue [1]. In an industry with 230 cruise ships [2], Carnival has a significant responsibility towards investing in the reduction of greenhouse gases, and it has become an industry leader with its efforts to move towards a greener fleet.

Several of Carnival’s new ships that they have ordered will be powered at sea and at port by liquefied natural gas [1]. In addition, Carnival has undertaken various efforts throughout 2015 to further reduce its fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions such as: air lubrication systems, exhaust gas cleaning systems, and alternative fuels [3]. Carnival aims to reduce its CO2E emissions by 25% in 2020, and is well on their way towards accomplishing this feat by equipping 41% of their fleet with new technologies. With its intended reduction of greenhouse gasses, Carnival will reduce the impact of its cruise ships on ecosystems and communities across the globe.

Additionally, Carnival’s cruise ships waste streams, which come from various sources onboard, have remained a focus area for Carnival’s environmental efforts. The waste from ships is a factor that adds to greenhouse gas emissions because the waste is hauled onshore to landfills.  To reduce waste generated, Carnival has worked with its supply chain to reduce packaging that is used onboard the ship and has also begun to use more recyclable goods. Similar to Carnival’s plan for fuel emissions, they seek to reduce waste generated by 5% by 2020 [3]. Likewise, Carnival has started working with partners onshore to reduce the amount of waste that is transferred to land once the ship docks.

With these efforts in mind, it is not a mystery why Carnival has led the cruise ship industry in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas and waste. The cruise industry plays a major role in the reduction of greenhouse gases because of its popularity and of its global reach. Although Carnival has begun to address greenhouse gases through shifts in its business model, there are further actions the company can take. These actions are as follows:

  • Encourage its onshore tourism partners to become eco-friendly with their practices. For example, encouraging hotels and restaurants at the ports Carnival visits to begin shifting towards cleaner energy sources.
  • Continue to encourage its supply chain to move towards biodegradable or recyclable packages that can be used onboard
  • Determine the feasibility of using electric motors for the ships or continue to invest in further studies that would further the reduction of fuel consumption
  • Implement a set of practices that encourage guests to reduce energy usage onboard and to properly dispose of waste
  • Utilize energy efficient appliances, electronics, and lighting onboard the ships

The ability to vacation aboard a cruise ship is an experience that generates fond memories. As the world continues to face global warming challenges, the cruise industry must follow a set of practices similar to or beyond what Carnival has accomplished to date. However, as tourists, we must also remember that the responsibility to become an eco-friendly tourist is in our hands. When traveling aboard a cruise ship on your next voyage, recall the importance a simple wrapper can have on the environment. Equally important is the ability for cruise companies like Carnival to continue investing in technologies that enable eco-friendly tourism to occur. Only then, will tourists have the opportunity to continue traveling to various destinations across the world aboard a greener ship.

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[1] Carnival Corporation & PLC, 2015 Annual Report. [], accessed November 2016

[2] “Cruise Ship Discharges”, accessed November 2016

[3] Carnival Corporation & PLC, 2015 Corporate Sustainability Report. [], accessed November 2016


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Student comments on Carnival Corporation: Greener and Cleaner?

  1. Interesting read! I am glad that the cruise industry is taking a step toward becoming more eco-friendly to help mitigate the effects of climate change, but I’m still skeptical of whether their efforts will significantly move the needle (currently cruise ships are the least eco-friendly mode of transportation in terms of waste per tourist). While Carnival, along with Royal Caribbean and other operators, are getting better at cleaning and filtering their smokestacks to reduce harmful emissions, would it not be better to start investing in new technologies that eliminate the need for the diesel engines that cause these emissions in the first place? These operators should be looking into alternative green energy sources such as wind turbines as power for their ships. In addition, I’ve read that Royal Caribbean is working with the University of Miami to monitor and measure oceanic and atmospheric data to better understand the impact of climate change. It would be interesting to see if Carnival is also using its ships to support research of climate change. Finally, I would be more inclined to believe the cruise industry is actively trying to prevent the effects of climate change if they weren’t taking advantage of it at the same time. Some cruise operators have decided to start trips in the arctic circle now that the glaciers are melting which is providing a pathway for ships. This to me sounds contradictory to the cruise industry’s efforts as they will now be adding ships that will contaminate the arctic waters and can have a detrimental effect on the biosystems of that region. While I don’t want to see the cruise industry go away, I would like to see bigger efforts in making substantial changes to prevent further harmful impact on the environment.

  2. As someone who loves cruises, I like the topic you chose. However, I think that cruise companies, including Carnival, are not doing enough to reduce their impact on climate change. Did you know that the cruise industry is responsible for at least 17% of the worldwide emissions of nitrogen oxides (One of the gases responsible of global warming)? (Please see the following link for more information:

    In addition, according to the same source, cruises CO2 emissions can be up to 1000 times more than those of a train. As a result, I think that as responsible citizens we have to find new ways of entertaining/traveling that do not affect as much the environment. Regarding the cruise companies, I feel that all the things they are doing are either because they help reduce costs or because they don’t want to get media attention for their emissions and don’t have a compelling plan to respond. In the other hand, as MBA student, I understand that these companies have to make profit and generate good results for their investors.

  3. Given their size Carnival can really drive change in this industry. When it comes to travel/hospitality I find that been “green” really helps them actually save money. Carnival ships’ long lives allow them to take additional capital expenditures to invest in new efficient technology. Simple things like 100% LED light bulbs, better insulation to mitigate heating/cooling, and minimal clean water usage will have cost savings and will start to set precedent for peers. One practice Starwood employs is the green choice around linens/sheets/towels, essentially they allow you to opt out of housekeeping coming by, which saves cost for them and is much greener. It forces the consumer to reuse items like toiletries, towels, and makes the consumer manage their own waste to a certain point. To incentivize consumers who normally wouldn’t do this, their is usually a loyalty perk like points which are given for every time the consumer doesn’t use housekeeping. Other alternatives could be composting on the ships themselves as well as wind or solar technology being utilized given these ships spend so long at sea.

  4. I strongly agree with many of the points that Ship Mate made on this article. Although it is great that Carnival is making efforts to be greener, I think it pales in comparison to the impact they could potentially make. Cruise ships are the worst polluters of all modes of transportation and putting in place these high-level (borderline “fluffy”) initiatives looks like a way to draw attention away from a much larger problem in their fundamental operations. Why would they try to push initiatives onto onshore counterparts when there are so many gaps in their own processes? On the same note, this is why I loved EDRM’s suggestion of basic changes like the LED lights. I do think, however, trying to imitate the classic hospitality model of pushing responsibility onto guests to be eco-friendly may not necessarily work. With hotels, a point system is a good incentive as generally people stay in hotels frequently enough. Cruises are a far less frequent indulgence so I’m not sure that getting some points would incentivise the behaviour we are looking for sufficiently. I suggest that Carnival focuses on upgrading their ships to become as energy-efficient and eco-friendly as they can be before spreading their “green program” outwards.

  5. Very interesting post. While many of the initiatives Carnival has adopted are a step in the right direction, they appear to be ignoring major areas where improvements could be made. To me, the reason why these areas have been ignored is because they still optimize for economics over the environment. To me, this plays out in the both areas cruise companies try to differentiate – the itinerary and the ship.
    The itinerary design of a cruise considers many factors, but one of the factors is to minimize ‘sea-days’, the number of full days travelling without stopping at a port. They want to do this because customers want to see as many places as possible and typically do not like cruises that leaves them stranded on the ship. However, to do this, cruise company typically need to make up for long distances between ports by speeding up, which consumes more fuel, and emits more GHGs. On the topic of fuel, you do mention that many new ships have adopted cleaner fuel technologies but most of Carnival’s fleet is old and getting older, and these ships use more bunker fuel, which is a highly polluting and inefficient fuel source. Cruise companies tend to keep old ships in operation because they can maximize returns on fully-depreciated ships and they can use them in new “test” areas to size demand (e.g., Costa NeoRomantica was built in 1993 and still operates in China).
    Secondly, cruise ships are behemoth manifestations that contain immense amounts of embodied energy. Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival seem to be building larger and larger ships as this is a core differentiator for business. I wonder what efforts they making to reduce the energy and waste involved in such constructions.

  6. I acknowledge that delivering sustainability and hospitality i.e “Green Cruising” as a bundled package is no mean feat. However, I agree with the thread of comments above that the Carnival Corporation can do a lot more especially in light of the mess that is created by this industry. See below article summarizing the adverse impacts
    Green efforts by the cruise ship companies may require a shift at the very core to fundamentally redesigning and reengineer its operations to be more environmentally sustainable.
    A few directional ideas for adoption could be –
    i) adoption of advanced waste water treatment technology,
    ii) installation of solar panels,
    iii) flexible itineraries offering travel from ports closer to home to reduce fuel consumption from flying,
    iv) cargo sharing as a means of generating revenues through rentals of transportation and storage space.
    v) eco friendly material used in construction of cruise ships
    This is in addition to the points mentioned above in your article. Below article was an interesting read.

  7. Interesting read. I can’t help but wonder whether Carnival would have made/proposed to make the fuel saving changes had they been costly to implement. If I were a cynic I would suggest that they are piggy-backing their environmentally friendly programme on a strategic economic money saving programme and benefiting from some good PR in the process…

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