Fathom Cruises: Making Waves in Voluntourism

social-impact-travelA new wave of company altruism has pushed many large corporations toward giving back to their community or global charities. While it may be rather unknown to the public, a big contributor to many charities and nonprofits over the years is Carnival Corp., the umbrella company for Carnival Cruise Lines and the new social-impact travel cruise line, fathom (yes, with a trendy lowercase f).

A lot of this is thanks to the Arison family, key owners of Carnival Corp., who have been profiting from cruising fun over the years, always returning some of their funds to charities and other notable organizations. Based out of South Florida, founder Ted Arison has been very active in using his profits to do good. To name one, he is the chief benefactor of the New World Symphony youth orchestra in Miami Beach.

fathom, the Wave of the Future

While nearly two million people vacation to volunteer, spending about $2 billion to do so, there has never been an eco-friendly excursion to lend a hand to do-gooders until now. With hundreds of ships docking daily in some of the neediest and poorest countries in the world, the fathom crew have now become the lead excursion operators making a difference in the way people can travel.

Set to sail in April of next year, fathom cruises combines the love of travel with the desire to make a difference in the world. The first of its kind, fathom is dedicated to volunteer travel or “voluntourism.” That means, instead of spending time in a casino, or watching kitschy theatre shows, onboard time is spent learning about the communities passengers will be visiting in the Dominican Republic.

Cruise attendees will practice skills that they will get to use on shore such as teaching English, plant cultivation, and making water-filtration systems out of clay, as well as bonding with fellow do-good cruisers. The ship is relatively small in comparison to its big brother cruise line, Carnival. The 710-passenger Adonia offers an intimate experience designed to help passengers unite over a common goal: social impact.

Unique in its ways, the week-long experience is designed to focus more on sustainability, community and volunteer work. In place of belly-flop contests, the ship will host lots of practical workshops and lectures, show Dominican movies and serve authentic Dominican food. To keep with the theme, on-board shops will offer products made with sustainable ingredients such as natural dyes.

Meet Your Mates

The fathom line is targeting older Millennials and families, as well as affluent Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. On a whole, however, the company is expecting passengers to skew younger than the typical cruise passenger. Many passengers will have a history of being charitable, having donated to causes or volunteered previously with outreach programs. They expect around 80% to be sailing for the first time with Carnival Corp., and about half of those to be sailing their first cruise altogether.

A great feature of this flagship line is that experiences are customizable, so that everyone can participate; travelers can elect to combine a variety of social impact and recreational activities to tailor their vacation to their own needs. The fares are relatively inclusive, covering items such as fees, taxes, excursions, training and supplies.

Sample Itinerary on Fathom, per Carnival:

  • Sunday: Board the Adonia and depart PortMiami in the afternoon.

  • Monday: Travel day at sea with impact and community programming onboard.

  • Tuesday: Arrive in Amber Cove, Dominican Republic mid-day. Impact activities and recreation in afternoon.

  • Wednesday: On ground, engaged in impact activities and recreation.

  • Thursday: On ground, engaged in impact activities and recreation.

  • Friday: On ground, engaged in impact and recreation in morning. Depart Amber Cove early afternoon.

  • Saturday: Travel day at sea, with impact and community programming onboard.

  • Sunday: Arrive at Port Miami in the morning.

Making a positive impact is more than just a trend for a lot of individuals and social-impact travel is a great example of how this urge to give back and do good for others is affecting the tourism/travel industry as well. Take a page from Carnival’s playbook and think about how ways your excursion can give back. In the end, it may not only positively impact your brand image but your business as well.

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