Philanthropy On The High Seas

We’ve all seen examples of companies jumping on the cause bandwagon, but this may be the first boat. According to a recent article from The Wall Street Journal construction is underway on Utopia, a luxury cruise ship that is using more than onboard amenities and exotic ports-of-call to sell its multi-million dollar residences. More than just a luxury cruise, it’s being touted as a “‘platform’ for learning, cultural exchange and philanthropy,” complete with an on-board Philanthropy Concierge.

So what is the connection to philanthropy? The cruise liner’s Web site indicates residents have opportunities to host galas on board – with mention that fundraising solicitation of other residents is not allowed – a Philanthropy Concierge who will book a lunch or dinner with other philanthropists at destinations along the route or day trips to visit an orphanage. All of these “philanthropic” options are situated alongside amenities such as “shopping” and “indulgences.”

But there’s something about Utopia that has us feeling a bit sea sick. Philanthropy requires a contribution to organizations seeking solutions to social problems, yet the Utopia program appears to fall short. There is no clear connection between the on-board services offered and any tangible outcomes, or even tangible opportunities for that matter, which makes it feel more like a way to balance extravagance with altruism than a true commitment to social good.

What do you think? Is Utopia smart to promote philanthropic behavior on its luxury ship, or are they simply using the buzzword to appear committed to the greater good?


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