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Giving Back On A New Orleans Cruise
Cruising can be a perfect volunteer vacation because ships often visit ports where people urgently need help. Here’s a do-it-yourself cruise-based volunteer vacation itinerary for those who are interested in giving back on their next vacation.
The Norwegian Star’s Western Caribbean itinerary is one of my favorites. The ship departs from New Orleans, a great place for pre- or post-cruise voluntourism. Ports of call include Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. This is a wonderful itinerary for vacationers who enjoy beautiful beaches, watersports, Mayan history, cultural interaction and adventure.
This is also a superb itinerary for those interested in community service and giving back on vacation. New Orleans and each of the ports of call have a number of excellent opportunities to consider. Here are some top options:
Day 1: New Orleans
There are many local organizations in New Orleans that offer meaningful experiences for those who want to give back. With its strong commitment to voluntourism, the New Orleans Marriott is an excellent choice for a pre- or post-cruise stay. The hotel offers Voluntour Gumbo, an innovative partnership with non-profit agencies. This program matches groups of voluntourists with service opportunities in the New Orleans area and customizes itineraries to create a personalized experience. Special rates and services are available through this program. Visit the hotel's website at www.neworleansmarriott.com or the Voluntour Gumbo site at www.voluntourgumbo.org for more details. Covenant House assists homeless and at-risk children and youth in their 70-bed Crisis Center and two transitional living residences. They welcome both volunteers and in-kind donations - check their website for more details.
Day 2: At Sea
Spend a leisurely day at sea. The Norwegian Star offers lots of fun activities on sea days. Relax in the sun, take a dip in the pool, get a spa treatment, play bridge or bingo, see a show, or hit the gym. 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. In addition, 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.
Day 3: Costa Maya, Mexico
The port of Costa Maya is home to ancient Mayan ruins, beautiful beaches, exciting underwater and land adventures, and a host of other activities. If you’re interested in volunteering in Costa Maya, contact the Uai Nat Ze Foundation (www.uainatze.org) for help and ideas. School supplies and backpacks are needed for kindergartens in Mahahual and Cancun. In addition, beach clean-up opportunities may be available in this area.
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. 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 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. For more suggestions about giving back on the island of Roatan, visit Together for Good's website.
Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico
Giving back is easy in Cozumel. In Mexico, families 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 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.
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 wish list of what they need.
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 Norwegian Star’s crew fills the day with contests, sporting events, fitness programs, shopping opportunities, and a bountiful selection of tasty food.
Day 8: New Orleans, LA
Your volunteer vacation ends as the Norwegian Star 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 many ways you've helped others on your cruise.
If You Go:
* For more information on the Norwegian Star, visit the Norwegian Cruise Line website at www.ncl.com or contact your favorite travel agent.
* For more suggestions on giving back on your next cruise vacation, visit Together for Good's website at www.togetherforgood.org.
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