When Carnival Corporation invited me to New York to attend their press conference last week, I figured it had to be for something good. And they didn’t disappoint! Carnival announced that they are launching their 10th brand, called Fathom. Carnival and Fathom are going after a new market and if it’s successful, they will pioneer a whole new travel category for big brands: Social Impact Travel. For the start-up of the new operation, Carnival Corporation will redeploy the MV Adonia ship from their P&O Cruises, a UK brand. MV Adonia will be coming out of dry dock for the launch in April 2016 and you won’t find a casino or any Broadway-type shows on this 710-passenger vessel. Instead, the ship will focus on providing a comfortable environment for passengers who want to spend their vacation doing good instead of just laying on a beach.
Fathom is being billed as defining a new travel category called Social Impact Travel. It will “offer consumers authentic, meaningful impact travel experiences to work alongside locals as they tackle community needs. What sets fathom apart is the long-term, systematic partnership approach with its partner countries paired with the unique business model that allows for sustained impact and lasting development.”
So what exactly does this mean? The over-arching idea is to make Social Impact Travel opportunities accessible to travelers who want to make a difference in communities that need help, but aren’t sure how to go about it. Plus, it’s a great way to attract a whole new type of traveler to cruising. According to Cruise Lines International Association, 62% of cruisers are repeat cruisers and the average age is 49. Fathom will help to attract the socially conscious traveler who has perhaps never cruised before, namely millennials (birth years ranging from the late 1980s through the 2000s) looking to make a difference, parents who want to expose their children to meaningful travel experiences and people over the age of 50 who want to contribute to the world beyond just making financial donations.
This is the part I like best. It’s not just about pulling out your check book. Fathom encourages people to get their hands dirty, to meet and interact with locals and to do on-the-ground work, which can be rewarding and life-changing.
“We created Fathom to meet the real hunger in the world for purpose, while at the same time tackling profound social issues through a sustainable business model,” says Tara Russell, President of Fathom and Global Impact Lead for Carnival Corporation. (Tara is also a social entrepreneur and is the founder of Create Common Good. “We harness the assets and resources of the world’s largest travel and leisure company and combine them with the talents and hearts of those working in social enterprises around the world,” she says.
This innovative concept makes a lot of sense. With hundreds of passengers traveling to destinations in need all the time, why not make a difference while you’re there? Voluntourism has been a growing trend in recent years and with the launch of Fathom, Carnival is taking this concept large-scale with the potential for making a really significant, long-lasting and sustainable impact in destinations around the world.
The first sailing is scheduled for April 2016 and the ship will depart from Miami bi-weekly on Sundays and arrive to the Dominican Republic on Tuesdays. Passengers will have three days in the Dominican Republic to participate in volunteer activities before sailing back to Miami.
MV Adonia will dock at Amber Cove, which is a new port being developed by Carnival Corporation and is scheduled to open later this year. It’s in the northern Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic and is one of the reasons why Fathom chose this region. But mainly because of the area’s innate beauty, genuine needs, infrastructure to support social initiatives and enthusiasm for the Fathom concept.
Fathom’s voluntourism passengers will, among other things, help with farming and bringing clean water to two million islanders living in poverty in Dominican Republic. Depending on their passions, interests and skills, travelers will also have the opportunity to choose from a range of social impact activities and experiences both onboard the ship and onshore; activities such as teaching English in schools, helping to cultivate cacao plants and building water filtration systems out of clay.
Passengers will be able to craft their own schedules so each day of the cruise will be designed as they wish. Activities to choose from will focus on education, the environment and economic development and of course, there will be opportunities to experience what the local area has to offer.
Fathom is partnering with two Dominican Republic organizations that have long-established programs to help locals: Entrena and the Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral, Inc.
To reserve a spot on future Fathom sailings, call your travel agent or visit fathom.org or call 1-855-9fathom. Prices for the seven-day trip to the Dominican Republic start at $1,540 per person, which includes an exterior cabin with a window, all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences, three on-shore social impact activities and related supplies, taxes, fees, and port expenses. There will be four pricing levels, based on cabin configuration and location – interior cabins, exterior cabins with a window, exterior balcony cabins and suites. Additional recreational activities, cabin upgrades, and dining and beverage packages will be priced separately. Prices will vary by season.
Additional itineraries and destinations will be announced at a later date.
While this seems to be a very noble venture, I predict that it will have a very rough going for at least a year or 2. If Fathom even gets to the 1 year mark! I used to own a cruise only travel agency. I am certified by CLIA. So I know the cruise industry very well! I personally can’t see anyone paying $1500 for an outside cabin, to do volunteer work! The whole concept makes me wonder if Carnival Corp., is just looking for a tax write off?