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Cruise Combines Social Media With Giving Back On Vacation

With the advent of the holidays, thoughts often turn to finding opportunities for doing good and giving back to those in need. Social media enthusiasts and cruise lovers with a heart, your ship has come in.

Together for Good, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting giving back as part of the travel experience, is holding a Tweet-Up for Good cruise on the Norwegian Spirit departing New Orleans on January 3, 2010. This event will utilize the power of social media such as Twitter and Facebook to highlight the many ways in which giving back can be combined with regular vacations, such as a Caribbean cruise.

According to a survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler and MSNBC, fourteen percent of Americans have taken a volunteer vacation, but fifty-five percent would like to do so. One of the reasons for this disparity may be the perceived need to choose between a relaxing vacation and an intense travel experience devoted solely to voluntourism. Together for Good helps to show travelers that it's possible to both de-stress and do good on the same vacation.

Together for Good was started by Nancy Schretter, Founder and Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network, in response to a growing interest in giving back on the part of her family travel audience. "Parents who were committed to traveling purposefully or could not afford separate volunteer vacations for their teens contacted us about opportunities for doing good as part of their normal family holidays," says Schretter. "I had been doing that with my family for years, so I knew it was possible to combine voluntourism with a fun family vacation experience. The challenge is often in finding meaningful community-based projects, so I launched Together for Good to identify those and help bridge that gap."

The Norwegian Spirit departs from New Orleans, Louisiana and visits Costa Maya, Mexico; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico. Participants will enjoy visiting beautiful ports of call, taking part in fun activities and assisting with local projects to benefit schools, orphanages, and community organizations. More information on the cruise can be found on the Together for Good website at www.togetherforgood.org.

Working in conjunction with local organizations, Together for Good will offer opportunities for community service and giving back in every port of call. Shore excursions are entirely optional, so cruisers can participate in as many or few of the activities as they choose. Activities include:

  • Decorating a two-room kindergarten and primary school in an impoverished area, bringing baby care items to a center for pregnant mothers and infants, and breaking ground on a new children's playground with community leaders in Costa Maya;
  • Traveling up the Rio Dulce to visit local communities and bringing much needed supplies to a school and orphanage in Guatemala;
  • Visiting a local school and volunteering at a community-based orphanage for up to 45 abandoned, abused or orphaned children near Belize City; and
  • Bringing school supplies to a community-run non-profit organization serving local low-income families and helping out at an orphanage for over 20 children in Cozumel.  

As part of its efforts, Together for Good will also provide in-kind items and assistance to Covenant House, a local non-profit organization in New Orleans focusing on children in need. In addition, Together for Good is educating participants on ways to protect the environment by partnering with Carbonfund.org to offer options for offsetting emissions on the January Caribbean cruise.

Nancy Schretter, Founder of Together for Good, is leading the Tweet-Up for Good cruise along with Shannon Lane, a Louisiana-based professional travel journalist and social media aficionado. Those who can't come along on the cruise can take a virtual vacation via Twitter from January 3-10 by following #NCLTweetUp4Good, @KidTravel and @Cajun_Mama for a live feed of all the giving back activities in port and fun at sea. Travelers can also design their own customized trip at a later date by visiting Together for Good's website at www.togetherforgood.org.

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