It was also the consensus conundrum among panelists for the "Metamorphosis of Itinerary Planning" session held Monday during Seatrade Cruise Global.
With the formula projected on screens at the behest of Ugo Savino, Carnival Cruise Line's director of deployment and itinerary planning, he said it's a calculation that weighs carbon dioxide emissions compared to a ship's tonnage and how many nautical miles it travels in a year.
"This is probably the reason why [fellow panelist Marc Miller with Royal Caribbean Group] doesn't sleep … and I am highly medicated," Savino quipped.
Ships fall into compliance by either reducing fuel consumption or increasing the miles in a year.
"So really short itineraries are penalized, and every time that the ship doesn't move, we are penalized," he said. "So that means that every time a ship is in port, we are penalized unless we can shut down our engines."
While shore power could be one solution, it's not one that can support the breadth of ships across the entire industry. PortMiami, for instance, is working to provide shore power in time, but at most can support only three of a potential 10 ships in port, said MSC Cruises Capt. Pier Paolo Scala, VP global port operations.
"So when you plan an itinerary thinking that, 'OK, when I hook up the shore power in Miami so I can do this itinerary to meet the CII criteria, and can't hook up in one of the ports. We have a problem,'" he said. "So it's something that all departments, all stakeholders, from the technical to the commercial to the top management, try to figure out."
One of the potential solutions is to make fewer stops during the sailing.
"The issue is the case that you need to drop a port, or to find the balance between all these aspects because the bottom line is that ... commercially it has to be a viable itinerary," he said. "So all the cruise lines will be in the same dilemma."
The importance of destinations was hammered home by moderator Roger Blum with Cruise and Port Advisors, Inc.
"Itinerary planning has been part of seamanship, I guess from the days of Columbus trying to find America hoping to find something. But in the cruise business, obviously, itinerary planning is what makes or breaks a cruise," he said. "There have been so many different surveys and we all have seen the new ships and that one ship after another, they're more exciting, more exciting and more exciting, but in surveying cruise guests, they still want to know where the ship is going."
Shore excursions key
Panelist Nicolai Skogland, Viking's executive director for port operations and government relations, said shore excursions are the No. 1 driver of his company's business model, with mostly river cruising vessels but also nine ocean vessels with a 10th coming online soon.
"It's all about getting under the skin of the destination," he said, "and have the guests coming back saying, 'You know, I learned something new today. I didn't know that.'"
Miller, Royal Caribbean Group's director of deployment and itinerary planning, said all the company can do for now is keep trying to find ways to reduce fuel consumption across the fleet, but warned there could be pivots to fall in line with regulations.
Itineraries will change over time
"Our impact on the environment is always one of our top priorities. So we're going to continue to look for ways to reduce fuel, reduce our carbon emissions and see where we can go," he said. "I think you'll see some changes in our itineraries over time."
He said it will be a puzzle of finding efficiencies where they can, and just how much it will impact future plans is uncertain.
"What we can control, we'll control and keep moving in that direction," he said.