When the world returns to normality following the year that has been the first half of 2020, cruise lines around the world will strive to maintain the standards of excellence in destination, itinerary, design, and hospitality that they are known for. Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe proposes a return to a better cruise – one that continues to push the boundaries of innovation in technology, materials, and logistics to ensure a more sustainable journey, from door to door.

The cruise industry is already heavily focused on sustainability, with most cruise lines pushing towards a ban on single-use plastics, researching alternative fuels, reducing food waste, and fine-tuning vessels to reduce drag, and ultimately, fuel. However, the enforced downtime in cruise caused by the pandemic opens the door to a return to an even more sustainable cruise. We brought together three heads of the industry to discuss this and more for Episode 3 of Cruise Conversations – Sustainability on the Seas Part 1.

Sustainability on the Seas – Part 1

Hosted by Toby Walters, CEO of Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Americas, the panel consisted of My Nguyen, Director Interior Design & Operations, Seabourn & Holland America Line, Per Eriksson, Business Director, Tillberg Design of Sweden, and Lone Ditmer, Marketing Manager & Sustainable Business Development, Dansk Wilton.

Focusing on the design side of the industry and the supply chain, the conversation opened with My Nguyen making a case for sustainability being driven top-down, saying that the more focused on sustainability the cruise lines are, the more scope it gives for suppliers to make sustainable products. My then expanded on this, recalling how Dansk Wilton won a contract with Seabourn based on their sustainability story, amidst competition of similar quality and price. A later quote backed this up:

“If you have a product that is sustainable, competitive, and beautiful, that sustainability aspect will for sure tip that decision [of whether that product wins the contract]”

My Nguyen

From an interior design point of view, Per Eriksson described the questions Tillberg would ask of suppliers, including the processes in which products are made and percentages of recyclable/renewable materials used – which lead on to Lone Ditmer outlining the key components and usage of the cradle to cradle concept.

In a circular economy, materials are seen as ‘nutrients’ for projects – to remain in constant upkeep and to be reused at the end of their lifespan. “Waste is always a resource for something new” explained Lone. ‘Cradle to cradle’ is a philosophy and a certification process that can also be used as a business development tool – exploring not only the circularity of a product but also the material health of that product – and can be applied to all physical products.

Moving towards actionable steps for suppliers, Per outlined key certifications that designers look out for – including FSC, C2C, EU Flower, and Energy Star. Highlighting gaps in the industry, the panel acknowledged the merits of the flooring supply chain, commending the range of options available to the cruise lines. Where the supply chain lacked variation, said My, was in textiles and wall coverings. As these soft materials are replaced regularly, a larger range of sustainable options is necessary, to provide designers and cruise lines the mobility to choose a textile that meets the key specifications – beauty, value for money, and sustainability.

Managing around 40 full minutes without mentioning the C-word, COVID-19 was inevitably brought up, with My making the point that cruise lines over the next few years will be watching closely how they spend their money. A key takeaway from this is that products with replaceable components will go a much longer way than those without – for example, a chair made up of a solid, cleanable, durable frame, with replaceable backs and arms, which are commonly made of softer materials and more prone to wear. This is even more the case in a post-COVID-19 world, where cruise ships will likely undergo constant cleaning, leading to faster wear of products. Per backed this up, mentioning that a lot of waste from refits ends up in landfills – and that it is a cross-industry responsibility to figure out how to solve this problem.

Lone Ditmer’s Five Key Recommendations

Lone then outlined her five key recommendations for suppliers when approaching sustainability:

  • Mindset – sustainability is a mindset, and should be a core part of your business
  • Map your Goals – set ambitious goals, but know what your starting point is
  • Act on it – make efforts to act on your goals, and celebrate milestones
  • Engage in Partnerships – for example, waste reduction is an industry-wide cause for collaboration
  • Ensure Credibility – don’t greenwash, and make sure you walk the walk

These were discussed in detail – make sure you watch the episode to get the full scope of advice!

To conclude, the panel discussed returning to a better cruise industry, with each speaker outlining how businesses and individuals can be acting now:

Per Eriksson – Use this time as a window of opportunity. This is a chance to rethink things, like the possibility of cruises to nowhere, or slow cruises. Limitations are a great possibility for sustainability.

Lone Ditmer – Take personal responsibility and cut down on consumption. However, consumers are still, and will always be, consumers, so sustainable products are the answer.

My Nguyen – The pandemic has made clear the importance we have as individuals to take action. In the past the mentality was always – ‘I’m just one person, I can’t do anything’. As individuals, we have a lot of opportunity to drive this responsibility we have for the future.

Stay tuned to Cruise Conversations to hear more on the crucial discussions had by industry leaders. Sign up for webinar updates below…