(2:30 p.m. EST) -- Tree planting and hiking with rescued dogs are just a couple of MSC Cruises' new shore excursions, which have been designed to both help protect and preserve the natural world, and also give local tour operators the opportunity to become internationally certified under the Global Sustainable Tourism Council certification program.
Collectively referred to as Protectours, the growing list of 25-plus excursions gives MSC cruisers the ability to make a positive contribution to the planet, while discovering destinations in new ways. Seventy percent of the tours involve activities with zero environmental impact, such as walking, cycling or kayaking, while others make a direct contribution to the environment through activities like tree planting or beach cleaning.
Tours -- which are up and running -- will be offered across multiple regions, with highlights including:
Animal Haven Rescued Dogs Forest Hike, Jamaica: During this half-day excursion, participants will hike with rescued dogs from Montego Bay Animals Haven, all of whom were rescued from the streets and have suffered from starvation, dehydration, injury or abuse.
Discover the Magical World of Bees, Greece: In Corfu, participants can immerse themselves in the world of bees, learning all about what the Royal Geographical Society has called "the most important living being on earth." Tour-goers will travel to Bioporos Farm, where they will be kitted out with full safety equipment to get up close with the farm's honey bees. A meal at the farm's fully organic restaurant is included, as are a sesame bar and 100 grams of local honey to take home.
Desert Conservation, UAE: During this six-hour tour in Abu Dhabi, cruisers will have the chance to "save" the desert, joining an expert guide as they drive deep into the desert to collect waste and restore the landscape. An authentic Arabian dinner at the Hala Oasis is included.
Iceland on Horseback With Tree Planting, Iceland: Cruisers looking to add a little horsepower to their land experience will want to join this tour from Reykjavik as they saddle up and trek out into the scenic Icelandic wilderness of lava fields and green hillsides. Following the ride, tour-goers will journey to Guomundarlundur Forest, where a forester will guide them in planting a tree.
The Protectours program is the latest in a series of eco-friendly initiatives from MSC Cruises. In January, the line became the first global cruise line to become carbon neutral across its marine operations.