Cruise Line Takes Sustainability From Sea To Shore, Wins Award

Sustainable Travel International (STI) is a global non-profit charged to help destinations, businesses and travelers protect the environment, adapt to climate change, preserve cultural heritage and more. This week, STI awarded their first-ever, Gold-Level Eco-Certification to a cruise line, honoring Royal Caribbean International for attractions and tour operations at their island in the Bahamas, CocoCay.

Encouraging green travel, STI awards certification for businesses that are engaged in responsible travel practices that focus on economic, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability.

CocoCay is the first operation of its kind to receive the certification, which rates on-island tours, island operations, workplace practices, guest communications and environmental management policies. Rated by an expert third-party, independent of Sustainable Travel International and Royal Caribbean, the CocoCay operation demonstrated an ability to successfully apply its at-sea sustainability initiatives to its on-shore operations.But Royal Caribbean did not just get lucky. Winning the award took a global focus, much like we saw when sailing to their private destination of Labadee in Haiti, just after the major earthquake of a few years ago. Then, Royal Caribbean was self-charged to deliver thousands of pounds of food and supplies to the devastated island, which was also home to resident Royal Caribbean employees who work at Labadee when ships come calling.

“Royal Caribbean developed a very thorough, attainable action plan, designed to implement higher levels of sustainability over time,” said Robert Chappell, Sustainable Travel International’s Senior Director of Standards and Certification in a press release.

Will more cruise lines follow Royal Caribbean and work to get their own private islands certified green and sustainable? Probably. Other cruise lines as well have been working to make a green impact. By recycling cooking oil used on ships as fuel for vehicles on Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line is making a difference.

Princess Cruises shore power program made history debuting in environmentally sensitive Juneau, Alaska, in 2001, expanding to Seattle in 2005, and then to Vancouver in 2009. Currently nine of the line’s ships have the capability to “plug in” to a shore-side power source, representing an investment for Princess of nearly $7 million in equipment.

“I’m excited to see them expand their action plan while developing innovative new solutions that are leading the way in the cruise industry,” added Chappell.

STEP is among the first global standards to be formally recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay is the first cruise line private island to receive the certification.

Want to know more about Sustainable Travel International? Check this video:

[Photo Credit – Flickr user kuddlyteddybear2004]

Cruise line private islands, a very safe port

Often a highlight of a cruise to the Bahamas or the Caribbean is a stop at one of the cruise line’s private islands. Probably one of the safest, most controlled ports of call you might visit, cruise line private islands are consistently ranked high by passengers. Most are located in the Bahamas and each one is unique.

On every private island you will find crystal clear water, sandy beaches, water sports and activities along with beach-side service for drinks and lunch will be served. Some require tendering in from the ship, others dock at the island.

The first passengers off the ship will find a pristine beach raked and clean, along with resident workers ready to make your stay comfortable. There is plenty to do (or not do) for adults and kids and even serene adult-only areas.Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas is Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, under their care since 1977 when the line became the first to have one. The island features Snorkeling

Recent enhancements to the island that started in January of 2010 will continue through the end of this year. Several new island activities have been added since the project began including more than 16 wave runners, kayak rentals and an eco-adventure boat tour around the island. These are in addition to the existing snorkeling; floats; inflatable hippo slide; and parasailing.

The second phase of enhancements includes an arrival/departure pavilion, additional bar facilities; several comfort stations; a band stand; cruise program activity area; private beachfront cabanas; a kid’s play area; straw market; and beach volleyball courts. The beachfront will continue to be expanded on the island’s west end.

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas This Holland America Line island (now also a Carnival island) was originally called Little San Salvador Island and has been rated as “Best Private Island” by Porthole Cruise Magazine. An international bird sanctuary in the Bahamas, the beauty and serenity of Half Moon Cay is unique.

There are a variety of exciting and new activities to choose from while exploring this privately owned paradise. You can go horseback riding on the sand and through the surf, take a stingray adventure, visit the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park, hike a nature trail or simply relax in an air-conditioned, private beachfront cabana.

Princess Cays, Bahamas is Princess Cruises private island on the south side of Eleuthera Island about 30 miles from Nassau. Princess Cays guests will find equipment for many beach activities. Water sports fans can choose from water craft such as sailboats, catamarans, paddle wheelers, kayaks, and banana boats, while those who wish to explore the island’s coral reef can rent gear for snorkeling.

Floating mattresses are available for lazily drifting in the sun, and several protected swimming areas are available on both the north and south beach areas. Beachside, reggae and calypso music set the mood, and guests can enjoy a game of volleyball or basketball, or choose to relax with a hammock, beach chair or under an umbrella.

CocoCay, Bahamas is one of two private islands for Royal Caribbean. This one is more along the lines of other cruise lines private islands with sandy beaches (duh) and a nice hammock here and here to enjoy your island-style seaside barbecue.

Tip: When you get off the tenders, there are three beaches to go to. The first one is the biggest and the most crowded. Keep walking and you’ll find the second beach, which is a little smaller and less crowded. Keep going even further and you’ll find the third beach, which is the smallest and least crowded.

Labadee, Haiti in is the home to what Royal Caribbean calls their “private destination” and with good reason. On the north coast of Hispaniola, the secure, secluded area is surrounded by exotic foliage and mountain slopes. Guests can enjoy beautiful coral reefs, a pristine public beach as well as a very nice private beach area reserved for suite guests.

A year ago Royal Caribbean International came under close scrutiny as the line planned to visit their private destination of Labadee, Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake rocked the island. I was on board Freedom of the Seas last January when critics said it was in bad taste for the line to have cruise passengers go ashore for fun and sun while so many were suffering on different parts of the island nation. A year later, not a lot is better in Haiti and Royal Caribbean continues to call.

Castaway Cay, Bahamas is Disney Cruise Line’s private island. Unique to Castaway Cay is that the ship docks at the island, no tendering involved, which makes for a great experience. Recently updated, this one has it all.

This is Disney Cruise Line turning an island into a theme park, complete with rides, trams to get around on, gift shops plus really good food. All other private islands pale by comparison. Really.

They should build hotels here and let people stay a while. No wonder some sailings include two stops at the popular island.

If all those are not good enough for you, maybe you should just buy your own

Flickr photo by fotodawg

13 things that make Disney Dream different

New cruise ships usually have a number of features that are exciting to talk about. Disney Cruise Line’s new ship, Disney Dream, debuted last week to reviews that included many of the ship’s new attractions. Here are some others that make Disney Dream as well as Disney Cruise Line different from others.

  1. Fastest Internet connection at sea. This is smokin-fast in all areas of the ship. I don’t know how they did it but all cruise lines need to adopt this technology.
  2. Free soft drinks. Coca-Cola products are free all the time, 24-hours a day. Disney is a premium product at a premium price. This is one reason why. Remarkably, we don’t see kids wasting that free soda with spilled cups all over the place.
  3. Cabin layout– This one has some of the best cabin layouts of any ship floating right now. A category 4 Deluxe Ocean view with Veranda is one of the most versatile layouts available. Accommodating up to five easily, two would be good also. It could sleep six if the cruise line would allow it with no problem, they don’t though. Think Princess mini-suite size-wise but a better layout and design.
  4. Rotating dining experience– Rather than going to the same dining room every night, you and your waiters rotate to a different one each night. It’s a different dining room every evening that adds depth to the overall dining experience.
  1. Clientele- A higher price combined with the sugar-sweet Disney programming begets a very nice, safe, group of on-board guests.Castaway Club members almost as rabidly in support of their cruise line as pin-collectors at Disney parks. You don’t want to be on an elevator with one of them if someone else says something negative about the line. A fight will ensue.
  2. No Casino– Like it or not, there’s no casino on this ship. Oddly, many people, convinced they can’t cruise without one, end up having a good time without their favorite games along for the ride. There is an arcade though, with all the latest games.
  3. Disney element– It’s everywhere. If you don’t love Disney characters, stay off this ship. You will just be miserable. If you like Disney characters, even a little, this is heaven. If you like Disney characters a lot, you will never want to sail another line ever again.
  4. Smokers– If you smoke and sail this ship, you will have a hard time finding someone to share your addiction with.These nice folks just don’t do it. Just quit? This is totally the line for you. No having to walk through smoke-filled areas to get someplace.
  5. Announcements– They don’t do many of them. No nagging to buy this or that, no unnecessary calls to one event or another.
  6. Daily newspaper– every ship and cruise line has one. This one is different. Out are a zillion things you don’t want to do. In are easy to read blocks of activities and events for different interests and age group. Leave the highlighter at home, you can use this at-a-glance.
  7. Private island– Castaway Cay is Disney turning an island into a theme park, complete with rides, trams to get around on, gift shops plus really good food. All other private islands pale by comparison. Really. They should build hotels here and let peoole stay a while. No wonder some sailings include two stops at the popular island.
  8. Buccaneer Blast– It’s fireworks at sea on every sailing. They’re the only ones that do it and they do a good job with it. This is not some bottle rockets and a few aerial bombs, this is a full-fledged musically-timed production. Again, doing it at sea adds an extra undeniable dose of magic that puts some land-based displays to shame.
  9. Crowd Control– Who knows more about moving thousands of people from place to place than Disney? They do it every day in the parks and have taken that know-how with them to sea.

All that plus super-star attraction the AquaDuck water coaster and you might expect a theme park at sea motif. No, that would be Oasis-class ships on Royal Caribbean. Here, Disney Imagineers have gone out of their way to avoid being called a floating theme park; quite successfully.

Photo: Chris Owen