Cruise Voluntourism Crystal Clear


Cruise ships attract poverty. Because passengers are considered affluent, rightly or wrongly, poor people in ports flock to wherever cruise people go, sometimes to sell wares, often to beg. For passengers, this can be a help-or-not-help dilemma, just as it is on the streets of major cities in North America.

Many cruise lines have come to the aid of both.

An organization called Hope Floats went to five Caribbean Islands on the Caribbean Princess to do volunteer work and now arranges such opportunities for individual cruise passengers. Royal Caribbean has taken Oasis of the Seas passengers on voluntourism shore excursions in Cozumel.

Then there's Crystal.

Last year, every trip on the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony (above) included a complimentary shore excursion that gave guests and crew a chance to help a "community-in-need." There were 45 such socially-responsible excursions in 2011 and this year there are more.

In January, Crystal added ports in Colombia, Curacao, Spain, Italy, Greece, Estonia, Germany, Croatia, Hawaii and Boston. Now there are more communities in Europe — a social services center in Odessa, a 400-year-old charity brotherhood in southern Italy, supporting disabled persons in Valencia, and protecting endangered marine life in Barcelona.

"The feedback from this program has been incredible, with stories of tears, hugs, pen pals, and generosity above and beyond anything we could have hoped for," says Thomas Mazloum, Crystal's senior vice-president operations. "We are thrilled to continue to 'pay it forward.'"

Everybody wins. Cruise lines, employees and passengers all feel better about themselves, and people who need help get it.

Coral Princess
3 nights
September 17, 2012
Vancouver, Los Angeles
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $66

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