Tabernacle Choir joins forces with cruise company to support relief efforts for humanitarian crises

Because of a canceled tour, a cruise ship the choir would have used will now be available for bookings, with proceeds going to charities.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Tabernacle Choir performs a hymn during General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Sunday, April 3, 2022. They announced a partnership with Azamara, a cruise company, to raise relief efforts for humanitarian causes, on April 20, 2022.

In an unusual partnership between a company and a church organization, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has teamed with a luxury cruise line to sell bookings on trips in the Baltic Sea — with proceeds going to three humanitarian nonprofit groups.

The 360-member choir, an arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will collaborate with the cruise company Azamara, which would have provided the choir with housing, meals and transportation for their 2020 and 2021 tours, which were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael Leavitt, the president of the choir, said Wednesday that figuring out a time to reschedule the tour for 2022 was difficult. So, he said, “we began to ask ourselves, ‘Is there some way we could sell this mission that we have of being able to lift and inspire not just our audiences, but those in need?’”

Guests can book tickets for two cruises that will visit Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Germany on the Azamara Pursuit, the ship the choir had booked for its tour.

The entirety of the “posted sales price” (excluding fees and commission) from the two Baltic cruises will go to help victims of famine, conflict and disease, said Leavitt — adding that the charities will receive about 75% of the funds brought in by the bookings (with the rest going to fees).

Leavitt, the former Utah governor and one-time Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledged that getting into the cruise business is new to the choir.

“This is new because we’ve never confronted this situation before, where we had to cancel a tour of three years in a row because of the pandemic,” Leavitt said. “But, as is often the case, necessity has created innovation and we will use this unusual situation to take an asset that was created by our preparation to find ways of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and giving comfort to the oppressed.”

The three charities receiving the benefit of this plan are: The American Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee, and CARE.

Dana Tseng, a representative of CARE, said her group, dedicated to fighting global poverty and helping achieve women’s equality and social justice, has been responding to disasters since its founding after World War II.

“We are just seeing staggering rates refugees, obviously in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world, like never before. And hunger is unprecedented in communities,” Tseng said. “This is a crucial moment in time.”

IRC, which works in 40 countries and 20 U.S. cities to provide aid to people affected by natural disasters and other conflicts, has worked with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for about a decade now, said Liz Hensler, a representative of that organization.

Carol Cabezas, president of Azamara, said the company’s goal “is always to connect people to people, and people to cultures. … Partnering with the choir has taken this to a whole new level.”

Tickets can be purchases, for $999 per guest, plus taxes and fees, at www.azmara.com/charitycruises or at 855-292-6272.