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Norwegian Cruise Line throwing in the towel animal, but other cruise lines still folding

Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement that it will no longer automatically create towel animals for all of its passengers on some of its ships, to be more environmentally sustainable. [Dreamstime]
Published Apr. 15

It's the origami of the sea. The tradition of wandering back to your cabin and finding that it has been invaded by animalistic linens is being challenged by at least one cruise line.

Norwegian Cruise Line has said in a statement that it will no longer automatically create towel animals for all of its passengers on some of its ships.

The reason for Norwegian's towel animal reduction plan is the environment, according to the statement.

"We are committed to being a responsible corporate citizen by fostering a culture of awareness and respect for our world's resources. Our mission is to continually improve our sustainability culture through fresh innovation, progressive education and open collaboration. As such, from time to time we explore opportunities to expand our efforts. In this instance, we are assessing the impact of reducing the number of towel animals we showcase aboard a few of our ships."

The towel animals are not extinct on Norwegian Cruise Line though. According to the statement, cruisers can request they be part of the experience, and then cabin stewards will be happy to oblige, creating little towel swans, bunnies, dogs, crabs and monkeys in whimsical poses atop passengers' beds each night.

Conservation efforts that also double as cost-reduction practices often hit the travel industry. That includes the trend of cruise lines pushing passengers to using a phone app instead of printing out 4,000 itineraries every sailing day.

Disney Cruise Line has been experimenting with that on recent sailings, according to passenger reports to Scott Sanders, who runs the fan site DisneyCruiseLineBlog.com.

"I'm all for the reduction in paper waste and printing costs, but at least keep the schedules out in various places around the ship for those of us who prefer the old school option," Sanders wrote on his site. "I also appreciate that the paper copies are still available in your stateroom each night upon request."

In an email, Sanders applauds cruise lines' environmental efforts, but has some suggestions to help mitigate the effect on customers.

"The conserving of water and energy with the reduction of towel animals by some lines is a great idea, but instead of stocking the stateroom with enough towels per guest plus the towels for a towel animal, use the towels for the guests to make the towel animal with a note on the first night that explains the subtle change," he said. "Seems like a win-win situation, guests still get a welcoming towel animal, and the ship sees a reduction in loads of laundry."

For the record, Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are not changing their stance on folded wildlife.

"We're continuing our towel animal program as normal," said Carnival spokesperson Vance Gullikssn. "It's a signature and popular element at Carnival."

Royal Caribbean provides towel animals to all guests beginning the second day of the cruise, and then every other day.

"However, if a guest makes a request or we see that they truly are enchanted by them our stateroom attendants are allowed to go out of their way and to provide daily," said spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro.

Disney Cruise Line has yet to comment, although in 2014, spokesperson Jonathan Frontado wrote on the Disney Parks blog, "Let's be honest, walking into your stateroom each night to see a new towel animal creation never gets old, does it?"

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