Skift Take

This will likely appeal to some cruisers who want to do more on land than take a tour or hang out at the beach. But we have to wonder how this will play out for Fathom's bookings. Will travelers who want to volunteer sidestep a full week on Fathom and just book a one-day excursion on another line?

Cruise passengers who want to spend a day volunteering instead of sunbathing, snorkeling, or shopping have some new options.

More than six months after the one-ship Fathom brand first set sail with a goal to carve out a niche in social impact cruising, parent company Carnival Corp. is expanding the mission.

Starting this month, passengers on ships from multiple brands that visit Amber Cove on the Dominican Republic’s northern coast can choose from two shore excursions that were previously available only on Fathom. The choices, which don’t require advance training, include working at a factory that produces organic chocolate or volunteering with a cooperative that teaches local women to recycle paper into crafts.

“The social impact experiences create enduring positive impact in the lives of children, families and communities, significantly affecting bright futures,” Tara Russell, Fathom president and global impact lead for Carnival Corp., said in a statement released Wednesday. “It is exciting to now offer thousands of guests who sail with our family of brands to Amber Cove the opportunity to be part of Fathom’s social impact experience and broader story.”

In addition to Fathom, six other brands call on Amber Cove: Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, AIDA Cruises, and P&O Cruises UK. Holland America Line and Princess Cruises started offering the activities, which can be booked and paid for like normal shore excursions, this week.

“We’re going to put it out there and hope that Carnival guests are going to put their toe in the water and try it,” Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, told Skift. “We’ll see, but I think it’s a great opportunity.”

The announcement said that Carnival Corp. is exploring more opportunities for other brands to provide Fathom experiences at destinations across the globe.

Long-Term Brand Plan?

Russell hinted at the move early this year, months before the line first set sail. She told Skift in January that she hoped Fathom would have a presence on other cruise lines in the Carnival Corp. family.

“You might expect to find when you’re on a Holland America ship, maybe you participate in an on-ground experience with Fathom in the Dominican Republic,” she said at the time.

Since Fathom started visiting the Dominican Republic every other week in late April, the line said passengers have installed 730 water filters, poured 40 concrete floors, planted almost 16,000 seedlings and plants, and provided about 17,500 hours of training to help locals practice conversational English. The cruise line sails on one ship, the 704-passenger Adonia.

“This has the potential of significantly expanding the number of traveler impact days per month and broader collective impact story in the Dominican Republic,” Wednesday’s announcement said.

After the brand was announced, Fathom got permission from the U.S. government — and, eventually, Cuban officials — to sail to Cuba. It alternates between a three-city Cuban itinerary and the Puerto Plata region in the Dominican Republic.

But in September, the line announced that it was adding two Cuba voyages in the fall, citing “strong, pent-up demand.” Those week-long cruises, in October and November, had earlier been bound for the Dominican Republic.

At the time, officials said they did not plan to add any more trips to Cuba this year, but said they would consider doing so if the Cuban government were willing.

Roger Frizzell, chief communications officer for Carnival Corp., said in an email Wednesday that the latest announcement doesn’t change anything about future Cuba plans for Fathom.

“However, we would absolutely evaluate any new berths made available to Fathom from the Cuban authorities,” he said.


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: carnival corp., cruising, fathom, voluntourism

Photo credit: Fathom's Adonia is shown in Amber Cove, a port in the Dominican Republic. Some of the cruise line's "social impact" activities will be open to passengers on other Carnival Corp. brands. Mike Morgan / Fathom

Up Next

Loading next stories