Although more than 20 million people chose to travel on a cruise last year there are still many people who do not believe that cruising is for them. Until now cruising had not really appealed to me as cruises usually stop at ports for a very short time and I felt that there was no time to really get to know the destination, the culture and the people.
Don’t get me wrong, I see the appeal in cruising and there are quite a few cruises on my bucket list including an Alaskan cruise or a Galapagos Island cruise and I would love to go on some river cruises. That being said I doubt I would enjoy a Caribbean cruise aboard even the smaller cruise ships: as an introvert I don’t like large crowds, I love to travel independently and even enjoy solo travel and I like spending enough time at a destination so that I can truly get an authentic feel for the location.
Cruising to the Dominican Republic aboard Fathom was my first ever voyage on a cruise and I was very pleasantly surprised. From what I’ve heard people either love or hate cruising and although I knew that Fathom was a different kind of cruise I was still a bit skeptical.
Fathom, a new brand of cruises part of the Carnival Corporation, has a vision of travel that aligns more with my interests and with the reasons why I love to travel because it focuses on traveling with a purpose. With only one small ship in it’s fleet, at least for cruise standards, Fathom travels to the Dominican Republic every two weeks and is the only cruise to offer volunteer cruises or as they call it “impact travel” year around. Fathom also started voyages to Cuba recently and is the first company to cruise to Cuba in over 40 year offering people to people experiences and cultural immersion, how amazing is that!?
Cruising to the Dominican Republic aboard Fathom’s Adonia did away with many of the things that did not attract me about cruising. As soon as I stepped into the Adonia I knew this was not a typical cruise and I could feel the energy and the desire to really make a change from everyone onboard: from Fathom’s president Tara Russel and Carnival’s CEO to all of the Impact Guides to the travelers themselves.
I found it very reassuring that while some of the passengers loved to cruise many of the people on board had never been on a cruise before. Like me they had been weary of cruising until Fathom came along and offered something completely different. I recently wrote about how Fathom is revolutionizing travel by combining fun, volunteering and cultural immersion in an easy to book and easy to commit to one week cruise vacation but on this article I want to focus on how Fathom is different from other cruises.
I looked at what I and other travelers don’t like about “regular” cruises and there are many things that set Fathom apart and that might appeal to other people who are weary about cruising.
Small ship size. The size of the ship, with a maximum capacity of just over 700 compared to Carnival’s next smallest ship which accommodates over 2,000, makes it feel more like a B&B than an impersonal all inclusive resort. However meals and most activities are still included so you don’t have to worry about spending extra in food or recreation, there are enough options to provide a variety of activities without any lines at all and the ship never feels crowded.
Being able to make real connections on board. You feel part of a community and can truly make meaningful connections with likeminded travelers who have all come together beacuase of their interest in making a difference. Many of the activities push you out of your comfort zone and partner you with other travelers in order to hone your storytelling skills or brainstorm on how to creatively solve social. On the firs day on the ship we where encouraged to wear tags that told fellow cruisers what we could teach and what we wanted to learn. It was an great way to meet new people and make connections and I had more than one person come up to me and start practicing their Spanish, at first it took me a couple of seconds to realize that I had put Spanish under “I can teach” on the tag I was wearing!
Focusing on only one destination and spending enough time there to get to know it. By spending 2 full days and 2 half days in the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic you have enough time to explore and get to know the area, it’s people and it’s culture yet you still have the ease of not having to unpack and of going back to the ship for the night. With so much time on port you can choose to participate in various shore excursions besides the Impact Activities or you can venture out on your own and discover Puerto Plata’s beauty like we did.
Providing an experience that is culturally and intellectually stimulating. The Adonia creates an meaningful travel experience focusing on providing opportunities to immerse yourself in the destination’s culture and learn about it as well as make an impact by volunteering; all of these experiences you would not usually relate to cruising.
Fun onboard activities with meaning. Far from the cruises that might attract the spring break crowd Fathom provides activities that promote personal growth. You still have fun activities among them a superhero party where you will unleash your inner greatness by focusing on the superpowers that make you unique, a scavenger hunt where you look for curiosity boxes filled with fun and sometimes educational cards located around the boat or you can even take some dance lessons.
A ship that feels like home. The Adonia, a former P&O ship still bears much of that stuffy and serious British décor while combining it with fun and unexpected additions. A wall of postcards encourages you to send your future self a message and next to your cabin door you will find a placard where you can write your name, your superpower, your spirit animal and your dreams for “someday”. I thought this fusion of old and new was just perfect for Fathom, because it combines familiarity while introducing something fresh and different and it brings that passion and energy to do good to the ship in subtle ways while also repurposing a ship and keeping in with the concept of creating something fresh from something old. Fathom is taking the things people love about cruising and bringing new elements to create a new kind of travel aboard a cruise ship and it works!
Great food and no lines. I have never been on a cruise before so I can’t really compare but I’ve heard that food in most large cruises is unimpressive and bland and that there are always lines. We loved the food on the Adonia and there where no lines even at the breakfast buffet. The variety and flavor of the dishes at the Pacific Restaurant was fantastic but if you really want to have an amazing foodie experience eating at Ocean Grille is well worth the $25 cover charge. The meals on board are created by Emile Vega, Fathom’s local Dominican Chef and many of the dishes incorporated Dominican flavors and ingredients providing an introduction to the destination’s local cuisine.
Providing travelers with an easy way to make a positive impact in the destination they are traveling to. This is not exclusive of cruising: most travel options do not make it easy for you to make a difference and promote positive change in the places you are traveling to and although there are many volunteering and mission trips Fathom combines tourism with volunteering and is doing this right!
So the next time you are considering a vacation and are looking for a way to travel that is fun and meaningful check out the Fathom. If you already love cruises Fathom combines all the things people love about a cruise vacation on a smaller scale and adds purpose. If you are among those of us who are skeptical of cruising give Fathom a chance: it will pleasantly surprise you and you might just change your mind about cruising like I did!