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Day to Remember for Holland America

One day this week, two couples who hadn't seen each other in too long sat down in a coffee shop to catch up on their lives. It happens that two of the four people have cancer, and coincidentally the day they all met was World Cancer Day.

Holland America took notice…not of the 50-50 cancer ratio, nor even of the two couples meeting for coffee.

Of World Cancer Day.

That was the day the cruise line launched its latest cancer-fighting initiative, entitled On Deck for a Cause.

What it means is that, on every sailing on each of Holland America's 15 ships, passengers will have an opportunity to participate in fundraising 5k walks to support six national cancer organizations, in the U.S., Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The program starts later this month.

Such admirable fundraising activities are not new in the cruise world, especially with Holland America, which has a myriad of programs. In this one, passengers will donate $20 and walk (or not) five kilometers around the ship on a sea day picked for the occasion. On most ships, that's 9 to 12 laps. Besides the satisfaction of fighting the dreaded disease (80 per cent of the money raised will be distributed), participants will be given an On Deck for a Cause teeshirt and an invitation to a reception.

There is hardly a person anywhere who hasn't been touched, directly or indirectly, by cancer. That's surely true for the thousands of passengers who board cruise ships every week, and couples who sit down in coffee shops everywhere.

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
15 nights
April 30, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Ponta Delgada, Cadiz, Malaga, Cartagena, Barcelona
Inside: $711
Cost per day: $47

Holland America Cancer Connection

There probably isn't a family anywhere that hasn't been touched by cancer, and there probably isn't anybody who hasn't been touched by a cancer fund-raiser. It happens because it's important and, clearly, it will never end.

This month, it happened — again — on a cruise ship.

While Holland America's Oosterdam was moored in Seattle, 400 cancer survivors went on the ship to celebrate. They celebrated being cancer survivors and they celebrated the fact that corporate giants like Holland America care enough to be their hosts. It wasn't a fundraiser, per se, but every time cancer survivors gather it creates awareness, which creates support.

In this case, the support is in the name of Komen Puget Sound, part of a national organization founded in memory of Susan Koman, who lost a three-year battle with breast cancer at age 36. The foundation, known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is the largest fundraiser for breast cancer in the U.S. and its financial support is down by 25 per cent ($1 million), in part at least because of a Planned Parenthood controversy earlier this year.

To its credit, Holland America stands by beside its long-time partner, which has been the beneficiary of $3 million raised by the cruise line and its passengers.

For that, everybody connect to cancer — in other words everybody — should be grateful.

Norwegian Dawn
7 nights
February 3, 2013
Tampa (return): Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68

Amos Yakhoob, St. Jude and Carnival

You remember Amos Yakhoob, don’t you? The only and only Amos Alphonsus Muzyad Yakhoob? He had another name, which you may have gathered by now, and which we discovered last year when visiting Memphis.

Danny Thomas, of course. Father of Marlo, if you’re too young to remember.

Thomas was his older brother, Danny was his younger bro and if you thinks it’s strange that parents would have sons named Thomas, Danny and Amos Alphonsus Muzyad, join the club. But they did and the one who adopted his brother’s monickers for show business became one of the most popular entertainers of all time.

Better than that, he became the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. There’s a story here, but first the reason why it even comes up in a cruise blog. Carnival cruises are partway through the first year of a three-year fundraising campaign which the cruise line has pledged $3 million for St. Jude’s, a research facility that specializes in child cancer.

Passengers on all Carnival cruises have the chance to participate in themed fundraising activities at sea. Fun, games, cancer awareness and surprises, under the banner of “Care To Play.” The Carnival-St. Jude partnership began in 2009 with a $50,000 donation.

Now, the story.

We were in Memphis last November. On a city tour, we stopped at the Danny and Rose Marie Memorial Gardens, which included the library (right) which is somewhat under-stated, as these things go, and naturally it tell their story and the connection to St. Jude. We might have surmised they had lost a child to cancer, but they didn’t.

Instead, the young Lebanese entertainer from Michigan was at an early crossroads in his career, when he knelt in front of a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. With Marlo soon to be born, he wanted a sign — show business or not — and he promised to erect a shrine to St. Jude.

The sign came and, until the day he died in 1991, Danny Thomas never forgot — a few days before his death, he filmed a St. Jude commercial. And, frankly, cruise lines like Carnival are among the many business committed to seeing that he, too, will never be forgotten.

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