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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Caring, sharing while on cruise shore excursions

   Out to Sea for Aug. 29/15
   By Jim and Barb Fox

   The well-publicized plans of sailing to Cuba on a new Carnival Corporation brand ship won’t be your usual fun-in-the-sun cruise.
   These and others are part of a growing trend of “social impact experiences” while at sea as a way of giving back to help out where the ships visit.
   Cruisers learn how to rescue a dolphin and aid marine life in Barcelona, Spain on Crystal Cruises. (Crystal Cruises)
   Others, surprisingly – along with Cuba and the Dominican Republic – Victoria, Halifax and St. John make the list with Crystal Cruises “You Care, We Care” program.
   Carnival Corporation has launched “fathom,” its new “purpose-travel” brand, to begin week-long sailings to Cuba next May, along with seven-day cruises starting a month earlier to the Dominican Republic.
   The company has been granted approval from the U.S. to operate direct U.S.-to-Cuba travel to provide a cultural exchange, said Roger Frizzell, Carnival’s chief communications officer.
   “We continue to have positive dialogue with Cuban officials and remain very optimistic that we will be granted approval as we continue to target May 2016 as our launch date,” he added.
   Carnival’s fathom would be the first U.S. cruise company to visit Cuba since the start in 1962 of a U.S. embargo barring Americans from visiting the Caribbean island nation.

   Even as the U.S. has recently relaxed rules, casual tourism to Cuba by Americans remains illegal under U.S. law but visits are allowed for cultural, academic, religious and exchanges called “purposeful travel.”
   The new venture begins next April when fathom will embark on weekly seven-day voyages to the Dominican Republic from Miami aboard the MV Adonia, a 710-passenger vessel redeployed from Carnival’s P&O Cruises in the United Kingdom.
   Carnival fathom’s MV Adonia plans to offer seven-day voyages to Cuba and the Dominican Republic from Miami. (Carnival Corporation)
   The first “impact destination” will be the northern region of the Dominican Republic, where Carnival’s new port of call, Amber Cove, will serve as home base.
   After the inaugural month, fathom intends to offer both the Dominican and Cuban itineraries on a regular basis.
   This will give travellers the opportunity to choose from two destinations and a range of activities from social impact in the Dominican Republic to educational and cultural exchanges in both countries.
   Arnold Donald, Carnival president and CEO, said there is a “strong demand from travellers who want to immerse themselves in Cuban culture.”
   Calling it an “historic opportunity,” Donald said this will enable more people to experience Cuban society.

  A cabin onboard the Adonia that Carnival plans to use to take cruisers to Cuba. (Carnival Corporation)
   Sailing, sailing
   Travellers can reserve their cabins now, with prices for the seven-day trip to the Dominican Republic starting at $1,540 U.S. a person.
   That includes an exterior cabin with a view, meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences, three on-shore activities and related supplies, taxes, fees and port expenses.
   The week-long sailings to Cuba start at $2,990 U.S. a person, excluding taxes, port and other government and related fees. It includes meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences and in-port activities.
   Launched last June as Carnival’s 10th global brand, fathom expects to attract 37,000 annual travellers who collectively could spend a total of more than 100,000 days a year either volunteering or immersing in educational and cultural exchanges in local communities.
   Additional information can be found at fathom.org; 1-855-9FATHOM

   Caring, sharing
   Luxury line Crystal Cruises has expanded its “philanthropic excursions” in the popular Voluntourism Adventure program.
   These are available around the world with the “You Care” element that offers cruisers an “opportunity to make a difference in the places we visit at a very local level.”
Volunteer efforts by cruise travellers in global communities such as Cuba and the Dominican Republic include planting cacao trees. (Carnival Corporation)
   The “We Care” portion represents Crystal’s investment in preserving world historical sites.
   It’s a way of “embracing the notion of combining meaningful and educational tourism with adventure travel” through hands-on volunteer efforts.
   Among the opportunities is in Victoria, B.C. where cruisers work alongside community members and volunteers at the Mustard Seed Food Bank.
  Others included helping out in Halifax at Feed Nova Scotia, a charitable organization serving some 150 food banks and meal programs, and Romero House in St. John, N.B., providing kitchen aid for a housing community that assists less-fortunate locals and resettling refugees.
   Excursions and sailing details can be found at crystalcruises.com; 1-888-799-4625


Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at outtosea50@hotmail.com
For more Out to Sea trip tips: http://outtoseatravel.blogspot.ca

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