What Fuel Do Cruise Ships Use?

Have you ever wondered what fuel do cruise ships use? Find the answer and other cruise ship fuel facts in this article.

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Most people don’t worry about fuel outside of filling up the gas tank in their car. However, in a world full of environmental crises, it helps to consider fuel consumption in other areas of our lives. 

If you’re an avid cruiser, have you ever thought about what type of fuel cruise ships use? If not, it might be worth exploring the answer. Luckily, you’ll find it right here.

This article will answer that question and others on modern cruise ship fuel use. 

What Fuel Do Cruise Ships Use?

The simple answer is diesel. Most cruise ships use a special type of diesel called marine diesel oil (MDO) which is made specifically for marine vessels such as cruise ships. While controversial, diesel continues to be used by most cruise ships today.

However, while diesel does have adverse effects on the environment, some cruise lines are working towards improving their diesel consumption and exploring other alternatives.

Cruise Ship Fuel Depot
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock

For example, Royal Caribbean is trying to move towards sustainability by using renewable fuel on select ships, including the Navigator of the Seas. Renewable diesel is produced by the hydroprocessing of fats, vegetable oils, and waste cooking oils. The results are chemically identical to standard diesel, with significantly fewer emissions than other maritime fuels.

Celebrity Cruises has also joined in on the alternative fuel evolution, with an upcoming ship in its Edge Series that will include a new engine model, as well as storage and delivery systems that will enhance the ship’s fuel flexibility. This new ship will be able to use three types of fuel, including methanol, which is better for the environment.

Let’s check out some other alternatives to diesel that cruise lines are using – both good and bad.

Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO)

Traditional cruise ships rely heavily on heavy fuel oil, also known as bunker fuel. This oil is thick, black, and has a tar-like consistency. 

The low cost of heavy fuel oil has made it the primary fuel source for marine vessel propulsion – such as cruise ships. However, there is widespread criticism of the use of this fuel due to the damage it causes to the environment through oil spills and emissions of toxic compounds. That said, it continues to be commonly used in cruise ships today, often blended with diesel. 

Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)

Liquified natural gas has emerged as a more environmentally friendly alternative energy source for cruise ships. 

LNG is a natural gas extracted from the earth’s core that has been cooled down to liquid form. LNG fuel is mostly methane but is referred to as LNG once it has been liquified through pressurization or refrigeration.

LNG Fuel
LNG Fuel

LNG fuel is colorless, odorless, non-toxic, and cleaner than petroleum or other fuels. Since it burns clean, LNG has the power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly and therefore has a low environmental impact.

The only downside is that LNG is finite since it’s a fossil fuel, and we may not have enough to power us through for more than the next 50 years. Moreover, it is more expensive to produce than heavy fuel oil or diesel. Royal Caribbean has a series of upcoming LNG cruise ships, including the Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas.

Cruise Ship Fuel Types FAQ

Do cruise ships run on bunker fuel?

Most cruise ships still run on at least a blend of bunker fuel and diesel. Combining it with diesel is more common because bunker fuel has been deemed terrible for the environment.

Do cruise ships run on LNG?

Many cruise lines are designing some of their new ships to run on LNG as it’s a clean-burning fuel that is better for the environment. The newer class vessels are more commonly coming out as LNG, including MSC’s new World-class, Carnival’s Excel-class, and Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas.

Conclusion: The Future of Cruise Ship Fuel

Hopefully, you’ve learned more than what fuel cruise ships use and have started to think about the future of cruise line fuel. 

Experts claim that electricity may lead the way for future fuel needs. While electricity is already taking over our everyday lives with electric vehicles, the cruise industry may be a little behind.

Read Also: How Much Does it Cost to Fuel a Cruise Ship?

Cruise lines are trying to minimize their carbon footprints and find alternative fuels to operate their ships. This may be a slow process, but hopefully, they’ll one day find a more environmentally friendly way for passengers to enjoy their cruises.

Haiyan Ma
Haiyan Ma
I absolutely love cruising with my favorite ports of call being in the Caribbean. As a former crew member for Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line I can continue my passion by sharing my experiences with readers. Find out more about us here.


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