MSC: Is this the future of cruising?
Our committed cruiser casts a critical eye over one of the world's most advanced cruise ships, the newly launched MSC flagship, the 6000-passenger Grandiosa. Words: Roderick Eime
We all know the cruise industry has attracted criticism in recent times for some environmentally unsavoury practices. Whether it is the discharge of waste water, air pollution or overuse of single-use plastics, the multi-billion-dollar cruise industry certainly has some questions to answer.
I'm here in Hamburg for the very festive launch of MSC Grandiosa, the brand new 180,000 GT, 331m flagship of the world's largest privately-owned cruise line. We are fed and refreshed in regal style as this giant ship is welcomed into the world's luxury cruise fleet and screen idol, Sophie Loren, is on hand as usual for the ribbon cutting in front of the world's travel media and more than 14,000 travel agents.
But apart from her staggering statistics, the cruise line has integrated some of the latest maritime technology into Grandiosa's design making her one of the most environmentally friendly such vessels afloat despite her ample proportions.
Grandiosa is the first of three Meraviglia-Plus ships, all of which employ state-of-the-art exhaust scrubbers to remove 98 per cent of such harmful emissions as sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide. As something of a tech geek, I was impressed to learn that extra catalytic converters (similar to those in your car) turn harmful nitrogen oxide into harmless nitrogen gas and water.
While most large cruise ships continue to burn Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), others are converting to light marine diesel, a fuel that floats and evaporates if spilled and produces much less harmful byproducts when burned. New generation cruise ships currently under construction by MSC and others will employ Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) exclusively, vastly reducing - but not eliminating - emissions.
“Our focus on innovation since we built our first cruise ships only in 2003 ensures that we have one of the most modern fleets at sea as well as one of the highest environmentally performing, “said Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises executive chairman in a press conference at the launch, “And, thanks to our long-term planning, this will allow us to already achieve a fleet-wide 29 per cent reduction in carbon intensity (rate) by 2024 vs. 2008, well on our way to meet the 40 per cent reduction target set for 2030.”
We don't need to be mathematicians to work out that MSC will not meet its promised carbon neutral status by January 2020 while continuing to use fossil fuels, so an intensive carbon offset campaign is activated to supercharge their carbon neutrality efforts. Now obviously I haven't audited each of these initiatives, but I can report MSC's stated strategy.
“We will work with leading providers in carbon offsets able to offset CO2 emissions with the highest level of integrity,” said Mr Vago, “Our vision is to also invest in projects that provide quantifiable community benefits, protect the environment and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Space prevents me from detailing the complete list of energy-saving features, but includes hydrodynamic hull architecture, low power LED lighting, plastic waste reduction, advanced (nil discharge) waste water treatment and shore power readiness.
Of particular note is MSC's concern with the health of the oceans. To this end, they are embarking on projects which protect and restore ocean and coastal habitats while also absorbing more CO2 than current levels. These so-called Blue Credits are earned by dealing directly with the health of our seas and rivers, bearing in mind that the ocean is a very efficient absorbent of atmospheric carbon dioxide, accounting for the absorption of more than one third of human-caused emissions thus far.
To this end, MSC in conjunction with marine biologists, are rejuvenating a derelict sand mining island in the Caribbean, to be called Ocean Cay, turning it into a marine sanctuary that guests can enjoy during their cruise.
Aboard ship, numerous hi-tech features makes guests' experience more enjoyable including Zoe, the virtual assistant that keeps tabs on your schedule, bill and children; smart elevators that direct you to the next elevator going your way; extensive adults and children's entertainment including a full-size F1 simulator and head-spinning VR games – all of which could easily be the subject of their own feature.
In summary, when you add in superior dining and guest service levels, well-appointed cabins and suites as well as class-leading theatrical shows including the only Cirque du Soleil at Sea, you have very near the perfect combination of features for the best possible cruise experience. But hey, don't take my word for it.
For more information on the MSC Cruises, visit
www.msccruises.com.au or www.msccruises.co.nz
Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au
Words: Roderick Eime http://travography.com/
1.2. Roderick Eime
3-9 As supplied credit Ivan Sarfatti and Valbradcht