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Comparing Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruises’ Sustainable Food Goals

  • Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings aim to source food more sustainably.
  • Experts say goals like buying more food locally are a step in the right direction.
  • This article is part of “The Future of Supply Chain Management“, a series on business manufacturing and distribution strategies.

The hardest decision you make on a cruise is what to eat for dinner.

In 2023, cruise giants Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings welcomed more than 10.3 million travelers.

That’s a lot of mouths to feed – and to do so, their floating hotels feature 24-hour kitchens and nearly endless onboard dining options, from buffets to steakhouses.

The question is: where do companies get all this food from? And are their promises of a more environmentally friendly food supply really sustainable?

Both companies increasingly buy locally


rows of bread in a galley on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas

Norwegian and Royal Caribbean aim to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider



Norwegian said that in 2022, 37% of its food and beverage supply will come from its global destinations.

Similarly, Linken D’Souza, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of food and beverage, told reporters in January that the company had spent the last two years shifting its supply chain to Europe to y supply its cruises with less food from the United States.

As a result, 86% of the food used on Royal Caribbean’s European cruises came from local sources in 2023, according to its sustainability report for that year. Last year, the company also stopped supplying its Seattle and Vancouver-based ships with frozen food shipped from Florida, choosing instead to buy locally.

Bambi Semroc, senior vice president of sustainable lands and waters for the nonprofit environmental group Conservation International, told Business Insider that increasing destination-based sourcing is a step in the right direction, especially if it helps boost a developing country’s local economy and demand for commodities. its sustainably produced food.

But it’s not always the best choice for the environment: it depends on how the goods are shipped.

Take American wine versus European wine. If you drink a wine produced in California in New York, that bottle was delivered by truck and therefore has a higher carbon footprint than wine produced in Europe delivered by boat, Ravi Anupindi, professor at the Ross School at the University of Michigan. of Business, said.

Both companies have similar animal welfare goals


Wonder of the seas + food from Hooked Seafood

Several of Royal Caribbean’s largest ships have their own Hooked Seafood restaurant.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider



By 2025, Norwegian wants to buy all of its seafood from suppliers certified by groups such as the Marine Stewardship Council and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Royal Caribbean has the same deadline for a similar goal: sourcing 90% of its wild-caught seafood and 75% of its farmed fruit from fisheries certified by the same nonprofits.

Back on land, the two cruise giants aim to purchase cage-free eggs, gestation cage-free pork and chickens exclusively from Global Animal Partnership certified suppliers by 2025.

However, switching from a trusted supplier to a new, albeit more environmentally friendly one can be “extremely difficult”, Anupindi told BI.

It is therefore not surprising that at least one of the companies had to change its deadlines. According to Royal Caribbean’s previous sustainability reports, the company had to push back its cage-free egg and gestation-cage-free pork goals by three years and its seafood goals by five years.

Royal Caribbean did not respond to an inquiry about the delays.

Beef sourcing remains a missing piece of the sustainability puzzle


Regent Seven Seas Grandeur food

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ most luxurious cruise line, Regent Seven Seas, serves dishes like beef tenderloin topped with seared foie gras.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider



Beef generates approximately eight to ten times more greenhouse gas emissions than chicken and has been identified as a cause of deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

However, none of the companies’ food supply targets relate to livestock.

Norwegian told BI in a statement that its goal of “net zero (emissions) by 2050” “applies to our onboard and onshore operations (Scopes 1 and 2) as well as the value chain ( Scope 3),” adding that beef would be part of Scope 3.

To address this significant problem, Semroc said, cruise lines could choose beef suppliers that promote more sustainable practices or that have committed to “no deforestation, no conversion.”

Or, ideally for the sake of sustainability, they could replace steak dinners with more plant-based dishes.


cooking in a galley on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas

A sustainability expert said she sees opportunity for cruise ships to source sustainably produced goods from the developing countries they visit.

Brittany Chang/Business Insider



It appears Norwegian has already followed this advice. Its next Norwegian ship Aqua is expected to debut in 2025 with the company’s first-ever plant-based food restaurant. Over the past few years, the cruise giant has rolled out more than 200 vegetable-based meals across its Oceania and Regent Seven Seas fleets.

Royal Caribbean did not respond to an inquiry about its beef initiatives or plans to expand its plant-based offerings.

Clearly, “building” sustainability in the food supply chain can be a complex and nuanced topic, especially for companies that feed as many people as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian do. Not to mention all the pressure cruise lines are already under to operate ships that are bad for the environment.

But it’s “admirable that they’re starting to think about it,” Anupindi said.

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