Small ship cruise industry leader Variety Cruises has raised the bar again by demonstrating a commitment to philanthropy that matches its innovative approach to seafaring adventures. Its collaboration with the renowned Explorers Club is set to transform education and community development in Lamin Koto, Gambia, combining tourism and altruism in a truly unique venture.
Driven by a mission to create “A Better World at Sea,” Variety Cruises is no stranger to making waves in the communities they touch. The family-owned Greek organization has a distinguished history of investing in the people and places they visit through its philanthropic arm, the Variety Cares Foundation. The organization’s goals are nothing if not ambitious: delivering Clean Seas for All, Gender Equality for All, and Education for All.
As part of this mission, Variety Cruises has long supported the Lamin Koto School in The Gambia. Launched in 2011 as a tribute to Variety Cruises’ innovative itineraries in West Africa, the community-run school was founded to make education more accessible to remote areas and enhance living conditions while respecting local traditions.
The late Lakis Venetopoulos, a second-generation owner of Variety Cruises, was instrumental in the school’s establishment. His legacy is maintained, and the school continues to thrive with ongoing support from the cruise company.
2019 saw the inauguration of a new school building, witnessed by Variety Cruises supporters Tony and Tiffany Reiner and Marco Maranghello. In 2020, a well was installed to provide clean water to Lamin Koto and the surrounding villages, followed by a partnership with the participatory platform Inside Out. The initiative utilized large-scale black-and-white portraits in public spaces to promote awareness, build community, and endorse education and clean water access in the area.
Fast forward to December 2023, and Variety Cruises is marking the grand return of its West Africa routes with a major collaboration with the prestigious Explorers Club. The partnership aims to expand and innovate the Lamin Koto School, potentially turning it into a model of education for the region.
Explorers Club president, Richard Garriott, expressed enthusiasm for the partnership, noting their shared goals of promoting scientific exploration and education.
As part of the school’s expansion, Variety Cares has breathed new life into an abandoned building in Lamin Koto, transforming it into a museum—The Rose Museum, named in honour of Triantafyllos Venetopoulos, the late second-generation leader of Variety Cruises. The museum will exhibit unique objects from the Explorers Club, including NASA spaceship parts, an Explorers Club flag that has journeyed to space, a piece of a comet, and various educational resources donated by Variety Cruise customers and other sources.
Constantine Venetopoulos, Brand Manager of Variety Cruises, commented on the significance of the museum’s creation, emphasizing its alignment with the company’s core values and aspirations for cultural exchange between their guests and the communities they visit.
The Rose Museum’s grand opening is scheduled for December 23, 2023, during the 7-day Rivers of West Africa Cruise, with attendees including Richard Garriott, President of the Explorers Club, and Filippos Venetopoulos, CEO of Variety Cruises. This venture is more than just a story of corporate responsibility. It’s a testament to how tourism and education can intertwine to foster cross-cultural understanding and sustainable community development.