Responsible Cruising: Why adventure cruising is sustainable

Small ship, adventure and expedition cruise ship lines pride themselves on environmental and social responsibility, but ethical travel goes way beyond planting trees and writing cheques.

What are some cruise companies doing to lessen their load on the Earth?

Giving Back

An activity almost all adventure cruise operators embark on is to deliver much needed supplies to the remote communities they visit.

Unfortunately some island and isolated villages are beyond the end of the supply chain when it comes to educational, medical and staple supplies. In PNG for example, school and first aid supplies are often exhausted long before they reach their intended destination. Cruise lines play an important role in delivering books, stationery and simple medicines directly to these outlying communities.

To circumvent bureaucracy, passengers are asked to bring donations in their spare luggage. These are then pooled and delivered at pre-arranged locations during the itinerary. It is often a source of great satisfaction for passengers to see their donations go to teachers and students who sometimes have to share pencils and textbooks as part of their daily routine. At first aid posts, such simple items as Paracetamol, disinfectant and fresh bandages are gratefully received.

On a larger scale, Orion Expedition Cruises corporate and passenger support rebuilt a Sepik village schoolhouse destroyed during a storm.

Ask your cruise company about their aid projects and make sure you have stocks to contribute.

Carbon Offsets

Emission offset programs are sometimes contentious and have come under criticism for “being seen to be green” rather than delivering tangible results.

Cruise companies, large and small, are contributing to these offset program which usually involve reforestation, alternative energy programs and carbon capture.

More visible activities include installation of solar panels and wind turbine generators which Galapagos operator, Ecoventura, has embarked upon.

Tourism and the Preservation of Culture

In a world increasingly driven by market economies and materialistic ideals, responsible tourism can help preserve endangered cultures.

We can all recall the paternalistic traits of last century. Quaint “island” carvings from the Pacific and tourist trap trinkets stamped “Made in China”, all at the expense of the original cultures they portray.

Today, travellers are more discerning and more critical of bogus souvenirs and fake artifacts. Fussy travellers are demanding genuine items, crafted by authentic artisans using traditional materials and methods. This intolerance for cheap knock-offs is having a healthy impact on local industries that are producing high value items such as paintings, sculptures and jewelry.

Dances and performances by native troupes are a much sought after commodity in adventure cruise travel. Authenticity is expected and in many places around the world, indigenous peoples are reviving and maintaining waning practices thanks to the demand from small ship travellers.

Examples include the marginalized Inuit cultures of Siberia, America’s First Nation people, the Pacific Islanders and the many cultures throughout South East Asia.

Tips: Australian flag-bearers, Coral Princess Cruises, Aurora Expeditions, Orion Expedition Cruises and Captain Cook Cruises (Fiji) have programs in place.


Never give money to beggars. It encourages reliance on handouts and creates serious social disturbance in poorer communities.
Don’t reward people with performing animals or buy objects made from endangered species. (See for CITES)