By WALLACE IMMEN
As passengers of Crystal Serenity boarded buses for tours in Dubrovnik, a group of eight guests got into a van for a unique experience. They had volunteered to help for the day at a Croatian retirement village in a 600-year old estate that has such limited funding that there isn’t anyone to keep the flower garden maintained.
They were given gloves, rakes and hoes and spent a sunny afternoon working alongside the senior citizens tending roses and raking leaves. There were smiles all around and one of the guests who has done dozens of previous trips on Crystal commented it was one of the most satisfying days she had spent ashore at any port.
It’s only one of one of many complimentary voluntourism opportunities being offered by Crystal Cruises as part of a new and unique shore excursion program. “It started from comments we received from guests that they would like to offer their time to help in the communities that we visit,” said James Coughlan, shore excursion manager for Crystal Serenity.
This is not only an opportunity for the guests to experience what life is like and help in local communities but it is an opportunity for locals to benefit from our guests’ enthusiasm and expertise. They get to meet the people and assist with the most basic chores such as painting a school in Greece to helping children in Ghana with their school work, he said.
Crystal works with the local tour managers to find organizations that want help and can benefit from it. Volunteerism opportunities are now being offered on every Crystal sailing and guests who want to volunteer should sign up in advance. “With voluntarism you don’t want to have big groups, so we have mostly groups from eight to a maximum of 20,” and response has been phenomenal, with even crew members volunteering their time, he said. Crystal donates the vehicles and there is no charge to guests.
“There has never been a project that has not had a huge positive response and the joy we see from participants is contagious,” Coughlan said. “The guests who volunteer talk to their table mates at lunch or dinner and we’ve had many guests come to us and pat us on the back for putting something back into the community.”
See more about Crystal on AvidCruiser.com.