October 13, 2016
(2 p.m. EDT) -- Starting in 2017, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will offer voluntourism pre-trips on one of its most exotic river cruise itineraries, India's Ganges River.
Through a partnership with the social impact tour company Me to We, the Uniworld trips will be held as four-day extensions before its 13-night itinerary on the Ganges River. The trip will take passengers from Delhi and fly them to Udapair, located in the rural Indian state of Rajasthan.
During the trip, participants will stay at Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp, upscale accommodations with a view of the Aravalli Mountains. They will spend time visiting local community projects, talk with women about their daily lives and take part in a sustainable project, such as laying bricks for a new classroom or helping dig a new water system.
The itinerary also includes cultural activities including learning a traditional craft such as block printing or tie dying. In addition, there will be some touring such as a trip to the Kumbhalgarth Fort, the world's second longest wall that dates back to the 15th century; it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Morning yoga will also be available.
The India voluntourism tours start January 8, 2017 and will be offered in conjunction with Ganges sailings through 2018; Uniworld does not run India river cruises between March and September. The cost is $2,375 for shared accommodation, $2,850 for singles and $2,075 for children 16 and under.
Very few river cruise lines that are familiar to Americans are sailing on the Ganges. Besides Uniworld, which began offering its India's Golden Triangle and Sacred Ganges tour in January 2016, Vantage sails there. On its voyages, Uniworld charters Ganges Voyager II, and on the land portion of the trip, cruisers stay at luxury hotels in the Oberoi chain.
While Me to We trips emphasize participants' comfort, co-founder Craig Kielburger noted that the projects the company gets involved with are long-term ones that have an impact on the community; a typical project lasts about five years. The areas that Me to We concentrates on are primary and secondary education; clean water; health care; food safety and economic empowerment of women.
The collaboration with Me to We stems from "the desire from a number of travelers looking to give back to the community in significant ways," said Brett Tollman, chief executive of The Travel Corporation, Uniworld's parent company. Uniworld will connect passengers who are interested in the trip with Me to We through their travel agent.
The partnership with Me to We extends throughout Uniworld's parent company, The Travel Corporation, which also owns Trafalgar, Contiki Holidays, Insight Vacations, Lion World Travel, African Travel Inc and Adventure World. There are three other Me to We trips available through the Travel Corporation, including 10 days in Kenya, a nine-day trip in India and nine days in Ecuador.
While the Ecuador trip includes some time spent on a lodge on the Napo River, Uniworld does not currently operate Amazon River cruises. That could change in the future, Tollman said: "We've been looking at it for some years, absolutely."
--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor