Looking for a way to give back while you cruise? The Dominican Republic port of Amber Cove gives you a chance to do good while you vacation. Two cruise with purpose activities are now available to all visitors of Amber Cove. Travel Hack Traveling Mom Dia Adams checked them out so you’ll know what to expect.
Amber Cove Cruise with Purpose
Cruising can feel like an exercise in overindulgence. I’m certainly prone to overdo, well, everything while sailing from port to port. Fortunately the Carnival company has found a way for you to give back for a few hours between sundae bars and limbo contests. Amber Cove Cruise with Purpose activities let you spend your money and time in the community, not just the gift shop.
What to Expect at Amber Cove
Amber Cove is at the southern end of the Dominican Republic, and Carnival Cruise line opened up the sparkling port for the exclusive use of its cruise lines. Amber Cove is not your typical port. Yes, it’s got souvenir, jewelry, and liquor stores, but it’s also got an enormous pool area including a waterslide and – wait for it – a zipline. For $12 a day, my girl zipped her little heart out with her new friends.
Carnival is spacing out the ships’ port days well so the pool never felt crowded. If we got hungry we could either grab an affordable snack and $3 beer from the pool bar or walk 10 minutes back to the ship.
Of course, lots of activities are in and around Puerto Plata. We hired a private driver for $100 all day including tip, split between two families of three. It’s easier than it sounds- drivers are regulated by the strict Amber Cove security so prices are more fixed and quality more consistent than at other freewheeling ports.
The highlight, by a mile, was climbing up, then jumping and swimming down the 27 waterfalls national park. You can also do this as an organized activity but we really enjoyed having the smaller group and the freedom to go as we chose. After we made our way back to the van, we visited a local grocery to pack a lunch and pick up duty free rum at a steal. Our driver then took us to his favorite deserted beach- which lived up to the hype.
TravelingMom Tip: you have the choice of 7, 12, or 27 waterfalls. Twelve are actually easier than 7 as 7 has you climbing up the waterfall side, which is much more challenging. After our workout we stopped by the grocery for supplies then picnicked at the local (pristine) beach.
What to expect from Cruise with Purpose Activities
You can choose from two “cruise with purpose” activities now offered to passengers visiting Amber Cove. It’s a great way to contribute your time and talents while you vacation. The two programs offered are a visit to a cacao cooperative and a recycled paper crafts center. Both programs are run by a local charity whose representatives join you on the tour.
Voluntourism gets a bad rap, and in some cases rightly so. I worried about the cruise with purpose program before I went. I didn’t want them to turn poor people into feel-good props for guilty first world-ers. I’m happy to report that passengers also worked during our cruise with purpose activities. This was no guilt trip!
Hands on Chocolate Experience at Chocal
Chocal is a women’s cooperative in Altamira, about an hour in the Mountains from Amber Cove. Chocal cocoa beans are grown right on site and in the local area, giving farmers a marketplace. The cooperative employs 30, allowing people to stay in the area instead of having to go into the city for work.
When we arrived at Chocal we were handed a Dixie cup of hot cocoa. Right away we understood this is no normal chocolate factory tour! From picking the good cocoa nubs from the rejects to mixing the chocolate to packaging the bars, we worked alongside the Chocal employees. My daughter built relationships with the “abuelas” (grandmas) who praised her attempts at Spanish. The day was both interesting and fun for both of us.
Volunteer experience with Repapel
While Chocal was fun, Repapel was inspirational. Carnival purchased a house in the suburbs of Puerto Plata specifically so the women who founded the enterprise wouldn’t have to leave their neighborhoods to work. The women collect waste paper from local businesses, sort it, wash it, dry it, iron it, then use the resulting paper to make all sorts of crafts for sale to support the enterprise.
How do I remember the steps so clearly? Because the women had a Seven-Dwarfs style “Whistle while you work” chant: “Se lava, se seca, se plancha se plancha se plancha!” Of course we joined in.
How Can You Cruise with Purpose?
That part is easy. Carnival-owned lines (Holland America, Princess and Costa among them) are the only ones that sail to Amber Cove. I find good old Priceline to have the best rates most times on cruises. Once you select an itinerary that includes Amber Cove you can check the cruise line to make sure your sailing offers the Cruise with Purpose activities.
By making a commitment to one destination – Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic- Carnival and its passengers can make a tangible impact on the lives of the community. They’ve certainly put their money into the island between Amber Cove and the investments into the charities involved in cruise with purpose. If you’re looking for a way to show your kids the “real world” while still being very much on vacation, Cruise with Purpose activities might be just your speed.