Revealed: Summer Cruises Increase your CO2 Emission by 4700% per KM vs Train Travel

Travelling by cruise ship rather than train this summer could increase passengers’ CO2 emissions each kilometre by 4716%, can reveal.

A cruise ship emits 10,700g CO2 per hour per passenger, and with an average speed of 37km (20 knots) per hour, that works out at 289g per CO2 per person per kilometre.

Taking the Eurostar, which now has a fully electric fleet, works out at just 6g of CO2 per person per kilometre.

That is on the most eco-friendly side of train travel. In the UK, an electric Intercity 225 could emit 45g of CO2 by that measure, rising to 90g for a diesel train.

However, that still gives cruise ships three times the CO2 emissions per person vs a diesel train.

And that is a conservative reading of the impact of cruise ship travel. These floating cities also pump out CO2 while moored, have longer journey times, use huge amounts of electricity, and emit other gases including nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

Green shoots

It’s not all bad. Cruise ships and the companies that operate them are constantly trying to improve their eco-credentials (the newly-launched Virgin Voyages, for example, says it will be carbon neutral by 2025).

The cruise industry is also relatively small. Cruise ships may be the most polluting type of vessel on the waters (see infographic below) but they account for just 1% of the global fleet.

And while planes have a far smaller footprint in terms of C02 emitted per passenger per kilometre, there are so many more of them that they account for 2.1% of manmade fossil fuel emissions rather than cruise ships’ 0.2%. Even the rail industry accounts for a higher 0.3% of emissions.

Drive my car

“Calculating emissions per journey is a tricky business. To a point you need to generalise as everything depends on the specific mode of transport – the vehicle’s age and model, how much it’s carrying, how frequently it’s starting/stopping/accelerating,”
says Jonathan Merry, CEO of

So how about hopping in the car? It’s the same story.

To compare driving with flying, for example, a diesel car with four passengers emits 43g of CO2 per passenger per kilometre – far less than then 133g emitted by a domestic flight in economy class (business class passengers take up more space so have a bigger impact).

But if you consider one person in a diesel car, CO2 emissions of 171g per passenger per kilometre are actually higher than the 102g on a long-haul flight.

That is because planes use up more of their energy during take-off and landing, so the long cruising portion of a long-haul flight takes their average down.

But planes also emit the likes of nitrogen oxides, which also impact the climate – especially at high altitude.

“While we should all be mindful of the impact our travel has, everyone has a right to treat themselves and enjoy a break. People will also have costs to consider – options like the Eurostar can be expensive! In any case, the people with the biggest footprint are the ones crossing the world on private jets every week.”
adds Jonathan Merry

Explore the full data below.

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