Carnival launches cruises for tourists who want volunteer work

Thu Jun 4, 2015 6:40pm EDT
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MIAMI (Reuters) - Carnival Corp will tap into the volunteer tourism market with week-long trips beginning in 2016 that include up to three days of organized humanitarian work in the Dominican Republic, the company announced on Thursday.

Carnival forecasts its new “fathom” cruises will attract Americans eager for what it calls "social impact" vacations, also known as voluntourism, that offer hands-on help.

    “They’ve maybe written a lot of checks in the past and are tired of writing a check to do good. They want to do something more and yet they don’t really know where to begin,” said Tara Russell, president of the new cruise brand.

    Prices for the trips that depart biweekly from the Port of Miami start at $1,540 per person, including the cost of volunteer supplies, according to a company press release.

Rather than the casino gambling or Broadway-style shows popular on mega ships, passengers on the 710-passenger ship, Adonia, will be offered training and education in preparation for their volunteer work, the press release said.

    Carnival expects 40 percent of the passengers to be first-timers who could turn into repeat customers, the press release added.

Gawain Kripke, policy director for Oxfam America, a nonprofit relief organization based in Boston, questioned the benefit of the for-profit venture. He said short-term volunteers can be personally moved by the experience, but typically perform low value work.

“There is someone, a shareholder or management or an owner, who is literally making profit out of this humanitarian, altruistic motive on the part of everybody else involved. The optics aren’t that great,” Kripke said.

    Russell said the cruise line worked with Dominican social service agencies to design a program that enables participants to do productive work with little preparation and time on the ground.   Continued...