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  • Published on May 9, 2023



Royal Caribbean Group (RCG) is a global cruise holding company with fleets including Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises.

As self-contained vessels, cruise ships can’t rely on traditional services to manage waste produced by guests and crew.


For thirty years, Royal Caribbean Group has been operating the Save the Waves program with the primary goal of reusing and recycling as much material as possible. Save the Waves has evolved through the years to encompass robust policies, initiatives, and technologies. In 2021, RCG’s Royal Caribbean International, launched a new five-year WIN on Waste initiative to help reduce food waste on ships by 50%.


As of 2022, 26 of the Group’s ships as of 2022, uses their WIN on Waste artificial intelligence system to estimate how much food should be produced, prepped, thawed, and ordered, on a given day, at any given time. This system considers data points including guest demographics, itinerary, and weather conditions to produce just the right types and amounts of food to satisfy diners. Data dashboards are reviewed by ship and corporate leaders to inform adjustments and track initiative progress. This initiative is overseen by dedicated Food & Beverage Operations Excellence Controllers (FOEC).


Actions taken

Royal Caribbean Group brands focused on the following areas to address food waste:

·         Continual, data-informed improvement

·         Adjusted menus and procurement based on demographics and itineraries

·         Rigorous procurement and food handling processes

·         Efficient food preparation and service

·         Careful surplus and waste management

·         Communication and training for crew

A range of tools and strategies are used to prevent and manage food waste:

·         All crew members are trained on waste management best practices via the Save the Waves training program.

·         Food is procured and handled carefully from quality and quantity standards to ensure crew and guest expectations are met throughout the voyage. For example, bananas are procured at different stages of ripeness and held separately to ensure perfectly ripe bananas are available throughout voyages.

·         Food inventory is maintained carefully by inventory and storeroom teams, and food quality is checked formally when received from suppliers for each voyage.

·         Demographic information of crew and guests informs menu adjustments before each voyage.

·         Recipes with specific preparation instructions and photographs are referenced for each dish, and a cook is assigned responsibility for a specific dish during service. Similarly, buffet servers use reference photos and guides to ensure buffets are set with quality and efficiency in mind. Accuracy is checked by leaders including sous chefs and restaurant managers and reported to Executive Chefs daily. Many hot items are prepared using small batches and “À la Minute” cooking methods.

·         Buffet service has adjusted away from tray and large plate dining. Live-action and carving stations are utilized to preserve quality, maintain portion sizes, and engage guests. Perishable food displays and decorations are reduced on buffets.

·         Consistent communication is maintained between dining room and galley teams and frequently wasted items are noted to inform future adjustments. Waste datasets are reviewed daily by ship Food & Beverage leaders.

·         Active campaigns on efficiency and the value of food permeate crew culture, including crew dining rooms in the form of poster campaigns.

·         All food waste becomes the responsibility of a ship’s Environmental Officer. Most items are processed through a pulper and pulverized to less than 22mm, as per international standards. Waste is then either dried and incinerated onboard, discharged no closer than 12 nautical miles from land, or landed ashore to an authorized waste provider. All waste is recorded in the ship’s garbage log and audited via industry regulatory bodies.

·         In 2021, the Celebrity Apex, one of 14 ships in the Celebrity Cruise fleet, installed a prototype Hydrothermal Oxidation Technology to treat food waste. This system is designed to increase energy efficiency and ensure food waste is treated without discharge to sea.

Outcomes/lessons learned

·         Save the Waves training is compulsory, all crew are trained

·         100% of Group ships equipped to be landfill-free

·         Waste-to-landfill reduced by 87% between 2007 and 2021

·         FOEC role introduced on each Royal Caribbean International ship, responsible for daily ship data reviews and bi-weekly connection with corporate team

Next steps

RCG is working with World Wildlife Fund to curb food waste in Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises fleets. Future activities include improving data management processes, engaging crew members, and continually improving efficiency of food service.



The case study has been provided by Royal Caribbean Group (RCG) in support of the Global Roadmap for Food Waste Reduction in the Tourism Sector demonstrating the value of taking action to prevent food waste.

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