Cruise lines give back: Study to help protect coral reefs

Understanding how the world’s oceans are being affected by changes in climate is a global scientific priority. Now, in another example of how cruise lines give back, Royal Caribbean has joined with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and the Image Group to establish a unique reference site where the relationships between climate change and coral reef stress can be measured directly.

“The study is setting out to determine the exact effect of rising temperatures and sea levels have on the stress coral reefs experience and if it is beyond sustainability” reports the Royal Caribbean blog, an unofficial fan blog written for other fans of the Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line.

Royal Caribbean’s Ocean Fund was started in 1996 to support marine conservation organizations in conserving the world’s oceans. Ocean Fund grants are made annually to a variety of nonprofit groups and institutions conducting activities directly related to marine conservation.

“The hope is that the data collected will give scientists a better idea of the immediate effects of changes on the coral reefs as well as help reef managers understand these threats so that they can more effectively conserve coral reefs and their associated flora and fauna” says

Organizations seeking grant funding from the Ocean Fund are welcome to email the throughout the year to introduce their organization, mission, programs and potential projects relevant to the mission of the Ocean Fund.

Flickr photo by USFWS Pacific

Cruise lines give back

Cruise lines are often in the news for a variety of reasons these days, some good, some not so good. The not-so-good stories touch topics like a passenger or crew member lost at sea, attacks on their record as a friend (or foe) of the environment and more. Good news includes a focus on safety in an unsafe travel world, the great value a cruise vacation represents and every once in a while a story or two about cruise lines giving back through charitable efforts.

Just this month, Carnival Cruise Lines launched a “Build a Ship” contest that invites anyone 13 years or older to build a model Carnival ship out of everyday items and submit a photo of it to win a free Carnival cruise. The contest, which benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is the latest in a series of contests and other activities in anticipation of the May 1, 2011 launch of the line’s newest ship, Carnival Magic. Carnival will donate $1 to St. Jude, up to $10,000, for each entry.

Carnival has an ongoing program that helps this and a variety of charitable and arts-related organizations. The company and its employees support .

In the past five years alone, Carnival and its employees have contributed more than $30 million in financial contributions and in-kind donations to a variety of local and national charities. Following the example set forth by Carnival’s founder, the late Ted Arison, and continued by his son Micky, chairman and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines’ parent company, Carnival Corporation & plc, Carnival and its employees endeavor to make South Florida and its other homeport communities better places to live and work.

Other cruise lines give back as well.

Norwegian Cruise Line is known in the cruise industry as an innovator. Inventing what they call Freestyle Cruising, the line broke new ground offering their “guests” the ability to skip the formal wear and time restrictions for dining as it had been, years before many other lines loosened up the onboard experience. Answering the call from solo cruisers, the line added single accommodations on their new Norwegian Epic.

Norwegian recently announced a $5 million donation to the Camillus House, a shelter in Miami, Florida that has served the homeless for half a century. Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan told the Miami Herald of the line’s commitment saying “it’s critically important that as an organization, we have a charitable side to us.”

Camillus House is expanding and the donation from Norwegian Cruise Line could not have come at a better time. Expansion plans are in progress and the Norwegian donation helps the organization meet a goal to raise almost half of the $84 million tab for its new complex from private funds.

Cruise lines set competition aside for the greater good in what seems a natural fit

Camillus House has Bob Dickinson, former CEO of competitor Carnival Cruise Lines before retiring in 2007 as chairman of the board of directors. Norwegian’s Sheehan said the donation had been discussed over a few years between him and Dickinson.

Dr. Paul Ahr, president and CEO of Camillus House draws an accurate parallel between giving and cruise lines:

“On a ship, I am treated with tremendous hospitality, I can set aside my daily struggles or challenges,” he said. “When people come to stay with us at Camillus House, people who have been on the street a long time, they recognize our own sense of hospitality. We are here to serve them.”

Three different companies, one solid goal.

I don’t have numbers on what the cruise lines have given back in total but I bet it is a generous amount in not just money but time and resources as well.

Relief to Haiti is an ongoing effort at Royal Caribbean International. Highlighted by opening one of the first schools to be built after the earthquake in October 2010 and company blogs that helped keep the world informed, relief efforts started just three days after the earthquake.

The efforts continue too as company lets those with Royal Caribbean Visa cards help by donating their points to help in aide programs. Guests aboard sister-lines Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises can donate to Food for the Poor’s Haiti Relief Fund via their onboard charge accounts while sailing.

Cruise lines help raise funds while their guests are on vacation.

One of the biggest and most widespread programs cruise lines offer in giving back is through group cruises. By designating onboard perks and bonus amenities not as onboard credit or a bottle of wine but as a donation for their cause, charitable organizations have been raising funds through group cruises for years. That adds up fast too, even with small groups.

A recent fund-raising cruise hosted by the Temple Shalom in Florida paired over 150 senior ladies for a Temple Shalom Sisterhood Fun-raiser cruise on Royal Caribbean that raised over $6000 for the Villages Hospice and Temple Building Fund.

Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan put it well when he told the Miami Herald that although Norwegian Cruise Line is a privately held company, “it’s critically important that as an organization, we have a charitable side to us.”

It seems they all do.

In fact, Norwegian’s Sheehan, recently featured in an episode of CBS’s Undercover Boss television program, took it a step further, looking inside his organization and gave $100,000 to supplement the Crew Enrichment Program to ensure the entire crew across our fleet feels appreciated.

Like they say, “charity starts at home.”

Flickr photo by puuikibeach