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Cruising can be a great way to get a volunteer vacation since ships visit many ports where people need help right away. A number of cruise tours are good choices for cruising on a task, mainly those in the Western Caribbean and along Mexico's Pacific Coast. There are schools, orphanages, animal shelters, and other organizations that could use your aid in popular cruise ports.
The first step in planning a cruise volunteer vacation is to call your travel agent who can guide you on what is the best fit for your plans. Your travel agent can help you decide your ports and organizations based on what is available for your time frame.
Here is an one example of how you can volunteer in a preschool in Antigua:
* Assist teacher in all classrooms
* Sing and read books with the children
* Refurbish new donations
* General maintenance within the facility
Here are a few recommendations to consider:
* Make sure you can take the items off the ship on your own. A backpack, duffle bag or carriages generally works well.
* If you are planning to donate items, stop at the purser’s office on the ship and let them know. The purser’s office can then notify Customs in the port of call if needed. In most cases, the purser’s office is very helpful.
* Customs in each port may be different. Some ports will just let donations go while others may charge duty.
The Tips for Traveling Abroad section of the U.S. State Department website is a good source of information on Customs laws and rules for Mexico and the nations in the Caribbean and Central America. Customs laws are different for each country and knowing some of the nuances might be helpful. For example, in Mexico, customs laws dictate that a maximum of five toys can be brought into the country at one time.
Not into cruising but still would like to volunteer your time on an island? The all-inclusive chain Sandals and Beaches resort’s philanthropic arm ‘Sandals Foundation’ offers an alternative to cruising with voluntourism on a land vacation. They partner with Island Routes to offer an experience such as ‘Reading Road Trip’ to help boost literacy in a Caribbean school.
Interested in being rewarded by giving a few hours of yourself during your sea or land vacation?
Bliss Travel Service - a travel agency specializing in cruises, all-inclusive vacations, honeymoons, weddings, group travel
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Dominique Barba, CTIE, ECC, TAE