Updated January 14, 2020
Cacao, the chief ingredient in chocolate, is a major cash crop in the Dominican Republic. So it's not surprising that Carnival Corp., which has been investing more in voluntourism shore excursions, joined with Chocal, a chocolate co-op in the Caribbean, to help the business thrive and grow. Chocal has 20 employees -- mostly women -- and specializes in organic, boutique chocolate. Passengers sailing to Amber Cove in the DR with Carnival, Princess, Holland America, P&O or AIDA might have a chance to take a cruise excursion to work in this chocolate co-op.
What It Is
Passengers who choose to volunteer at Chocal will work alongside employees in the production of chocolate as well as at the nursery, planting seeds. You'll spend about four hours at Chocal.
Passengers will take a roughly 40-minute bus ride to Altamira, where the co-op and nursery are located. You'll be joined by bilingual tour guides, who will help with communication and fill you in on some of the history of the production.
The facility is small compared with U.S. companies but adequately equipped for a chocolate co-op the size of Chocal. You'll get a tour, which will include an overview of the equipment and what it does. (Don't worry: You won't lay a finger on any of the expensive and complicated machinery. Your role is 100 percent manual.)
In the factory, you'll sort good cacao beans from bad, separate nibs from inedible shells, glue labels onto foil-wrapped chocolate bars and pack bars into boxes. Guides will lead passengers on a tour of the nursery and explain the growing process. Here, passengers will prepare organic soil and plant cocoa seeds.
Worth a Try?
Yes. It's fun, and you will walk away feeling like you've made an impact because you helped increase production in the short time you were there. Plus, you've planted seeds that will grow into trees, which will help ensure future production as well.
Things to Note
This activity isn't particularly strenuous, so it's a good fit for people who want to make an impact but don't want a high activity level. (In fact, you'll be sitting most of the time.) Older children will have a blast.
Depending on which company you're cruising with, your excursion might include a snack. Bring cash -- U.S. or Dominican currency -- for picking up souvenirs, including the co-op's organic chocolate bars. Chocal is sold throughout the Dominican Republic but is not available in the United States.