With the cruise industry always seeking new ways to reduce emissions and offer more sustainable, environmentally responsible travel, the focus has often been on ships – connecting to shore power, reducing food waste, choosing cleaner marine fuels like liquefied natural gas, and so forth.
Carnival Corporation, however, has also offered a unique solution for the buses used as part of the company’s land-based tours in Alaska, a unique environment that attracts guests by its beauty and distinction.
Biofuel in Alaska
Prior to the industry-wide cruise shutdown in 2020, Carnival Corporation – including operations for heavily-Alaska focused cruise lines Princess Cruises and Holland America Line – had begun exploring biodiesel fuel made from restaurant cooking oil from restaurants in Juneau. The used oil was mixed with diesel fuel to reduce emissions, and helped reuse the otherwise discarded oil from local restaurants.
But when the tourism industry shut down, so did restaurant activity, which meant no fuel for buses. But, cruise ships also use cooking oil, and Discovery Princess – the flagship of the Princess Cruises fleet and one of the largest of the line’s cruise ships – became an ideal source.
Juneau native and a division manager with the land operations for Holland America Princess, the land-based operations for Carnival Corporation in Alaska, Bill Hagevig began working on a solution to bring land and sea together.
Together with a local supplier and with creative solutions to safe, efficient offloading, Discovery Princess now isolates used cooking oil from other onboard waste and sets it aside for manufacturing biofuel to power the tour buses.
The cyclical program has been piloted with great success, and Hagevig plans to expand the operation to continue reducing emissions and waste.
“Our goal is to expand this for next summer,” said Hagevig. “This is more about doing the right thing for Alaska than anything else. We have tour buses and vehicles that can accept biodiesel, and I am hopeful we can expand that program into each one.”
Will the Program Expand Further?
At this time, there is no word on whether the collection of used oil will be expanded to additional vessels, or whether the program may also be piloted in other regions.
Alaska is uniquely suited to such a program because of the large number of pre- and post-cruise tours offered to cruise guests, who often pair a land-based extension with a cruise vacation in order to experience more the state’s amazing interior, especially Denali National Park.
As those tours are offered through and arranged by Carnival Corporation, the use of cooking oil from Carnival Corporation ships – Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Carnival Cruise Line, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, and Seabourn – could easily be expanded to multiple lines.
While reusing the oil from cruise ships is a great process, it does have challenges in how the oil is treated and stored onboard before a ship reaches a port where it can be safely and efficiently offloaded. If local restaurants can be brought back into the cycle at different ports of call, that would be another option for expansion and further support of the local Alaskan economy.
Cruise lines have committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, and combining with local resources to reach that goal is a great way to move forward with more sustainable cruising so pristine environments like Alaska can be enjoyed by generations of cruisers yet to come.