Today’s cruise ships are known for high-quality accommodations, a variety of outdoor and indoor activities, shopping, entertainment, and fine dining. These ships are sometimes larger in size and population than the destinations they visit, and often appear more like a small city then a ship. As such, conscientious travelers often wonder if cruising is for them. Happily, the leading cruise lines increasingly recognize the need to have a positive impact on the environment and the island communities they visit. As such most have taken steps in recent years to become more eco-friendly. Therefore, despite the potentially negative effects of cruising, if you choose your cruise carefully, you can set off to sea knowing that you’ll be minimizing your environmental impact and that you’ll actually be benefitting the communities you visit along the way! In recent years cruise lines have been held more accountable for the preservation and conservation of the ocean and of onshore communities they serve. Because of this, many cruise lines are rising to the challenge and are taking steps to operate in a more sustainable and responsible manner. Some of the areas that have been changed for better are in waste management, energy use and social responsibility. As an example, Royal Caribbean (RCCL) operates state-of-the-art vessels that serve over 400 destinations worldwide. RCCL’s approach to sustainability is to improve energy efficiency, to provide environmental guidelines to on-shore tour operators (guests know that a tour has a reduced environmental impact by a green leaf next to the name), to green their supply chain to reduce packaging and to promote recycling, and to uphold strict waste management requirements above regulatory levels. In 1992, RCCL established the Save The Waves program, which aims to reduce waste creation, recycle whenever possible, and ensure that all remaining waste is properly disposed of. RCCL’s steps are just one example of what the major cruise lines are currently doing. All of the cruise lines that Travel N Relax offers are also taking similar eco-friendly steps. Many often ask us as well if small ship cruises will be more environmentally friendly than a large ship. While the environmental footprint associated with small-ship cruising has traditionally been smaller than big-ship cruising this is changing. Environmental impacts largely depend on the age of the boat and types of technology that are being utilized. As an example, Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas is projected to emit 30 to 40 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per day than ships built a dozen years ago.That said, most small ships do have a smaller environmental footprint than big ships. They also generally offer the potential for a more positive social-economic impact on the people and destinations visited. No matter which cruise option you choose, as a conscientious traveler you can take comfort in knowing that a cruise is an option for you! In either size ship if you follow these suggestions you can know that you will have done your part to set sail responsibly: 1) Select a responsible cruise company that is implementing real, concrete changes as it strives to become more sustainable.All cruise companies used by Travel N Relax meet these guidelines. 2) Travel as responsibly as you can as an individual on the ship and on land. 3) Monitor and reduce your water usage. 4) Re-use and recycle as much as possible. 5) Make a point of spending time and money in the destinations visited. 6) Interact with locals in a positive, respectful way. 7) Dispose of waste materials responsibly. With these tips in hand a cruise is in fact an option for eco conscientious travelers!