Best sea or river cruise awards


Back in 2008 Justin Francis, Managing Director, and Director of The Responsible Tourism Awards, had this to say about the introduction of our cruise category:

Explained: The cruise industry is one of the largest sectors of the tourism market, and also one of the most irresponsible. While some have started on the road towards a more sustainable future, many cruise operators continue to harm local communities and the environment. This award is for those cruise operators who are bring responsibility to the core of their business, have positive impacts, and are changing the way we think about cruise holidays. This category is eligible for cruise operators in sea, river, lake and other freshwater environments.

What the Judges want: Evidence of responsible tourism at the very core of the business, effective and replicable policies and practices that demonstrate real benefit to communities and the environment, and genuine acts of leadership in the cruise industry.

2015 winners

Gold award: Ullswater Steamers

When you want to get your head around sustainability or ethical practices, it is sometimes best to talk to people who have been around for a long time. Because they often have a greater understanding of a need to protect the environment. It was natural to be natural just a few decades ago. And Ullswater Steamers is one of those oldies, a business that dates as far back as 1859, the current owners taking it over in the early 1950's leading cruises on board traditional, heritage vessels in the Lake District's Ullswater Valley.

Ullswater Steamers take 280,000 visitors per annum up and down the eponymous valley. As well as protecting one of the largest heritage passenger vessel fleets in the UK, including the oldest working passenger vessel in the world, Lady of the Lake, originally commissioned in 1877, it protects Ullswater and the surrounding national park environs. Consequently they were highly commended for Responsible Tourism Awards in 2008 and 2011. But they keep striving to do more, never shutting the door on sustainability. Such as linking with some of the most popular hiking trails, thus providing a viable sustainable transport link in the park. They also play an important role in contributing to stakeholder partnership within the park, such as investing in bridge and pier infrastructure. They monitor their reduction in carbon footprint and recyclable waste, and share their environmental impact in a transparent manner. Ullswater Steamers also keeps carbon consumption to a minimum within their business on the ground, with a minibus to transport staff and a sustainable refit of their Glenridding Pier House. But it is work within the community, sourcing produce locally, being an important local employer and also as an influential voice within the local environmental network, that Ullswater Steamers excels at. Because the oldies are the goodies, right?

Previous winners


Winner: DFDS Seaways, UK
"DFDS Seaways is one of Europe's largest ferry companies, and has gone a long way towards marine conservation. Teaming up with ORCA to discover a wealth of whales, dolphins and wildlife on their routes, they now host an onboard 'wildlife centre' offering fun activities for passengers, employ onboard wildlife officers, and work with the School of Whales on a range of mini wildlife-watching cruises."

Highly commended:
  • Ullswater Steamers, UK
Winner: Orion Expedition Cruises, Australia
Orion Expedition Cruising is the only cruise company with Earthcheck certification, and shows a real commitment to the communities it visits. By acknowledging that authenticity can only be realized for their guests by working in partnership with communities, they conduct community research ahead of establishing new ports of call - helping protect cultural heritage and environment while offering real benefits to the places they visit. They have influenced suppliers to make positive changes like moving from plastic containers to cardboard and aluminium bottles over plastic. Cruise is a growth area and this small operator is one to watch.

Highly commended:
  • Kalimantan Tour Destinations, Indonesia
Winner: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, US
Last year was the first year for this category, and responsible tourism continues to be a new area of concern for the cruise sector. This year we are pleased to recognise an organisation demonstrating an exhaustive approach to environmental initiatives. Royal Caribbean have reduced emissions in their newest ships by 50 per cent over ships built around 10 years ago, providing a unique insight into what can be achieved by the rest of the cruise sector if it shared this level of commitment.

Highly commended:
  • SeaFrance Ltd , France
Winner: Holland America Line, USA
For recognising that the industry has negative environmental impacts and accepting responsibility for doing something about it. They have reduced dockside emissions by 20%, developed and implemented an “Avoiding Whale Strikes” training programme, increased recycling by 50% and introduced new scrubber technology.

Highly commended:
  • Ullswater Steamers, UK
Written by Justin Francis
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ullswater Steamers]