5 Ways to Do Good While Cruising

There are opportunities to help local children on many cruises. - Photo by Thinkstock

Not every port city is glamorous; some cruise lines call on places that are run-down and impoverished but offer access to interesting sights. Passengers often reboard wondering, “How can I help?” 

Numerous cruise lines are answering this important question by offering guests the chance to give back to various charitable causes and communities in need both on and off the ship. We rounded up five ways to make a difference before, during, and after your cruise, on lines that are helping people around the world: 

1. Join a volunteer shore excursion.

More lines are offering humanitarian excursions as an option to volunteer in port is becoming increasingly popular. 

As part of its “You Care. We Care.” program, Crystal Cruises features a free Crystal Voluntourism Adventure on every itinerary. From working with homeless youth in Boston to planting trees in New Zealand, the line has options for all ages and levels of physical ability.

And it’s not the only one: Royal Caribbean passengers can travel to St. John to help maintain and preserve Virgin Islands National Park by cleaning up the beach, clearing the hiking trails, and assisting in reforestation efforts. All proceeds from the $50 tour go to St. John Virgin Islands National Park and Community Foundation.

Small-ship lines are getting in on the trend, too. Blount Small Ship Adventures has two sailings that stop along Rio Dulce at the Casa Guatemala orphanage. Guests can purchase items onboard for donation and spend time with the children they’ve directly aided.

2. Get involved onboard.

Many lines organize fun charitable events in addition to providing opportunities to make donations.

Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, raises money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with special bingo games, rides down a water slide, and delivery orders of fresh baked cookies. Holland America Line’s On Deck for a Cause™ program encourages guests to walk the planks in a noncompetitive 5K benefiting six different cancer organizations worldwide. In exchange for a $20 gift to the Holland America Line Foundation, participants receive a T-shirt, wristband, and invitation to a celebratory reception. 

At checkout, MSC passengers can help in the fight against child malnutrition by giving 1 euro ($ 1.50) to its Get On Board for Children initiative, in partnership with UNICEF. That small donation buys three meals of Plumpy’Nut® Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food that is sent to children around the world. 

3. Bring items from home.

While we know there is very limited suitcase space when packing for a cruise, you can check with your line about items it may accept from home. For instance, AmaWaterways collects school supplies and personal hygiene products for the Orphans and Disabled Arts Association Free Village English School in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Its Vietnam, Cambodia and the Riches of the Mekong itinerary makes a stop there, and guests are welcome to contribute to the cause.

Viking Cruises also sponsors three elementary schools along the Yangtze River and includes a visit to one of them as part of its China’s Cultural Delights and Jewels of China sailings. Cruisers can bring small toys or school supplies, as well as sit in on a class and observe students in action.

4. Spend money in port.

When in port, make a point of buying from locally owned shops, ideally ones with products that are made in the area. Not only do you get to take a more authentic piece of the destination home, but you’ll be supporting the community as well. Just have small bills — no larger than a $10 bill — on hand.

Likewise, if you dine at a restaurant while in town, take a tour with a local operator, or even receive help carrying your items on the beach, consider tipping generously to show your appreciation for the service. 

5. Make a postcruise contribution.

Should you feel compelled to help after returning from vacation, contact your cruise line. Most are prepared to suggest ways to assist, including sending you to their secure online donation pages.

AmaWaterways, for example, provides a link to Project Kids Art, an organization that distributes food and supplies to four schools in Siem Reap. Carnival’s site allows passengers to donate directly to St. Jude, by either becoming a Partner in Hope and giving monthly, or sending a one-time gift.

The Princess Cruises Community Foundation also collects online contributions for nonprofits committed to causes such as disaster relief, education, and community health specifically for areas its ships visit.


On Deck for a Cause is a trademark of Holland America Line – USA Inc.

Plumpy’Net is a registered trademark of Nutriset.

Join the discussion

What kind of volunteer shore excursion would you love to take part in?

1 Comment

Posted by Johngold

Would take part in visiting children's groups and shelters.Knowing this beforehand I would bring school supplies with me to give away.

Post a comment