Think about what it would be like if you were filling up your tank with 110 tons of fuel a day! Yup, that’s how much a 48 ton cruise ship carrying 700 guests consumes in one day at sea. On a seven day Alaskan itinerary with four port stops that translates to about $1 million dollars a month in fuel costs. Short of passing on those charges to the consumer in surcharges and taxes, what can be done if anything to keep ships afloat and people cruising?
I asked that question to senior deck and engine officers; the answers I received were very interesting. We all remember (well, most of us that is) the gas crisis of the 1970’s when the United States interstate speed limit was reduced to 55 mph. It drove many of us crazy having to inch along the freeway after years of flying by at break-neck speeds but the fact remains; reducing your speed by 20% saves up to 40% of fuel. Same is true for a cruise ship. Reducing the ship’s speed from 21 knots to 17 knots saves $200,000 off that $1 million dollar a month bill. Over one year that equals $2.4 million dollars saved; in a company with five ships that is $12 million dollars! Reducing the speed also means that not all three engines need to run; another cost saving as they can be rotated less frequently thereby extending the period in which they must undergo mandatory overhaul for maintenance.
To realize the savings available by reducing speed, itineraries must be better planned. As a consumer how might this affect your cruise? Answer: smarter, greener itineraries – that means shorter distances and courses set with rather than against strong currents. Developing marketable itineraries using reduced sailing speeds will require research and creativity but there are plenty of destinations and regions that could be cultivated – including right here in Alaska where places like Prince William Sound offer a myriad of attractions from small towns with deep water ports to beautiful shipboard scenery without days at sea pushing full speed. Another added bonus of shorter runs is reducing the chance for late arrivals that result in tour cancellations or missed flights.
If you enjoy cruising let your favorite cruise line know that you want to see these fuel savings measures put into place. Planning and pricing departments along with sales and marketing teams need to know that you are willing to explore new destinations and can adjust to changes in published itineraries if it means saving costs and saving the planet. This is a simply solution to a big problem but we need to hear from you.