I love to travel in a way in which I can truly connect with the people and the culture of a destination. I want my travels to have meaning, purpose and depth and for a very long time I have been looking for a way in which I can give back while I travel. But finding the right organization and working out the logistics on your own seemed overwhelming to me; just planning a family vacation is already so much work!
When I heard about Fathom, Carnival’s newest brand and about it’s impact travel concept I was intrigued and hopeful. Fathom cruises focus on traveling with a purpose to the Dominican Republic by offering activities centered on social good, volunteerism and cultural immersion. This was exactly what I was looking for: a way to travel and get to know a destination and volunteer while there.
As I embarked, along with my husband, on Fathom’s inaugural cruise to the Dominican Republic I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. There has been so much criticism about voluntourism and how in most cases it really makes no impact on the people or the destinations and focuses for the most part on catering to the travelers. What I discovered is that Fathom really offers something revolutionary: this is travel like you’ve never experienced it before and here is why.
A Brand Created For Social Good
I loved that Fathom is focused on creating a positive and lasting impact first while still providing an amazing experience for the traveler. While other cruises have offered volunteering excursions before because Fathom has dedicated an entire ship to volunteering year round the scale and depth to which they can have a positive impact on the communities they are supporting is unprecedented.
Their concept is well though of and backed by a unique business model which started by meeting extensively with community members in the Dominican Republic and define areas where Fathom can support the community based on the communities’ needs. Fathom’s efforts will be focusing on education, the environment, and economic development.
According to Tara Russel, president of Fathom and Global Impact Lead of Carnival Corporation part of the reason the northern coast of the Dominican Republic was chosen is that Carnival has nine other brands that visit the area on a regular basis so that the ongoing stream of travelers can sustain the social impact efforts.
Getting to share the voyage with Tara and Carnival’s CEO Arnold W. Donald was wonderful as we could feel their excitement and their positive energy and truly see how. The whole Fathom team was fantastic and the Impact Guides where all so invested and passionate about social good and about making a difference that their energy was contagious!
Meaningful Onboard Activities And An Environment That Promotes Personal Growth
I was truly surprised to find that the onboard activities during our trip to the Dominican Republic included a series of optional workshops designed to ignite positive growth and transformation. I have to admit that they all sounded so amazing that I ran from one to the other and did not even think of putting on my swimsuit and relaxing next to the pool. Anyone who knows me know this is my idea of a vacation!
During the onboard workshops I learned about the curiosity advantage and how to use curiosity as a tool to overcome fears and challenges, how to brainstorm to find solutions to world problems, learned about social innovation and even got tips and tools for creating more time for the things I want to do through proven productivity methods!
We also spent time on board learning about the communities and organizations we would be visiting and training for the volunteer work we would be engaging in.
Even the onboard “fun” activities had meaning and a connection to the trip’s ultimate goal of creating impact and immersing travelers in the Dominican culture. During wine and paint we reinterpreted a painting by a Dominican artist and during the superhero themed party travelers where encouraged to share their inner greatness by unleashing their superpowers as they donned superhero capes.
A Likeminded Community Who Values Meaningful Travel
The small size of Fathom’s MV Adonia provides travelers on board with an intimate experience and by the time we where headed back to Miami it truly felt like a community. We had the opportunity not only to meet many people onboard but we shared with them experiences that where truly meaningful through the Impact Activities on land. We also had a chance to connect at a deeper level due to the activities on board which where designed to help us open up to each other and push past our comfort zones in order to grow and make real connections.
Community Centered Activities Focused On Creating Long-Term And Impactful Positive Change
The Fathom team worked with the government and nonprofit organizations in the Dominican Republic to identify the greatest needs and determine how the passengers would be able to contribute.
During our trip we had the opportunity to work with existing organizations alongside locals supporting initiatives and programs that are already in place. Because Fathom is bringing in large groups of people on an ongoing basis there is the real possibility of making a meaningful impact, unlike other voluntourism options out there.
Flexibility To Create A Trip That Is Unique To Your Personal Interests And Sense Of Purpose
There is a lot of flexibility and variety when it comes to the activities both onboard and in Puerto Plata. During the days at sea you could enroll in storytelling workshops, learn Spanish phrases, take dance lessons or find your superpowers. And there where also lots of options for those who wanted to relax: from a full service spa with acupuncture sessions and yoga to relaxing by the pool which although small was never crowded.
We where able to choose how many Impact Activities we wanted to participate in and which ones. Cesar and I combined a few Impact Activities with sightseeing for a trip that balanced our desire with cultural immersion with our interest for more meaningful travel while others focused mostly on the Impact Activities. Cesar and I participated in different Impact Activities that appealed to our unique personalities and skills: he did reforestation and recycled paper and crafts entrepreneurship while I helped the ladies at Chocal cacao and chocolate cooperative and taught English to students at a middle school.
We also choose to forgo the ship’s excursions and booked a private guide and driver so that we could see the sights on our own schedule and without the crowds. You can read all bout experience and our list of 10 awesome things to do in Puerto Plata HERE.
The Opportunity To Make A Difference And Experience A Positive Transformational Through Travel
I’ve always wanted to make a positive impact on the places I travel to but I had never had the chance to do it until I traveled with Fathom.
From what I saw and experienced I am convinced the Fathom is doing things right and I truly believe that they have found the way to combine rich an fulfilling travel experiences that truly make a difference in the communities they are touching with the ease of travel that comes with cruising. I wholeheartedly believe in Fathom and loved having the opportunity to be part of their inaugural voyage. That being said as guinea pigs on the first voyage we did encounter some things that could be changed to improve the experience. Fathom encouraged us to share with them our feedback and I can not wait to see how Fathom matures, grows and improves.
I travel often with my family, solo or just with my husband and the trip my husband and I took aboard the Adonia with Fathom not only changed us and motivated us to continue to look for ways to give back but it also brought us together like no other experience ever has. There is just something about sharing the feeling of making a positive difference in the world with someone you love that is like nothing else in the world. I can’t wait to go back to Puerto Plata with Fathom and bring the kids along next time!
Fathom’s seven-night cruise departs from the port of Miami every two weeks and spends three days in Amber Cove, a port located on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Fathom also started sailing to Cuba this week and is the first cruise to sail to Cuba in over 40 years. However Fathom’s cruise to Cuba focuses on cultural engagement excursions and not on volunteering due to restrictions from the Cuban government.
You can find out more about Fathom, it’s mission and it’s vision and how they are revolutionizing travel on their website here. If you want to see how the Fathom experience is having on impact on travelers and on people in Puerto Plata check out the #TravelDeep hashtag on Instagram.