When the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square finally canceled its long-anticipated European tour because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was left with a huge bill for the cruise ship reserved as transportation, housing and meals for the choir’s travel between concert venues.

Where most would see a financial setback, new choir President Mike Leavitt saw an opportunity.

The Tabernacle Choir announced Wednesday that Azamara cruises will resell the choir’s berths on the cruise ship, creating two unique Nordic cruises, and that 100% of the net proceeds from the new bookings will go to charity.

Pricing for the charitable sailings start at $999 per guest, plus taxes and fees. There are about 700 berths available on each cruise, Azamara President Carol Cabezas said.

“We asked, ‘Is there a way we could feed the hungry, clothe the naked and comfort the oppressed in an alternative way?’” President Leavitt said. “Together, we began to imagine a way that we could use this asset that was available and look for people who might be interested in taking a break in the summer while making the world a better place.”

The effort could raise more than $1 million to help people around the world, Cabezas said.

“We are pleased to use this opportunity to honor the sacred directive to love our neighbors,” President Leavitt said. “We are enormously grateful to be able to assist CARE, the International Rescue Committee and the American Red Cross in bringing much-needed aid to those suffering worldwide and express our sincere thanks to Azamara for working with us to create this charitable cruise opportunity.”

People interested in the charitable cruises have three options:

  • The first is a seven-night cruise that begins June 17 in Stockholm, Sweden, with stops in Finland, Poland and Germany.
  • The second is a five-night sail that departs from Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 24 with stops in Bergen, Stavanger, Arendal and Oslo, Norway.
  • Those two cruises can be booked back to back to create a 12-day sailing. Bookings will be available at www.azamara.com/charitycruises.

President Leavitt became the choir’s president in August. He announced four new objectives for the choir in February:

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  • Reach more countries on future international tours.
  • Dramatically expand the choir’s digital audience.
  • Diversify its membership.
  • Play a larger role in the missionary efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“This rises above the four new objectives,” President Leavitt said of the charitable cruises. “Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ know that this is the second great commandment and something that’s an objective for all Christians.”

Cabezas called the charity cruise “an extraordinary solution” to the choir’s forced cancellation.

“Our team is so excited and energized to be able to do this good,” she said.

The cruise ship, the Azamara Pursuit, docked in June 2020 after its final cruise before the pandemic finally was allowed into a port. It returned to sea three weeks ago, Cabezas said.

“This is a moment when the world needs to come together to meet incredible challenges, so we’re particularly thrilled to be involved in a partnership like this,” said Dana Tseng, senior director of development at CARE.

CARE is an international humanitarian organization that, for example, is delivering assistance through local partners on the ground in Ukraine, Tseng said.

“It’s really exciting for us to see what the choir and other groups are doing to meet the moment,” she said.

The International Rescue Committee also is providing assistance for Ukrainian refugees. It helps refugees rebuild their lives in more than 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities.

Millions of people across northern Europe are refugees of famine, disease or war, President Leavitt said.

“IRC helps people integrate across dozens of cities across Europe,” said Liz Hensler, the IRC’s Foundations & Trusts officer.

“This collaboration with the Tabernacle Choir and Azamara will allow us to continue to deliver some of that comprehensive help to people affected by humanitarian crises around the world. It will help us provide food, medical care and emergency support services to families whose lives were shattered by conflict in countries like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.”

Hensler said the choir’s offer “seemed like such a blessed opportunity.”

Choir members will not join the cruise because they have other obligations.

The American Red Cross provides international humanitarian aid and support to communities in crises around the world through disaster relief, lifesaving blood donations, and health and safety education. It supplies about 40% of the United States’ blood.

The net proceeds of the cruises that will be donated to charity exclude the taxes, travel agent commissions and port fees.