5 Key Sustainability Practices at Royal Caribbean

From water conservation to reducing single-use plastics, protecting the environment is behind the scenes on every cruise and at every destination.
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Royal Caribbean’s sustainable practices span work in ocean conservation, waste management and emissions.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

One of the many draws of a cruise is the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of both the oceans and destinations across the globe, from the cool waters and wilderness of Alaska to the warm Caribbean Sea dotted with idyllic islands. The places we visit and their wonders are special parts of every vacation, and they’re connected to the surrounding environments and their health. It’s why Royal Caribbean has dedicated decades to protecting the world’s habitats and the communities that call them home.

It all started nearly 30 years ago with a recycling program called Save the Waves. That’s now grown to involve partnerships with experts like World Wildlife Fund (WWF), innovations to save energy and reduce emissions, waste management and more. The wide range of initiatives in action today run the gamut, and we’ve highlighted a number of them that go on behind the scenes and several you can see firsthand.

Read on to dive into five of Royal Caribbean’s key sustainability practices:

Ways of conserving energy on Royal Caribbean ships range from LED and fluorescent lights to energy- and water-efficient laundry equipment.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Energy and Air Emissions

From dynamic entertainment venues like Two70, which combine robotics with live performances, to signature adventures never seen before at sea—like the FlowRider surf simulator—each new Royal Caribbean ship introduces a lineup of innovations. That includes sustainable features such as energy-efficient appliances and LED fluorescent lights that use less energy. Several ships, including Wonder and Odyssey of the Seas, also have shore power connectivity. Ultimately, this removes emissions while ships are docked at destinations that feature the technology. Every feature and initiative, even down to the washers and dryers, makes a difference.

Setting sail in 2023, Icon of the Seas is the first in our new class of ships known as Icon Class. The ship will bring all-new adventures to the table. In fact, it’ll be Royal Caribbean’s next major step in building a clean-energy future as our first ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). LNG is considered the cleanest-burning fossil fuel available, which will make for virtually zero sulfur dioxides and particulates, among other benefits.


On average, Royal Caribbean produces 90% of the fresh water that goes into operating each ship and private island destination Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Water Management

Water is 70% of the earth; it’s what allows cruise ships to navigate from one place to the next, and we use it to clean, hydrate and entertain ourselves (pool days anyone?). Royal Caribbean ships produce about 90% of the fresh water on board, used for things like showers, waterslides and pools, thanks to desalination or reverse osmosis.

To also conserve water, there are creative processes in play. For example, condensation from air conditioning units is treated and repurposed to do the laundry—like towels and bedsheets. Perfect Day at CocoCay even has a water specialist, who oversees the irrigation system that takes treated water from Thrill Waterpark to water the landscaping and more.

Fun fact: Desalination and reverse osmosis turn salt water into fresh water by removing minerals and contaminants. They’re processes frequently practiced by ships, submarines and the agricultural industry.

Even the heat used to warm up the water for your hot shower or the cantilevered whirlpools on the top deck is sustainable. It’s recycled heat, meaning the heat naturally created by a ship’s engines is captured and reused. This practice reduces the amount of fuel needed, and in return, it actually maximizes the fuel that is used.


Reducing single-use plastics is beneficial for many marine wildlife species, such as sea turtles.

Credit: istock.com

Waste Management

As much as 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year. Plastics end up impacting natural habitats and the wildlife that call them home, including endangered sea turtles, humpback whales and more. To help do our part, we’ve equipped every ship to be landfill-free. Because of that, on average, 85% of cruise-related waste never reaches a landfill.

It’s also about taking a look at what’s creating that waste, and that’s why single-use plastics, like straws, plastic bags, water bottles, and even stirrers and picks, are being removed from on board and at Royal Caribbean’s private destinations. You’ll also notice other ongoing efforts, such as reusable silverware and glassware at restaurants.

Fun fact: With the help of partners like WWF, more ongoing programs and goals have been developed to improve the long-term health of the oceans and their wildlife. You can learn more about those efforts here.


Savor seafood favorites, such as freshly shucked oysters, at restaurants like Hooked Seafood.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Sustainable Sourcing

After a day of adventure, you can enjoy sitting down for a meal with loved ones at a variety of restaurants on board. There is truly something for everyone, whether you’re craving ice-cold brews and bar food with a side of entertainment at Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade or fresh sushi and sashimi at Izumi. As the food industry moves toward sustainable sourcing and improving animal welfare, Royal Caribbean is moving with it.

A part of our initiatives includes sustainable seafood sourcing. To conserve global fish stocks, we aim to source 90% of wild-caught seafood and 75% of farmed seafood from sources certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council—a first for the cruise industry. Sustainable sourcing will help give species, like tuna and salmon, time to replenish their population—which leads to higher yields and better quality seafood on your plate.


Sustainable tourism is a priority to help ensure every destination’s natural beauty and its communities are vibrant and healthy for years to come.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Sustainable Tourism

A cruise can take you to distant beaches, natural reserves, metropolitan city centers and even far-flung destinations. For years, we’ve been examining the experiences we offer to make sure they reflect our sustainability philosophy and values.

The goal set was to offer more than 1,000 shore excursions that are certified by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) by 2020. GSTC ensures that the culture, environment and laws of international destinations are protected. Their criteria include the overall health of the destinations, how much attention management pays to the preservation of cultural heritage and how travel-related waste is managed. Today, more than 2,000 Royal Caribbean excursions are GSTC-certified—double the options.


Want to learn more? Each year Royal Caribbean releases an annual sustainability report, which outlines accomplishments and principles, initiatives and goals for the future.

To see several of these key sustainability practices in action, explore the Royal Caribbean cruises and destinations you can experience here.