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Giving Back On A New Orleans Cruise

Travelers often want to give back on their vacation, but also need to relax and rejuvenate on their time away from work. For these vacationers, the best option is a getaway that offers sought-after amenities like comfy beds, air conditioning, and a wide variety of amenities along with opportunities to do good and help others. Cruises can be a perfect fit.

Ships often visit ports where people and communities need help, but it’s important to pick the right itinerary. The Carnival Sunshine’s Central America/Mexico itinerary is excellent. The ship departs from New Orleans, a perfect spot for pre- or post-cruise voluntourism. Ports of call on this itinerary include Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. In addition to voluntourism, these ports feature beautiful beaches, watersports, Mayan history, cultural interaction and adventure.

Make sure to choose a ship that offers lots of opportunities for entertainment, enjoyment and unwinding. Look for a ship that’s a destination in itself, providing a wide variety of dining options and amenities as well as meeting space for group activities if applicable. The 3000-passenger Carnival Sunshine provides everything anyone could want in a cruise vacation – and a lot more. This ship recently received a $155 million makeover that added all of Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0 venues plus some new ones as well. Fun-seekers will delight in the Carnival Sunshine’s large SportSquare sports area as well as its huge waterpark with 40 interactive features, two racing slides, and the longest Twister slide on any Carnival ship. The three-deck Serenity area provides a complimentary adults-only oasis for relaxation.

If you’re planning a voluncruise vacation, check out this self-guided cruise plan using the Carnival Sunshine’s Central America/Mexico itinerary. Make sure to plan ahead and research organizations you’re considering before deciding which ones you’d like to support. Contact each organization at least four weeks in advance to make arrangements for your visit, find out what types of volunteer efforts would be most helpful, and confirm their current needs.

Day 1: New Orleans

New Orleans is a perfect place to start a cruise that combines giving back with having fun. There are many local organizations in New Orleans that offer meaningful experiences for those who want to give back. Plan to arrive in New Orleans early to spend some time volunteering and exploring the city. Covenant House assists homeless and at-risk youth ages 16-21 in their youth shelter and crisis center program. They welcome both volunteers and in-kind donations, such as gently used clothing, household goods and other items. Check their Covenant House website for more details and delivery time information.

Day 2: At Sea

This Carnival Sunshine itinerary offers two days at sea before reaching ports of call. For volunteer groups, these days can be critical as they provide time for conducting meetings, doing projects, and compiling donations. Days at sea are also perfect for winding down and exploring the ship. Spend a leisurely day at sea doing work to prepare for your voluntourism visits and relaxing. The Carnival Sunshine offers lots of fun activities on sea days. Try out the ropes course at SportSquare, get soaked at WaterWorks, stop in at the RedFrog Pub, and grab a slice from Pizzeria del Capitano. This is also a great day to do arts and crafts in preparation for your port visits. Kids at schools and orphanages love to receive handmade cards and postcards from your home town. Check with school administrators and organizations in advance to see if they’d like you to make some festive decorations for classrooms, dining rooms and other areas. At night, enjoy specialties from the Far East at Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and catch a performance of a rockin’ Playlist Productions show. Ji Ji Asian Kitchen is easily one of the best value specialty restaurants at sea and their meals are delicious.

Day 3: At Sea

On your second day at sea, finish up your meetings, team building programs and voluntourism projects. Make sure you have everything together for your back-to-back voluntourism excursions in port. All donations should be able to be individually carried off in small duffle bags. See the Together for Good website (www.togetherforgood.org) for more information on customs and bringing donations ashore. When you’re not working, check out “Hasbro, The Game Show” in the Liquid Lounge, see sporting events at E.A. SPORTS Bar, indulge in a spa treatment, or soak up some sun in the three-deck-high Serenity adults only retreat. Nights are jam-packed with activities aboard the Carnival Sunshine. Maybe this is your night to try out the new Havana Bar, enjoy a family-style meal at Cucina del Capitano, or watch a movie under the stars at Carnival’s Seaside Theatre.

Day 4: 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 U.S. 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 the Roatan Children’s Fund in advance to arrange to arrange volunteer activities at a school, community organization, or the Children’s Home while you’re in Roatan. The Roatan Children’s Fund website provides detailed lists of items needed for the charities they support. The Greenfield Children’s Home in Sandy Bay (www.csiroatan.org) is another 501c3 organization that operates an orphanage for children in Roatan. Contact them in advance to arrange a visit. PIER, Partners in Education Roatan (www.pierroatan.org) is a local non-profit that supports impoverished schools and families on the island. Established by Roatan resident Peggy Stranges in 2002, Clinica Esperanza (www.clinicaesperanza.org) is part of a 501c3 organization called Bay Islands Community Healthcare Association. This clinic provides low-cost and free healthcare to needy residents. Clinica Esperanza’s website provides a detailed list of medicines and supplies needed as well as suggestions for procuring them as donations.

Day 5: Belize City, Belize

Hire a driver for your own tour that combines giving back with sightseeing. Numerous organizations 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. Donations can be easily dropped off here. Visits to these destinations can be combined with sightseeing stops at the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha or the Belize Zoo. Visit Together for Good's website for more information on giving back in Belize.

Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico

In Mexico, families must provide their own school supplies and uniforms in order for their children to attend school. The Cozumel Chrysalis Group (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 Paradise Beach Club’s beach chairs, umbrellas, hammocks, and the use of non-motorized water toys. Other drop-off points include Tony Rome’s Restaurant and the Hotel Aguilar. Make sure to check the Cozumel Chrysalis Group’s website for the most current needs list. School supplies and donation items can be purchased in Cozumel.

For those who would like to do more for children, 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 on the orphanage including a current wish list of what they need. Contact Ciudad de Angeles at least a month ahead to schedule a visit.

Day 7: At Sea

This last at sea day is perfect for unwinding after three days of giving back in ports of call. Choose from a wide variety of exciting activities or just lounge around enjoying the sun in Serenity’s soothing retreat or out by the pool. The Carnival Sunshine’s crew fills the day with programs, sporting events, fitness programs, and a bountiful selection of tasty food. Try a freshly made burrito at BlueIguana Cantina or one of Guy Fieri’s signature burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint. Both are complimentary for guests. At night, toast to the success of your voluntourism events at the Alchemy Bar and have a celebratory dinner in the main dining room or at Fahrenheit 555, Carnival Sunshine’s American steakhouse restaurant. Then, dance the hours away or enjoy a night of comedy courtesy of The Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez. There’s something for everyone aboard the Carnival Sunshine. The choices are all up to you.

Day 8: New Orleans, LA

Your vacation ends as the Carnival Sunshine returns to New Orleans. 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 Carnival Sunshine and the many ways you've helped others on your cruise.

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