Sure, cruise lines make billions of dollars, and despite what some press reports would have you think, they do nice things with some of it. Here is a rundown of some charitable good works that have recently come to my attention.

Making a difference

As one of South Florida’s largest employers, Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines understands the importance of giving back to the community. In the past five years, Carnival and its employees have contributed more than $27 million in financial assistance and in-kind donations to a variety of local and national charities. One of the biggest beneficiaries is Jackson Memorial Hospital, which provides life-saving medical treatment to South Floridians, particularly children. Most recently, Carnival pledged $2.5 million to renovate the pediatric intensive care unit and the medical unit at the hospital.

This year alone, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has donated cruises to more than 130 different charities. Some of those cruises are one-night fund-raisers, with the cruise line donating all proceeds to one or more designated charities. NCL’s most recent event was a one-night cruise on Dec. 15 aboard the brand-new Norwegian Pearl to benefit Rosie O’Donnell’s For All Kids Foundation.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises, through its parent company Carlson, is one of the founders of the World Childhood Foundation. The foundation serves the world’s most vulnerable children, particularly children victimized by sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking for sex. The foundation has set international guidelines for travel and tourism companies, urging them to adopt business practices that will end the sex trade in children. It is estimated that up to 2 million children annually are exploited for sex, and the foundation provides financial resources to help many of them.

What’s old is new

Thanks to a couple of cruise lines, hundreds of people around the world are sleeping better. When Windstar instituted its “Degrees of Difference” initiative to spruce up its three ships, they knew just what to do with their old mattresses and linens: donate them to charity. Last January, when its flagship, Wind Star, docked in Costa Rica, it offloaded 148 mattresses and matching linens to donate to two local orphanages and a home for seniors. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Caribbean, another ship, Wind Surf, donated its mattresses and linens to charities in Barbados. In an odd twist, halfway around the world in Greece, the Wind Sprit discovered that something was amiss with its new linens; they had been made to the wrong specifications. Rather than sending them back to the manufacturer, the ship’s crew decided to donate them to worthy causes. Now kids at the Orphanage of Rhodes for Girls and the St. Andrews Institute for Chronic Handicapped Children are sleeping like royalty on 300-thread-count sheets.

Windstar isn’t the only cruise line donating mattresses. Recently, Regent Seven Seas Cruises donated 1,000 mattresses to a local church in South Florida following the refurbishments of Seven Seas Navigator and Seven Seas Mariner. The cruise line is currently looking to donate another 600 mattresses to other organizations that can make use of them. In another turnaround of goods and supplies, Norwegian Cruise Line recently donated excess paint from Norwegian Majesty (based in Charleston, S.C.) to Habitat for Humanity in South Carolina.

Seals of approval

While most donations and contributions go toward human causes, some go to our animal friends. Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises Ocean Fund awarded $100,000 to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in support of its Smart Gear initiative, which aims to reduce the “bycatch” of endangered marine species. Fisheries bycatch is the leading threat to many endangered marine mammals, cetaceans, sharks, sea turtles, sea birds and nontarget fish species around the world. The initiative encourages the development of innovative, practical and cost-effective fishing technologies.

In August, Holland America Line made all the wishes of the Alaska Raptor Center come true when the company donated $12,000 to purchase every item on the center’s medical wish list, including sutures, pins, medical equipment and upgrades to the medical center. The Sitka-based center has been in operation since 1980 and specializes in rehabilitating injured birds of prey. Its goal is to release the birds back into the wild when they are healthy enough to survive on their own. Birds that are too injured to survive in the wild remain at the facility or are donated to zoos.

‘Tis the season of giving and ‘tis nice to know that cruise lines care about worthy charities.

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