Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Fathom and my thoughts and opinions are my own.
My family and I love to cruise. I have been on about 6 or more cruises in fact. I recently had the chance to experience cruising in a whole different way. My husband and I were invited to take part in what is called ” Impact Travel ” with Fathom Cruises. Fathom is a new cruise line that offers a unique way to cruise. Not only will you get the perks and enjoyment of normal cruising but you will get a chance to make a difference in the world. Right now Fathom is sailing to the Dominican Republic as well as Cuba and they are offering cultural emersion and a chance for it's passengers to participate in community service.
Fathom is owned by Carnival Cruise Line and they currently only have one ship called the Adonia. It houses around 700 passengers which I love because you don't have to fight the crowds of most larger cruise lines. In this post I am going to tell you a little about the ship, my experiences with Impact Travel as well as my honest opinions of the cruise line. I am also going to be including a packing list and tips.
First let me say that I think this is the first time I have taken a cruise where I actually had time to relax. You see the great thing about Fathom being a smaller ship is they don't bombard you with so many activities that you felt that you had to participate in. Normally when we go on a cruise, there were so many activities scheduled, that we felt that if we took a nap or spent time at the pool we weren't getting our moneys worth.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things to do. Fathom offers live bands, Spanish classes, trivia, on board movies by the pool, painting classes, Bandioki (my favorite) and many more. They also have a full service spa with different health and wellness demonstrations like acupuncture. They definitely have a well rounded itinerary for all ages. Daniel and I also took dance classes and if you know my husband that is way out of his comfort zone. We learned how to do the Meringue and many other latin dances. I am very thankful for Fathom offering this because it's something I have been trying to get my husband to do for a long time.
My husband and I also took the Spanish class on board which was very helpful. I love the educational points that Fathom tries to provide. Also when you board you are assigned a “Co-Hort ” group. Fathom focuses on bringing people together, they want you to meet new people on the ship, share your goals and your dreams with each other. It worked! Daniel and I made so many new friends that we will be staying in contact with. This is something I would never do on a larger ship. Also here is a TIP: Bring a few laundry tabs with you and you can wash clothes on the ship without paying an expensive fee to have your stuff laundered. If you are wondering about gratuity they charge around $80.50 per traveler at the end of your cruise, this includes everyone.
So what does the ship not offer? They don't offer room service, day care, live shows or a casino that most ships offer and I can tell you I didn't miss any of those things. When I found out we were staying in an ocean view I was little bummed because I am used to having a balcony but when we arrived I pleasantly surprised how big the window was. I am used to having a small porthole with an ocean view but this allowed us to view the ocean nicely in our air conditioned room.
I thought the room was spacious and I loved all the hidden places to store things. We did have a few issues like a plug not working and a drawer not opening but Bosco our wonderful stateroom attendant had it fixed right away.
Now let's talk about food. Fathom offers a the traditional dining room and buffet you would come to expect on most cruises but they also offer a fine dining restaurant that cost $25 as well as a quick service snack area that offers hot dogs, fries and hamburgers. If you are a picky eater you may want to do what my husband and I did and also bring snacks on board. We brought pretzels and Pringles because we always find that we needed a salty, crunchy snack at some point. I did notice a lot of Indian food. I am not a big fan of curry so for me the food was a little disappointing. Other passengers also experienced this as well. But the great thing about this trip was that I had a direct line to Fathom and knowing they are just beginning their travels and experimenting with what works and what doesn't I was able to provide feedback for future travels.
The Impact ( Impact Travel):
I will be honest, I was a little nervous about going on this trip because there were a lot people throwing around their own opinions about impact travel saying that it would actually hurt the community and that it was all fluff. I am so glad I didn't listen to them and went with my gut. When we booked the trip , we booked two excursions and two impact emersion. Once we boarded the ship and got settled in we found out that the two excursions we booked were cancelled due to not enough people signing up for them. I was a little upset at first but it actually turned out for the better for us.
We met with Carol Cain who is from the Dominican and we decided to rent a taxi with her family and tour Puerto Plata ourselves. I highly recommend doing this! You should expect to spend around $40-$60 for the whole day. Yes, you heard right , they will stay with you the whole day. If they try to charge you any more than that, negotiate! While we took the tour, we were able to talk to the people in the Dominican about Impact Travel and what it meant to them. They were very surprised that people said that impact travel wasn't helping. They said all of our jobs employ dominican people. We can only afford to higher so many workers so any time people come and volunteer, that is free labor for us and it helps increase our production. Even our taxi driver said that the people ask “When is the next cruise ship coming in?”
One of the impact activities we signed up for was the Chocal , the chocolate co-op ran by women. These women got a loan from the government that they are still trying to pay off. Each worker makes about $170 a month. While we were there we were able to wrap 1200 pieces of chocolate, cleaned 50lbs of cacao beans and sorted about 55lbs of cacao beans. We were able to complete about 2 weeks worth of work. Not only that but just our small group along created $369 worth of profit just from purchases from the gift shop! That is enough for 2 workers wages for a month! It's to expensive for them to export their product yet so they only sell to people who come to the Dominican.
The second impact activity we did was reforestation. I really didn't realize how important reforestation was. On the boat they explained to us how the river we were going to is the life blood of the communities that live by it and that if something isn't done soon to stop erosion it will be gone.
When we first arrived to where we were going to plant trees, we were greeted by local children. They were using the river water to brush their teeth, bathe and then they played around. All in this river. It really drove home the point of how important reforestation is to this community.
Over the course of about 4 hours we planted around 274 mangrove trees along the bank of the river. Not only will these mangrove trees help with erosion they will also provide habitat for wildlife along the river.
When the ship arrives, you port in Amber Cove which is a private island for Carnival Cruise Line. It's a beautiful port. There are shops, a restaurant and a nice pool area to enjoy. The shops have local merchants that bring in hand made things that you can buy. There is also a pharmacy and duty free shop where you can get anything you need.
There is also an area where you can rent cabana's and do other activities such as a swim up bar, two slides and more to enjoy the cove and get way from the crowds. You never have to worry about being bored when are at Amber Cove.
Stay tuned for a video that I putting together with even more photos from our trip!