The cruise industry is, more than ever, looking to give back and benefit those most in need, as Gary Peters discovers.
The London Marathon is always a spectacular occasion. People from all walks of life, coming together, pushing their bodies to the max, reaching lifelong aims, and all for the benefit of deserving charities.
This year, a group of travel professionals will take on the challenge in October, in a bid to raise money for the Family Holiday Charity, which gives underprivileged families the opportunity to go on holiday.
“In the industry, we know better than anyone how important holidays are to people,” says Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson, who is one of those who has signed up to complete the run.
“We see, day in, day out, the positive impact on wellbeing and relationships that a holiday can impart on families. It is a sad reality that not all families are able to look forward to a holiday each year.”
Dobson continues: “Supporting the Family Holiday Charity is a signal from the industry that we believe holidays should be available for everyone. We want to support those unable to book independently and help people enjoy the many benefits that a family holiday brings.”
Of course, Dobson will be able to reply on the support of some of her fellow travel professionals during what is sure to be a challenging day in October. One of these is A-Rosa River Cruises UK & Ireland MD Lucia Rowe, a keen runner, who says she feels it is “a duty” to future generations to give something back.
“We know how amazing it is to see different places and interact with cultures and people,” she adds. “It’s very important for families to widen their horizons.”
Helping Ukrainian refugees
While the group trains and prepares for the big day, there are many other initiatives ongoing to support those in need.
One that generated plenty of attention, and rightly so, was announced back in April, when Holland America Line revealed that its ship, Volendam, was to be used to accommodate approximately 1,500 Ukrainian refugees – displaced due to the ongoing conflict – as part of an agreement announced by the Netherlands and City of Rotterdam government officials.
The agreement was extended in May, meaning that the ship will continue to be used for this purpose until September. As part of the arrangement, HAL provides hot meals, private cabins, housekeeping services, laundry, use of public spaces, fitness facilities, internet access and other services on board.
HAL and Seabourn UK & Europe MD Lynn Narraway says: “We were in the unique position of being able to provide a ship to accommodate the immediate need for food and housing. It was very important for us to work with the City of Rotterdam and charter this ship.
“HAL was founded in Rotterdam around the mission of helping immigrants find a better life. We’re proud to be a small part of a similar mission for Ukrainians who have tragically been displaced.”
APT has also revealed that its Travelmarvel ship Capella is being used to provide temporary accommodation for up to 182 Ukrainian refugees in the Netherlands. The operator has given exclusive use of the ship to the Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht Municipality until 30 January 2023, to help support relief efforts.
The line’s head of sales and business development Brad Bennetts says: “It demonstrates a commitment and in times of need, it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.”
Other projects in the industry spread far and wide, including the MSC Foundation’s Super Coral Programme. This is focused on helping to regenerate the earth’s coral, of “which the United Nations estimates 1,600 varieties are facing extinction”, says the foundation’s executive director Daniela Picco.
The foundation is working with leading coral and marine experts, says Picco, to research, develop, test and refine methods to reverse the decline in coral reefs in the 64-square-mile marine environment around Ocean Cay – MSC Cruises’ private island in the Bahamas.
Global cruise projects
As a global industry, it’s no surprise that these cruise-led humanitarian projects are large in scope, and many consist of a sustainability angle. Last July, Hurtigruten Expeditions partnered with the #WeTwo Foundation, a charity set up to encourage younger generations to care about the environment, to take 10 underprivileged young people on an expedition to Antarctica.
In June this year, following a total of 700 nominations, the two organisations announced the chosen 10 – nominated by teachers, social workers, police officers, parents, and friends from across the UK, and selected for their plans for sustainability initiatives in their local communities – who will set off on their adventure in November, on MS Fridtjof Nansen.
The group will join Hurtigruten’s expedition team for a number of citizen science projects, including seabird distribution with the Antarctic site inventory, as well as tracking individual whales and leopard seals and studying phytoplankton to understand better how they respond to water temperature changes.
Hurtigruten head of UK sales Mark Walter expands on the idea, telling CTN: “It [the partnership] makes complete sense. We had conversations about what their [#WeTwo] plans were, and how can we help. It fits so well with our own environmental rules and sustainable direction.
“It’s about trying to encourage the younger generation to have first-hand experience and how they can have a wider global impact. These 10 have some incredible local initiatives – from beach cleans to recycling projects – but we want to raise that and say ‘look, what you’re doing locally has an impact on the bigger, wider picture.’”
APT also has the OneTomorrow initiative, the group’s not-for-profit charitable fund, which aims to make a positive and enduring impact on nature and the communities that the group visits.
“It’s not a short, sharp fad – we’ve been doing this for a long period and we committed to it,” says Bennetts. “For me, I think the difference is consistency. If you show commitment and consistency, that really drives long-term change.”
Cruise creating a legacy
A key reason why lines appear to be keen to bolster their humanitarian efforts comes down to influence – on people and communities. And, of course, the work mentioned here is not an exhaustive list of what the industry is doing.
When pressed on why the cruise sector should focus on such efforts, MSC’s Picco puts it succinctly: “There’s a straightforward answer to that and it doesn’t apply to the cruise industry alone. There’s one reason above all to implement a process for giving in your business: it’s the right thing to do.”
Perception is one thing, but action is the key. Dobson states that “giving back is an important characteristic of our industry… It represents who we are as people, and it is at the core of what working in travel is all about”.
Dobson also highlights another area in which the travel industry as a collective can give back – recruitment. She continues: “As well as continuing with meaningful charitable and community outreach programmes and events, I think one of the ways we can make a difference is ensuring that opportunities within our industry are open to everyone.”
This point plays into the “legacy” idea that A-Rosa’s Rowe highlights.
On the upcoming marathon and what it will it mean for those who benefit, she says: “You hear about personal stories and you can really see you’ve contributed to something tangible and real. It’s humbling, emotional, and a very rewarding thing to do.”
So, as the marathon training continues and other initiatives get underway, cruise seems set to continue its goal to be a force for good.
Illustration: Phil Couzens