Cruise ships are making improvements in carbon efficiency.

To estimate carbon emissions from the cruise ship industry, self-reported emissions from the two main companies were used. Both Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Carnival Corporation & PLC publish sustainability reports that detail annual emissions. The third largest company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, does not report carbon emissions. Using the two existing sustainability reports, and in combination with the known market share reported on Cruise Market Watch, the remaining 28.8% of the global cruise activity were extrapolated.


  • Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Carnival Corporation & PLC make up about three quarters of global cruise activity measured in passenger numbers.
  • The latest available data are from 2017. Carnival reported emission totals of  10,690  kilo-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, a slight increase (1.4%) compared with 2016 where emissions were 10,539.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd emitted a total of 4,230 kt in 2017 (compared with 4,465 kilo-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent).
  • The third largest company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd do not publicly report total carbon emissions, and all other companies have very small market shares. A total carbon footprint for these remaining companies is estimated based on market share.
  • Based on an estimated total number of about 25.8 million cruise ship passengers in 2017, it can be estimated that the average cruise ship passenger emits 0.82 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent for their cruise. This is equivalent to a return air trip from London to Tokyo in economy class.
  • CruiseMarket Watch reports an annual growth rate of 6.6%.
  • Cruise ship emissions make up 0.2% of all global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production. Note that tourist water transport is much larger than the specific segment of cruise ship tourism analysed here.
  • When examining the cruise ship company reports it emerges that every company uses slightly different metrics. This poses major problems in comparing and compiling data, for example some indicators use resource use per kilometer and others refer to person-day or berth.