In 2012, a shocking report from the Washington Post stated that a cruise ship carrying 1,886 passengers traveling from Vancouver, B.C. to Alaska emits the same amount of sulfur dioxide and fine particulate as roughly 13 million cars in one day (1). Coupled with the cruise line industry’s astounding growth in the tourism sector, climate change has been and will continue to be a significant influence in Carnival Corporation’s business strategy. Though climate change has a resounding negative impact on most emissions heavy corporations, Carnival stands at an intersection of positive business growth fueled in part by climate change and increasing costs related to curbing its own emissions contribution. Specifically, newly opened cruise routes due to melting ice have fueled new business for Carnival and other cruise lines while hull improvements, exhaust cleaning, and operations shifts have contributed to considerable costs for the company.
Short-term benefits that the cruise line industry has seen from global warming are the opening of new cruise routes like the Northwest Passage and new excursion opportunities in Alaska. One cruise line company, Crystal Cruises, offers a cruise route in excess of $22,000 per passenger that covers the Northwest Passage. The route, which the cruise line successfully completed in September 2016, is significant because the waters were previously unnavigable just 100 years ago (2). The second Northwest voyage will take place again in 2017. For reference, booking a 1,300 square foot suite costs roughly $120,000. For Carnival Corporation specifically, climate change has resulted in adjusted routes that inch closer to the Northwest Passage but the company has yet to set sail in the risky waters. For cruise routes to Alaska, which Carnival has traveled for many decades, the cruise line is able to travel closer to large icebergs that once kept cruise ships at bay. These exciting opportunities continue to fuel the rapidly growing industry which is expected to grow 35% to $31 billion by 2020 (3).
Particular improvements have been made by Carnival Corporation to limit emissions, though some critics would say the efforts fall short of expectations. In 2012, Carnival committed to dedicating $400 million to investing in sulfur dioxide scrubbers that work to “clean” the exhaust from burning fuel. Carnival emerged as an industry leader integrating this technology in a maritime setting and subsequently met its 20% carbon equivalent reduction goal in 2015 (4). It has also sought to increase overall fuel efficiency by using more hydrodynamic hull coating, installing more power efficient products within ships, and shifting operations in port to use more shore power facilities. However, a Friends of the Earth report from 2016 gave Carnival an “C-” for air pollution due to only having scrubbers installed only 40% of its fleet, and for failing to install shore power cables on all ships (5).
Going forward, Carnival will likely continue to develop new engine technology, shift to solar energy to power some components, and install shore power capabilities on its entire fleet. The previous steps to make the ships more streamlined are marginal improvements and the exhaust scrubbing, while revolutionary, attacks the symptom more than the source of the problem. Carnival cruise improvements going forward should include a focus on solar energy to power certain passenger amenities. Future hulls should also be redesigned to minimize wind resistance, especially since newer ships tend to be much larger in order to increase passenger capacity. One advancement mentioned in Carnival’s 2015 Sustainability Report is the use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). According to the report, LNG will result in zero sulfur dioxide emissions and a 25% reduction in carbon emissions (6). On top of the emission reductions, Carnival will also benefit from the low prices of LNG compared to marine fuel (7). The implications of the new fuel on long term operations could be significant, however, as LNG requires longer tanks, different support facilities in port, and potentially shorter time periods between port stops.
Although Carnival is cruising toward a cleaner future, one contradictory improvement with Carnival’s sustainability drive is the fact that it continues to build bigger vessels. Although these include efficient advancements, the inherent inefficiency of these giant vessels seem contrary to a sustainable effort. The two newest ships added to the fleet will arrive starting in 2020 and weigh in at 180,000 gross tons, making them the largest of the Carnival fleet (8). Although the two LNG-powered cruise ships will set a new precedent for cruise ships based in North America, the trend of “bigger and better” vessels likely undermine some of Carnival’s eco-friendly improvements. (762)
. Eilperin, J, 2012. “Cruise ship lines, Alaska officials question new air pollution limits,” The Washington Post, [Online]. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cruise-ship-lines-alaska-officials-question-new-air-pollution-limits/2012/07/22/gJQAc4Jy2W_story.html, accessed 2 November 2016.
. Business Wire: A Berkshire Hathaway Company. 2016. “Mission Accomplished: Crystal Serenity Completes 32-Day Northwest Passage Journey.” [Online] http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160916005705/en/Mission-Accomplished-Crystal-Serenity-Completes-32-Day-Northwest, accessed 2 November 2016.
. Statista Research and Analysis. 2016. “Revenue of the cruise industry U.S. 2020.” [Statistic] https://www.statista.com/statistics/317787/revenue-forecast-of-the-us-cruise-industry/, accessed 4 November, 2016.
. Carnival Corporation, Fiscal Year 2012 Sustainability Report, pg 2. 2012.
 Carnival Corporation, Fiscal Year 2015 Sustainability Report, pg 38-40. 2015.
. Morris, Gregory. “LNG Emerging as Fuel of Choice for Vessels, Ferries.” The Oil and Gas Reporter, July, 2013. http://www.aogr.com/web-exclusives/exclusive-story/lng-emerging-as-fuel-of-choice-for-vessels-ferries, accessed 4 November, 2016.
 Clarke, Patrick. “Carnival Announces Company’s Largest, More Eco-Friendly Cruise Ships.” Fox News, September, 2016. http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2016/09/07/carnival-announces-companys-largest-more-eco-friendly-cruise-ships.html, accessed 4 November, 2016.