CLIA’s Kelly Craighead discusses the next generation of cruising

The Cruise Lines International Association president and CEO discusses the industry’s sustainability goals and the cruise passengers of the future with Rebecca Barnes 

CLIA’s Kelly Craighead discusses the next generation of cruising


By Rebecca Barnes |

More consumers than ever cruised in 2023, with over 31 million taking to the oceans to explore the world, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). The industry was also in power mode, with global cruise capacity on the rise and the introduction of 13 new CLIA member line ships featuring the latest technology and sustainability advancements in a bid to help the industry pursue net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Although small in size – cruise ships account for less than one per cent of the total ocean-going commercial fleet of vessels worldwide – the industry has a powerful impact in terms of innovation in the sustainability arena. And, with the global commitment to supporting decarbonisation taking centre stage, it’s also high on CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead’s agenda.  

“2023 was a year of significant milestones in our key areas of focus, including climate action, sustainable tourism, conservation, diversity and inclusion, health, safety and security,” she says. “Collectively, in 2024, the cruise community is dedicated to being a leader in responsible travel and the best way to see the world.” 

According to Craighead, the CLIA member fleet becomes more efficient every year, with each class of ship being 20 to 25 per cent more efficient than the last. Collaboration is key to unlocking innovation and solutions for the future, she says. 

“Partnerships are crucial to advance the industry’s sustainability goals,” she says. “Business entities ashore constitute the broader cruise ecosystem and contribute significantly to the sustainability of cruise. This includes shipyards, suppliers, port authorities, terminal operators, destination management organisations, tourism operators, hotels and ground transportation, among others.” 

The cruise industry is investing billions in new ships and engines that will accept future fuels once they are developed and available at scale at a reasonable price. Alternative fuels and energy sources are also being tested, including green methanol, hydrogen fuel cells, photovoltaic/solar, battery storage and wind. Some cruise lines have implemented carbon offsetting projects by investing in renewable energy projects and have publicly reported on these in their annual sustainability reports. 

Kelly Craighead Scenic Group Emerald Cruises’ Emerald Sakara San Juan, Puerto Rico December 2023

Kelly Craighead (centre) pictured with executives from Scenic Group at the christening of Emerald Cruises’ new luxury yacht, Emerald Sakara, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on 2 December 2023

According to data from the CLIA’s 2023 Global Cruise Industry Environmental Technologies and Practices Report, as part of the European Union’s Fit for 55 emissions programme, major ports in Europe will be required to have shoreside power by 2030. This will further accelerate the available port infrastructure investment in that region. Today, 120 CLIA member cruise line ships (46 per cent of the total) are capable of plugging into shoreside electricity to reduce emissions in port. 

“All CLIA member ocean cruise lines have made the commitment that by 2035, all ships calling at ports capable of providing shoreside power will be equipped to either use this shoreside electricity or alternative low-carbon technologies, as available, to reduce emissions,” says Craighead. 

Along with a greener outlook, CLIA research shows that younger generations are the future of cruise, with the 2023 State of the Cruise Industry Report revealing that 88 per cent of millennials and 85 per cent of Generation X travellers who have cruised before plan to do so again. In addition, there is more interest than ever before among millennials (77 per cent) and Generation X travellers (73 per cent) wanting to take their first cruise. 

The report also indicated that travellers are seeking more adventure, with search results for expedition cruises to Antarctica increasing 51 per cent in 2022 compared to 2019.  

“Interest in booking an expedition cruise is higher than ever as travellers seek more immersive, responsible, bucket-list travel experiences,” says Craighead. “The trend is evident across all age groups as the number of passengers sailing on expedition cruises more than doubled from 2016 to 2022. 

“Together with our members and partners, CLIA will continue to support policies and practices that foster safe, secure, healthy and sustainable cruise operations; tourism strategies that maximise the socioeconomic benefits of cruise travel; and innovations that protect our planet,” she says. 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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