Cruises, Languages and VolunTOURism – March 21, 2012


The Southern Caribbean cruise I took in December was very relaxing and a great opportunity to regain a cruiser’s perspective since I hadn’t cruised in years. One of the things I enjoy most about cruises is “people watching” and the global blend of languages and cultures among crew and passengers.

I checked out the ship’s facilities and staff for the kids’ program in hopes it might be an excellent future developmental experience for me to do with our three year old grandson who is growing up bi-lingual. (OK . . . I admit to this shameless justification for another cruise under the guise of his development). Not surprising, I found the kids’ crew are all bi-lingual and most speak 3-4 languages fluently.

Traveling outside the US reinforces how much more of a mono-lingual culture we are than our counterparts around the world. We expect people to speak English and the rest of the world involved in tourism obliges. Local people at all six of our Southern Caribbean ports of call easily switched back and forth between their native language, English and one or more European languages like this small business owner in the photo.

Many US visitors to other countries are limited to English. Typically it is not a problem for travelers who stay in tourist areas but it does impact the type of volunteer opportunities available to them.

The good news is we’re starting to see a change in the profile of travelers coming here to Cozumel. More frequent visiting volunteers are learning basic Spanish. There is an increase in Spanish speaking US/Canadian residents traveling to the island seeking volunTOURism activities. For example, these three cruise groups have or will serve the Cozumel community through their Spanish language capabilities:

Parc-Way Assembly of God (Indiana) cruise mission team of 30 teens and adults (see photos) led a youth festival for 100+ children and adults—Aug. 2011. A few of Parc-Way’s group are native Spanish speakers but everyone learned enough Spanish to interact with youth and lead activities.

Yahaira Morales (Florida) coordinated a Creative Tourism and Community Leadership Development cruise trip to Cozumel. Some participants served at Ciudad de Angeles, a group home for children. Yahaira and her family shared their musical talents with Vida Abundante church and led an inspirational workshop about transforming teams and organizations—Nov. 2011.

Southeastern Spanish District of the Assemblies of God Youth Ministries (Florida) will bring a cruise mission team of ~75 university students to Cozumel Sep. 2012 to serve with Vida Abundante’s pastor, Mariela Cruz Laynez, and members of her congregation.

Thanks to these and many, many other cruisers who visit Cozumel throughout the year bringing donations and sharing their time to benefit the community.~~Karen

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