what I learned trying to be zero waste on a cruise

Now before you go and comment on how wasteful cruises are and that they could never be zero waste, I get it. We are both on the same page. I know the impact they have on the environment, the food that gets wasted, all of it. BUT, I am not and never will be an extremest in anything including how I live my life. As someone striving for zero waste, SPOILER ALERT, we all produce trash and I am definitely not completely ZERO waste! You have to have balance plus be open to still live your life! So when your family wants to take a cruise to the Bahamas for a family trip we get to take maybe every few years, you go on it. The only true way to be Zero Waste is to simply not do anything at all and that sound pretty boring to me.

This point of this post is to share what I learned on my cruise while trying to reduce my waste. If you wind up taking a family cruise one day this guide is here help you know what to expect, what to bring, and what to simple let go of, since we can’t control everything! 

What I brought as my zero waste kit:

  • reusable coffee cups (for two)
  • 1 water bottle (we lost the other!)
  • cloth napkins (multiple)
  • forks (for two)
  • metal straws (for two)
  • 1 reusable bag

What I actually ended up using was our reusable coffee cups, water bottle, straws, and napkins. I never ever needed a utensil. I would still bring in incase your excursion meals need it or if you are going on a plane and eat before getting on the boat!

The cruise dinning hall had all reusable things including cups, plates, and utensils. Even the bar had reusable cups but they did use plastic straws, whomp whomp, I was able to avoid 2 out of 3 straws so hey thats not too bad (IMO).

Lets talk about the food

So much food waste it breaks my heart. BUT, heres what I did to be mindful on the cruise. Buffets are everywhere and its so easy to just fill up your plate with a ton of food and not end up eating half of it. Get less food, you can always go back and grab more but I focused on only getting what I knew I could eat. No I wasn’t perfect but its better than nothing. Its also pretty easy to avoid prepackaged foods. On my cruise they had: cereal, yogurts, butter slices???, and other random food items. I chose to just eat what was already cooked so I went straight for the buffet.

What about water?

Thankfully the water on the ship is good to drink so we didn’t have to get the $3 bottle of water everyday. I was sketchy of the sink water in our room bathroom so I would fill our cups up overnight in the dinning hall. Be super mindful of taking plenty of water before we left the boat to visit the islands just to be safe.

Trash created:

Paper, paper, paper. They had so many different papers that were left for you each day that had the next days itinerary. Plus a bunch of other random information that I never even looked at. They have and app that has all of this info why do we need a paper copy too? This made the most waste for us during the trip and I tried to ask for them to not give us the papers but the are automatically printed. I did take full advantage of the “rate your cruise” survey that was emailed to me and mentioned giving a paperless option to people, and to not using plastic straws!

Before we boarded I tried to use my cruise ticket info saved on my phone. Sadly this did not work and they ended up printing it out on some definitely not recyclable glossy paper. You would be better off printing your cruise tickets on regular paper at home!

Room service:

The typically require to tidy up your room at least once a day. At the beginning of the trip they asked us if we wanted morning, night, or both for room service. We opted for once a day. To reduce the time your towels are cleaned you can hang them up and they will leave them there. 

Things to avoid during your cruise


Camera men were set up EVERYWERE, ready to take your family photos at every port and event. They print every picture they take and post them out on one of the lobbies so families can find theirs and get copies printed. Not everyone ends up buying the pictures but they get printed regardless so say no thank you when they ask or you will just end up creating unwanted trash.

Samples everywhere

They have multiple different shops and “buying parties” where they offer you free liquor tastings, jewelry raffle prizes (WITH FREE GIFT!!!) its like QVC Live! Brochures are being handed out constantly, just simply say no thank you. Don’t attend the events where they are only trying to sell you million things, its a trap! 

Fancy drinks

So many different types! Tiki drinks, coconut man drinks, drinks in a disco ball, you name it. Keep it simple and order the regular drinks so you can avoid all the extra plastic frills. I promise you will still have just as much fun! Plus they are so sneaky with trying to get you to buy everything. Bar tenders are constantly walking around with a tray of already made drinks in these fancy cups you can get as a souvenir, or leaving wine at you table at dinner when you eat, you could easily spend a fortune and not realize it till you get you bill at the end of the trip!

Note: Carnival lets you take 1 bottle of wine per person over 21 and we full on took advantage of that and grabbed two bottles of Rosé before the cruise! It saved us so much money!

Please enjoy the amazing stylings of my husband. He thrifted 3 vintage Hawaiian shirts for the cruise along with these white linen pants! Looking good if I do say so myself!