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Lessons All-round On Carnival Cruise

Even in this electronic age, books are valuable. Good books, that is. You read it, you pass it along, and somebody else reads it. The chain continues and with each passage of literature comes education…especially for kids, especially for kids who don’t have books.

Literacy is supported in many places. On Sunday, when the Carnival Valor returned to San Juan, it was lighter by 2,000 books. They’d been left behind in St. Croix by passengers, for the kids of the island.

This particular literacy project is the creation of an organization called Blue World Travel Agency. Every year, the agency promotes a one-week cruise called Festival At BoysandGirls-BVISea and passengers are asked to buy one book (at least) to donate to the designated “community service destination.”

This year, it was St. Croix. Every year, destinations are from the Caribbean, South Africa or Hawaii.

The Valor passengers booked by the agency bought more than 2,000 books. A group of children from the Boys and Girls Club of St. Croix accepted them on behalf of all the island’s kids. In each book the names, cities and states of each passenger was inscribed. That, too, was designed to educate the recipients.

School superintendent Gary Molloy explained it this way to Fiona Stokes, staff writer for the Virgin Island Daily News:

“This is certainly a great lesson in gratitude for our children to see that people that know nothing about them picked out these great books for them.”

Also a great lesson for the passengers, too, isn’t it?

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
4 nights
September 8, 2014
Miami (return): NassauCocoCayKey West
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $49

Hearts Off to Ruby Princess


In February, we were on the Crown Princess for Valentine's Day. There was a special ceremony in which passengers who were couples could renew their vows. We took a pass and opted instead for a romantic dinner on our balcony. After you've celebrated (?) as many Valentine's Days as we have, it's either redundant or unnecessary.

Or both.

That was one of the two "hearts" that can be associated with this day of love. Next February 14. Princess Cruises will celebrate the other which, in our opinion, is far more meaningful. That would the tangible heart, the one that beats in everyone's chest until it doesn't, and sometimes it stops much too soon.

On the Ruby Princess, the emphasis will be on a healthy heart rather than a loving one. This is to support the American Heart Association and is expected to raise a million dollars for heart health programs and educational research. An estimated $500,000 from a portion of cruise fares will be matched by Princess, and the cruise line will feature guest speakers, educational activities and programs about healthy living on the five-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

The cruise is the second in the Cruising for a Cause series Princess will launch in November on the Caribbean Princess, a cruise to support U.S. veterans. Why Princess chose June to announce it is because CPR awareness is being celebrated this month, not because it's American Heart Month.

That's in February, but you already knew that, didn't you?

For one reason or the other.

Carnival Splendor
8 nights
September 30, 2013
New York (return): Grand TurkHalf Moon CayNassau
Inside: $369
Cost per day: $46



Walk For A Wish a Good Start


Every time we go on a Royal Caribbean cruise, we make a point of participating in the ship's fund raiser for the Make A Wish Foundation. It just seems like the right thing to do and while clearly we are not alone, you have to wonder why more people don't do it.

Three days before the Explorer of the Seas returned to New York, it was "Walk For A Wish" Day on the top deck. Passengers pay $10, get a quality tee-shirt, follow the captain and senior officers on five tours of the deck and feel like they've made a small contribution to making somebody's life a little better. All monies raised go to the cause.

Now, don't get us wrong. The fact that Royal Caribbean raised over $6,000 on this cruise is admirable. The millions the cruise line must have raised — Royal Caribbean doesn't advertise this, it just quietly goes about fulfilling wishes — since this all started about four years ago has enabled untold numbers of kids suffering from disease to dream, if only for a day or two.

If you estimate 21 company ships each do 50 cruises a year, that's 1,000-plus cruises. At the Explorer's rate, that's $6 million a year. None of this could be confirmed by Royal, and maybe our math's a bit on the high side, but the first time we participated was three and a half years ago. So, we're talking millions.

Passengers line up to register for the walk. On this day, more than 500 passengers participated, either by walking or with their wallets, or both. Explorer of the Seas, when full, carries 3,800 passengers. The ship felt full, so let's say there were 3,700 passengers. 

That's 15%.

This is not a taxing walk. For most people, it's a 20-minute stroll in the sunshine. It's not a "run for a cause." We saw several people who have great difficulty putting one foot in front of the other make it through at least one lap. One man walked five laps with the help of a crutch, with the ship's hotel director, Dean Bailey, anonymously by his side. Another did it in a wheelchair.

Anybody can participate.

You know how quickly you can spend ten bucks on a cruise ship. One semi-exotic drink. Great service from a room steward. Two minutes at a slot machine.

Don't you think 15% is…just a good start?

Diamond Princess
7 nights
May 25, 2013
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord, Anchorage  
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85


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

Fund Raising 'Magic' for cruising, too

We watched a documentary on Magic Johnson the other night that was moving, not because he had been such a great basketball player but because of the impact he has had on raising money for — and acceptance of — people with the HIV virus.

The documentary was well done, but more importantly, it made us realize how far the world has come in treatment of the virus that, when Johnson was diagnosed with it, was a so-called curse of being gay. Society didn't come into the 21st century because of fund raising, but treatment did.

Fund raising is critical to many health issues, of course, but also to issues unrelated to physical well-being and fund raisers are grateful for dollars donated, big or small.

Sometimes, the dollars come from what cynics would consider the unlikeliest of sources – cruise lines and cruise passengers. A couple of them came to attention when we were still de-briefing from our Magic moment in front of the television…

In Florida, 300 volunteers built a playground in Rockledge, a city just south of Cocoa, Florida. They moved 135 cubic yards of mulch and mixed 280 bags (80 lb.) of cement for a playground that's part of a $3.5 million commitment. The money comes from the Disney Cruise Line and 150 of the volunteers were cruise-line employees.

At sea, on ships from four cruise lines (principally Holland America but also Carnival, Costa and Princess), walkathons to support breast cancer are regularly held. Passengers who participate donate between $10 and $18 for tee shirts, wristbands and pink lemonade at wrap-up parties, and for a chance to walk five kilometres around the ship while raising money for the cause. Since it all began in 2006, Holland America has raised $1.5 million.

As an aside, while Royal Caribbean isn't one of these lines, we were on Navigator of the Seas for a Make-A-Wish Foundation fund-raising walk, in support of that line's main charity.

And finally, the non-profit Cruise Lines International Association made another donation to Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a fund established 88 years ago to help Coast Guard family members who need aid. The donation was $5,000 and before you line that up against Holland America's $1.5 million, remember…it's the thought.

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
November 24, 2012
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess Cays, Curacao, Aruba
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $78

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