Interested in taking a volunteer vacation? Cruising can be a perfect option for charitable travelers. Rather than staying in one spot, a cruise vacation allows volunteers to spread their generosity and give back to several organizations in multiple destinations over the course of their trip. It's just important to pick the right itinerary.
The Carnival Glory's Western Caribbean itinerary is one of my favorites for a do-it-yourself voluncruise vacation. From mid-November through early May, the ship departs from Miami on 7-night round-trip sailings to some of the most exciting destinations in the Caribbean. Ports of call include Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Roatan, Honduras; and Grand Cayman. This is a great itinerary for vacationers who enjoy beautiful beaches, watersports, Mayan history, cultural interaction and adventure.
This is also an excellent itinerary for those interested in giving back on their vacation. It's generally easy to arrange service-oriented excursions in most of these ports. Here are some top options:
Day 1: Miami, Florida
Board the Carnival Glory for seven nights of fun. In early November of this year, the Carnival Glory goes into dry dock and comes out with loads of Carnival's popular Fun Ship 2.0 additions including:
RedFrog Rum Bar
Blue Iguana Tequila Bar
Guy's Burger Joint
Blue Iguana Cantina
Punchliners Comedy Club & Brunch presented by George Lopez
Hasbro, The Game Show
DJ IRIE-trained Spin Masters
That's in addition to specialty dining at the Steakhouse, awesome kids' and teens' programs, the Serenity Adult Retreat, an expansive fitness center with ocean views, and much more. Take some time on your first day aboard the ship to explore these new venues and all that the Carnival Glory has to offer.
Day 2: At Sea
The Carnival Glory offers lots of fun activities on sea days. Relax in the sun, take a dip in the pool, get a spa treatment, hit the gym, and see a Playlist Productions show in the evening. This is also a great day to do arts and crafts in preparation for your port visits. Children at schools and orphanages love to receive handmade cards and postcards from your home town. In addition, check with school administrators and organizations in advance to see if they’d like you to make festive decorations for classrooms, dining rooms and other areas.
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
Giving back is easy in Cozumel. Families here must provide their own school supplies and uniforms in order for their children to attend school. The Cozumel Chrysalis Group (http://www.cozumelchrysalisgroup.org) assists hundreds of low income families whose children would not be able to attend school without assistance. Paradise Beach Club (www.paradisebeach.com) serves as a drop-off facility for the Cozumel Chrysalis Group, so cruisers can have fun in the sun and do good at the same time. Drop off donations of school supplies such as backpacks, pens, pencils, scissors, and other items and then enjoy the Paradise Beach Club’s beach facilities. Other drop-off points include Tony Rome’s Restaurant and the Hotel Aguilar.
For those who would like to do more, the Ciudad de Angeles orphanage in Cozumel provides a family-oriented living environment for children who have been abused, abandoned or orphaned. The organization’s website (www.ciudaddeangeles.org) provides more information including a wish list of what they need. Contact the orphanage at least three weeks in advance to see if you can arrange a convenient time to visit. Check customs restrictions and consider purchasing some of your donations on the island.
Day 4: Belize City, Belize
Hire a driver for your own tour that combines giving back with sightseeing. Numerous orphanages and schools in the Belize City area welcome cruise passengers interested in community service opportunities. The Liberty Foundation (www.libertyfoundation.org.uk) provides a home for abandoned, abused and neglected children at the Liberty Children's Home. In addition, the Liberty Education Program provides schooling for these children as well as other preschool aged children in the surrounding communities. Closer to the cruise ship dock, The Dorothy Menzies Child Care Centre is a residential childcare facility and orphanage that houses neglected, abused and dependent children. These activities can be combined with sightseeing to places like the Belize Zoo, Altun Ha, and the Community Baboon Sanctuary. For more suggestions, visit Together for Good's website (www.togetherforgood.org).
Day 5: Roatan, Honduras
Roatan is a wonderful port for combining watersports and relaxing at lovely West Bay Beach with giving back to those in need. The Roatan Children’s Fund (www.roatanchildrensfund.com) is a US based 501c3 non-profit organization that supports the Majken Broby Children's Home in Gravel Bay, a number of Roatan elementary schools and other learning-oriented community activities. Contact them in advance to arrange to visit a school or the Children’s Home while you’re in Roatan. The Greenfield Children’s Home in Sandy Bay (www.sandybaylighthouseministries.org) is another US 501c3 organization that operates an orphanage for children in Roatan. Contact them in advance, as they generally welcome visits from cruise ship passengers who would like to give back. PIER, Partners in Education Roatan (www.pierroatan.org) is a local non-profit that supports impoverished schools and families on the island.
Day 6: Grand Cayman
Daily giving back excursions can be physically and emotionally taxing, so many voluncruisers like to take a break in at least one port and enjoy a full day of relaxation. Grand Cayman is a good spot for doing just that. Stroll down the white sands of Seven Mile Beach, swim with the stingrays at Stingray City, go snorkeling or scuba diving, take a beach break at Rum Point Beach Club, visit the Cayman Turtle Farm, journey under the sea to see the Cayman Wall on the Atlantis Submarine, or go shopping in downtown George Town. How you spend your day is up to you.
For those who wish to volunteer in every port of call, check with the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (http://www.blueiguana.ky) or the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park (http://www.botanic-park.ky) in advance to see if any opportunities are available during your port visit.
Day 7: At Sea
Check out the ship's daily bulletin and choose from a wide variety of exciting activities - or just lounge around enjoying the sun by the pool. The Carnival Glory fills the day with cool events, shows, entertaining activities, and a bountiful selection of tasty food. Try your luck at Hasbro, The Game Show, sample one of Guy Fieri's famous burgers at Guy's Burger Joint, watch a sporting event at the EA Sports Bar, and enjoy the sounds of DJ IRIE's spin masters. This is also a great day to give back at sea by participating in Carnival's Groove for St. Jude and letting kids enjoy the ship's Beary Cuddly Workshop - all of which benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®.
Day 8: Miami, Florida
Your volunteer vacation ends this morning as the Carnival Glory returns to Miami. If you can, take some time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city before heading to the airport on your way home. You'll leave with fond memories of the many ways you've helped others on your cruise.
If You Go:
* For more information on the Carnival Glory, visit the Carnival Cruise Lines website at www.carnival.com or contact your favorite travel agent.
* For additional suggestions on giving back on your next cruise vacation, visit Together for Good's website at www.togetherforgood.org.