On World Cancer Day (in February), Holland America Line announced its On Deck for a Cause campaign, a fund-raiser for cancer research. Passengers on any of the line's 15 ships are invited to walk five kilometres around the decks and donate to the fund, which is shared with six international cancer organisations. In the past, HAL's passengers have raised $US1.9 billion worldwide for a US-based breast cancer foundation and this new campaign taps into a strong desire to "make a difference" - while enjoying yourself at the same time.
P&O Cruises has been involved with community schemes in the Pacific islands its ships have been visiting for 80 years, and this year is supporting Save the Children. Donating is as painless as having a $1 donation added to your on-board account and you can become more actively involved by buying a Born to Knit Kit and knitting a square for blankets for newborn babies on the islands. In Myanmar, Pandaw River Cruises' charity, which was established by passengers and employees of the cruise line, has done amazing work.
Over the past 10 years it has helped establish 12 schools, an orphanage, and seven clinics for poverty-stricken locals in regions the cruise line visits.
The Pandaw Charity is funded by donations from passengers and profits from the cruise line and is run by two local volunteers.
Charity auctions feature on several upmarket cruise lines' voyages. On the last night of Hapag-Lloyd's cruises, the captain auctions the chart of the sailing at a farewell party. Passengers have been known to pay thousands for the charts and proceeds go directly to selected charities - however, the cruise line's policy is not to boast about this.
You don't have to be especially well-heeled to cruise for a cause. As well as joining in shipboard fund-raisers and donating to your ship's chosen charity, there are lots of ways you can become a "voluntourist" on your next cruise. Many itineraries include shore excursions that involve hands-on involvement in everything from helping in animal rescue shelters to tree planting. Giving a little really does help - and alleviates that twinge of guilt for indulging in all the good things a cruise offers.
Package of the week
Escape pre-Christmas madness on a 15-night Dubai to Colombo cruise on MV Voyager, departing Dubai on December 2 and calling at various ports in Abu Dhabi, Oman and India. Cruiseco's 17-night package includes airfares from Australia, two nights' accommodation in Dubai, and a three-night Royal India and Agra tour extension. Prices start at $7614 a person, twin share. 1800 225 656, cruising.com.au.
News in brief
Joining the flood of new river ships next year will be Scenic Jade, Scenic Tours' ninth Space-Ship. Scenic is the only 100 per cent Australian-owned river cruise line in Europe - a big drawcard for Aussie travellers.
The colourful Norwegian Breakaway made its debut at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on May 8. It was named by no fewer than 12 godmothers, the New York City Rockettes, and is the biggest ship to be based in New York.
Windstar has named the first of the Seabourn "triplets" it bought earlier this year Star Pride. It will start sailing under its new name in Europe in 2014.
Shipshape: Diamond Princess
LAUNCHED 2004 PASSENGERS 2674 REGULAR HAUNTS Alaska, Asia, Australia BEST FOR Couples, families, older singles THE DETAILS A seven-night Alaska cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver departing on July 27, 2013, starts at $1264. Princess Cruises, 13 24 88, princess.com. Price shown for July 27, 2013.
Need to know
1 Diamond Princess is one of Princess Cruises' fleet of 11 big, resort-style ships. Two new Princess ships are in the works — Royal, to be christened on June 12, and Regal, launching in 2014.
2 Princess Cruises featured in the TV show The Love Boat and in 1998 it became the first cruise line to offer weddings at sea conducted by the captain. Passengers can get married in the ship's chapel.
3 There are five main dining rooms (International, Vivaldi, Savoy, Santa Fe and Pacific Moon) and two speciality restaurants where you pay a cover charge (Sabatini's and the Sterling Steakhouse). The Horizon Court buffet is open all day for snacks, and the poolside Trident Grill serves burgers and hot dogs.
4 Youth Centres and Teen Lounges cater for kids aged three to 17 — Princess Pelicans and Shockwaves programs are designed for the three- to 12-year-olds and Teen Lounges are for 13- to 17-year-olds.
5 More than 70 per cent of Diamond Princess' cabins are outside and 748 have balconies. When booking, check if your cabin is overlooked or has views obstructed by lifeboats.
Stop watch: Haines, Alaska
Need to know Alaska's cruise season runs from May to September. Haines is one of the smaller ports on the Inside Passage itinerary and only one large ship can dock at a time, so it is much less touristy than some of the other towns. Holland America Line and Princess Cruises call in there and if your cruise doesn't you can take a 35-minute ferry ride to Haines from Skagway.
Do not miss Haines is set on the Lynn Canal fiord and surrounded by incredibly photogenic glacier-covered mountains, lakes and rivers. Highlights include jet-boating tours of the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, kayaking, totem carving at the Alaska Indian Arts cultural centre, the eccentric hammer museum and filmmaker Steve Kroschel's wildlife centre.
We've booked a cruise from Hawaii to Sydney on Radiance of the Seas in September and I've just found out I'm pregnant, and will be about five months along by then. Should we cancel the cruise?
- L. Murray, Taree.
Congratulations! And you don't need to cancel. According to Royal Caribbean International, you can travel up to your 24th week of pregnancy, provided you're fit and healthy. You will have to send a "Fit to Travel" note from your doctor to the reservations team (fax 4322 0326) confirming your due date and that you're not having a high-risk pregnancy. You just have to avoid the same things you do at home — processed meats, soft cheese and cocktails.
Offer of the Week
Cruising Down Under This 10-night cruise on boutique luxury ship Paul Gauguin in Tahiti's Society and Marquesas Islands makes an unforgettable winter break. Departing Papeete on June 26, the half-price fare is from $4995 a person and includes soft and alcoholic drinks on the ship and water sports on the line's private island. (07) 3868 3948, cruisingdownunder.com.au.
MSC Cruises Party in Ibiza on a day-and-night stop on MSC Orchestra's seven-night cruise departing Genoa, Italy on September 6. It also visits Spain and France. From $809 a person, twin share. 1300 028 502, msccruises.com.au.
Avalon Waterways Save $300 a couple on any 2014 Nile, Yangtze, Mekong, Mississippi, Galapagos or Amazon cruise. On sale until September 30, or until sold out. 1300 230 234, avalonwaterways.com.au.
Discover the World Cruising is offering special Summer Solstice fares on selected Hurtigruten cruises, up to July 31. The six-day Kirkenes to Bergen voyage costs from $1376 a person. Must book by May 31. 1800 623 267, discovertheworldcruising.com.au.