Traveller – Voluntourism: The cruises where passengers can volunteer to help local projects

Sally Macmillan

November 11, 2016

In April this year, Carnival Corporation launched Fathom, a one-ship line whose passengers travel to the Dominican Republic and Cuba to give practical, hands-on assistance to local projects. Many cruise lines support charitable causes but Fathom is the first one to offer cruises specifically dedicated to “making a difference”. And Fathom cruisers have done just that – giving 17,500 hours of English lessons, planting 16,000 trees in a reforestation project, pouring 40 concrete floors in family homes and installing 730 water filters to help prevent waterborne disease.

If you’d like to get involved with a cause on your next cruise, several cruise lines operate volunteering shore excursions. Check out Crystal Cruises’ You Care, We Care program, Holland America Line’s Cruise With Purpose shore excursions in Alaska or Royal Caribbean’s clean-up tours on the Caribbean island of St John that help maintain and preserve the Virgin Islands National Park.

River cruise company Uniworld recently announced that next year it is offering voluntourism pre-cruise trips on its Ganges River itineraries in India. Uniworld, and all its sister travel brands under the Travel Corporation umbrella, have partnered with ME to WE, a company that specialises in sustainable development projects all over the world.

You can book the four-day Me to We trip in conjunction with the 13-night Golden Triangle and the Sacred Ganges cruise, which runs from January to March and September to December. You spend four days in the beautiful mountains of Rajasthan, staying in luxury tents or private cottages in the Aravali resort – doing good works doesn’t have to mean doing it tough – while taking part in community projects. These include helping women collect water for their families, learning to make chapatti bread or helping build a classroom for future generations. There’s also the opportunity to learn traditional crafts, join morning yoga classes and visit the 15th-century Kumbhalgarth Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“What makes ME to WE Trips unique is that travellers have the opportunity to contribute to sustainable development work, which has a 20-year history impact,” said Craig Kielburger, co-founder of WE. “The work of the WE Villages development program has been able to build more than 1000 schools and school rooms in our partner communities, giving 200,000 children the opportunity to gain an education, has provided more than 1 million people with access to clean water, and our immersive volunteer trips have been a huge part of making that happen.”