From helping to protect endangered Orangutans to funding a school in China, there are plenty of opportunities to carry out volunteering on a cruise writes Amy Watkins.
Holidays are meant to be relaxing, so who would want to be gardening, packing food or clearing rubbish on their cruise? Plenty of us, it turns out, as volunteering on a cruise, or ‘voluncruising’, becomes the latest trend and holidaymakers give something back to the communities that they visit, either by funding projects through donations, or getting stuck in to help.
“We’ve already seen incredibly positive ripple effects in peoples’ lives,” says Philip Ordever, Vice President International Sales for Crystal, which offers free hands-on volunteer excursions. “Feedback has been incredible, with stories of tears, hugs, pen pals and generosity above and beyond anything we could have hoped for.”
It makes sense for cruise lines to protect their destinations, and Hurtigruten takes part in an Arctic beach-clearing campaign. “We want to be ingratiated into the fabric of the community and in Svalbard the ‘Clean Up’ operation is one of the practical ways we can do this,” explains UK MD Kathryn Beadle. “Rubbish is transported by the Gulf Stream and accumulates there, so its removal is an ongoing job. Passengers relish the opportunity to do something practical and be more than just a visitor.”
Some cruise lines offer excursions to see how funding has helped, such as the primary school in Jingzhou that was built and is sponsored by Viking River Cruises, and P&O’s Green World Tours that help kindergartens in Croatia and a children’s home in Kuala Lumpur.
Wildlife has been a long-standing favourite for cruise line funding. Holland America Line’s ‘Cruise with Purpose’ programme covers everything from planting trees in koala habitats in Australia to becoming a ‘citizen scientist’ on Alaskan whale-watching expeditions and small ship expedition line Orion has established a relationship with renowned primatologist Dr Galdikas at the Camp Leakey Orangutan Sanctuary in Borneo.
1. Cruise Line: Orion Expedition Cruises
Project: Camp Leakey, Borneo
Orion is involved with renowned primatologist Dr Galdikas and Orangutan Foundation International helping improve the future for endangered orangutans. Orion have donated funds for a feeding station at Camp Leakey that will be accessed exclusively by Orion II guests and purchased an Orangutan Adoption Kit for each guest.
2. Cruise Line: Viking
Project: Jingzhou school
Viking River Cruises initiated a project to support one of the local primary schools in Guanyindang Town, a suburb of Jingzhou City. Renamed the Viking River Cruises School, passengers can visit on an exclusive excursion to meet the children and watch them perform traditional local song and dance.
3. Cruise Line: Hurtigruten
Project: ‘Clean Up Svalbard’
A collective effort available to visitors, managed by the Governor of Svalbard, is designed to help clean up the beaches and remove pollution and shipboard waste in this arctic archipelago. All guests are encouraged to take part in the programme on selected landings. And on some of the cruise line’s longer voyages, ship MS Fram is available to marine biologists, allowing them to use her as a base of operations for research.
4. Cruise Line: P&O
Project: Green World Tours
P&O offers various excursions on its incredible world voyages that help projects around the globe, including preparing school meals in Cape Town, visiting kindergartens in Croatia and funding a children’s home in Malaysia.
5. Cruise line: Crystal Cruises
Project: You Care We Care
Every Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony voyage offers one complimentary shore excursion. Projects range from helping to pack food for the Estonian Food Bank in Tallinn to gardening projects at Luigi Scotto Foundation care home for disabled people in Livorno.
6. Cruise Line: Holland
Project: Cruise with Purpose
HAL’s programme of special excursions cover everything from learning how to make silk thread with a Croatian family to visiting sustainable farms in Bali. Most popular is the ‘citizen scientist’ whale watching tour in Alaska in the Mendenhall Glacier National Recreation area, which can involve collecting water samples and recording whale behaviour.
Next cruise: All HAL’s seven-night Alaska cruises that visit Juneau feature this excursion and cruises run until mid-September. Cruises cost £650pp, cruise only, for a seven-night Glacier Discovery cruise. Call 0843 374 2300.