Cruise ships have received some fairly unflattering publicity of late, especially the extremely large ones that overwhelm cities such as Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona with their thousands of passengers. Such ships are also recognized to have an extremely negative environmental impact, with a carbon footprint little better than that of high-flying jet aircraft.
However, the MS Roald Amundsen, which undertook her maiden voyage in July, has now become the world’s first hybrid-powered expedition ship. Owned by the classic Norwegian Hurtigruten line and designed to cruise in Arctic and Antarctic waters, the 530-passenger vessel can switch to battery-driven propulsion, which is not only environmentally desirable, but also permits the ship to glide through the ice flows in virtual silence. At present, the hybrid technology permits a 20% savings in fuel, providing a glimpse of the carbon-neutral cruise ship of the future. A hybrid sister ship, the MS Fridtjof Nansen, is due to launch in 2020.