Cruise lines change course to cut fuel
September 8, 2008 ·
Cruise lines have also begun using energy-efficient light bulbs and new window coatings that reflect the heat from the sun to keep rooms cooler. They’ve also been using new hull paint that reduces a ship’s drag in the water.
And increasingly, cruise lines are altering itineraries so ships can slow down and reduce their travel distances, said Lanie Fagan, spokeswoman for the Cruise Line International Association. Carnival Corp., Norwegian Cruise Line and others have said high fuel costs are a factor in new routes.
“While it is paramount to offer a cruise itinerary that a guest wants to sail, the design and sequence of that itinerary can be evaluated to minimize the distance between ports of call and the speed necessary to accomplish that itinerary,” Fagan said.
In many cases, passengers will barely notice the difference.
Besides changing port calls on some routes, Royal Caribbean is reviewing its departure and arrival. In some cases, ships are leaving port half an hour earlier at night or arriving half an hour later in the morning — allowing ships to travel at slower speeds between ports.
Cutting speed cuts costs. For example, going 23 knots will consume twice as much fuel as going 15 knots for the new Solstice class of ship being launched this year by Celebrity Cruises, said John Krousouloudis, senior vice president for marine operations.
Even as cruise lines watched fuel prices ratchet up costs, some port cities had already seen an opportunity.
In Maine, a consortium that promotes Portland as a cruise ship destination is using high fuel costs as part of its marketing strategy.
Last fall, Discover Portland & Beyond Executive Director Sandra Needham met with half a dozen cruise ship companies in south Florida. She presented them with some mock itineraries for their ships detailing how much money they could save in fuel costs if they included Portland on certain routes.
Besides touting southern Maine’s attractions, Needham wanted to show cruise line executives how having port calls relatively close together could save them money.
By stopping at ports that are relatively close together, the ships could cruise at speeds of 12 knots or so rather than higher fuel-guzzling speeds, she said. Her itineraries showed that a few tweaks here and there could save cruise lines between $40,000 and $100,000 a week in fuel alone — and that was ten months ago, when fuel prices were lower.
She thinks the high price of fuel is one reason cruise lines have committed to bringing large ships, those with over 1,000 passengers, to Portland 34 times next year, up from 24 stops this year.