Volunteering while on cruise vacations?


So you've worked hard to treat yourself to a vacation on a luxury cruise ship, and the cruise line offers you the opportunity to volunteer your time while in port to spend time on a charitable or philanthropic cause. Totally optional of course. You may have the option of distributing food, teaching kids, or working on an environmental project. Is this something you'd do?

Today's travelers are looking for authentic experiences.  And some cruise lines are taking that to the next level, offering hands-on activities that immerse guests in some aspect of a local culture and its customs. Some UK cruise lines are developing like programs, offering guests to engage in wildlife rescue centers and working at orphanages.

Welcome to a slowly developing new aspect to cruise vacations: mixing in a bit of voluntourism with luxury cruises.  In the U.S., the cruise line that's made the greatest inroads here is Crystal Cruises, one of our cruise agency's favorite luxury cruise lines. On select cruises, in select ports of call, Crystal offers their "You Care, We Care" shore excursions. Guests, at no cost, volunteer their time for a good cause.  From helping local schoolchildren in a third world country with homework, doing restoration work on a historical monument, or clearing weeds on a beach in Hawaii, there's a wide array of activities being offered. Crystal invests to arrange the excursions, covering the cost of transportation and such, while guests onboard donate their time.

Have you yet experienced one of these philanthropic shore excursion programs?  If so, what was your experience?  Do you think more cruise lines should offer these?