The Difference a Year Makes: Fathom’s impact in the Dominican Republic
Her smile never faded even as she started to wipe a tear from her face. The Fathom cruise passenger relived the very moment that touched her heart during a prior cruise. She shared each and every descriptive detail of her embrace and how this one hug with a local recipient of a new water filter changed her. This moment became the very reason she decided to book another cruise aboard Adonia for a Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic. No one in the room seemed even slightly surprised by the outpouring of emotion. Everyone understood and most shared similar stories.
Normally a meeting of repeat passengers on a cruise ship is a cocktail party containing discussions on favorite adventures in exotic ports of call or the best cruise ships and itineraries, which are all great conversations. Yet on Fathom the reunion was a chance to share how travel made an impact not just on the locals, but on its passengers as well.
The stories continued when another woman shared and spoke of returning more than three times to the woman’s cooperative, Chocal, and assisting in the chocolate-making process. Next, a young girl recounted going to a local school with her family for a cultural immersion and English interactions. Another passenger highlighted the chance to complete a concrete floor for a family. The lightly facilitated session offered a view into the success of the transformative travel offered by the cruise brand and the very essence of the goal of Fathom when it first set sail in April 2016.
BY THE NUMBERS
The inaugural Fathom sailing to the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic began a new mass- scale social impact travel concept prepared to have an impact beyond the cruise industry. Optimism and excitement filled the cabins as Adonia (on loan from P& O Cruises) left Miami bound for history in the making.
After 25 sailings to the Dominican Republic, essentially every other week for a year (Fathom rotated Cuba sailings the other weeks), we can understand the impact beyond one cruise and one passenger, but focus on the macro level. As Fathom evolves and prepares for its next phase, we can measure the results from its Impact Excursions.
On each sailing, cruise- specific as well as cumulative numbers were updated and shared with passengers who attended the final cohort session. Let’s see what a year accomplished.*
In summary, nearly 20,000 Impact Excursion tickets were distributed to Fathom passengers willing to give their vacation mornings or afternoons ( and sometimes both) to give, grow, and interact with the local community. Many gave multiple days (three excursions were included in the cruise) and some even returned for another cruise in its first year. Nearly 10 percent of bookings came as repeat cruisers. But the impact goes even deeper than numbers and measurements — as much joy was shared on the ship as on shore. In the repeat Fathom travel gathering especially, passengers showed sadness realizing that these sailings were scheduled to cease operation in June 2017.
FATHOM 2.0 AND BEYOND
So, what’s next for Fathom? Uncertainty exists about a future of Fathom without a ship ( Adonia has since returned to P&O Cruises), but Fathom is now entering its next phase. Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation ( Fathom’s parent company), remains optimistic and determined for a bright future, and she shared thoughts on the new direction moving forward.
“We always intended to serve our much broader corporate audience of 12 million travelers,” said Russell. “The popularity of the Fathom experience with travelers who sailed with us inspired us to move quickly to expand the Fathom concept — on board, on shore, and in new and creative ways to serve an even greater audience. Going forward, Fathom Travel experiences will live aboard countless other ships operated by our nine sister brands and offer beyond immersive experiences in many geographies.”
Currently, cruise passengers sailing to Amber Cove on six additional Carnival Corporation brands (AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and P&O Cruises UK) can participate in a social-impact excursion that continues the Fathom mission.
“Each of these brands will be coordinating with Tara and her team to offer guests Fathom experiences on board and in the Dominican Republic,” said Roger Frizzell, Carnival Corporation’s SVP of Corporate Communications and Chief Communications Officer. “We are looking to expand this to other markets as well.”
Fathom can measure its success by the numbers, but it can also look to the transformation of individual lives of locals as well as its passengers. And while some may say it didn’t work, don’t tell that to the families with their first concrete floor, to the families with new access to clean drinking water, to the families who can now converse in English and better their position and employment, or to the passengers who left changed after they rolled up their sleeves on shore in the Dominican Republic.
Fathom was much more than excursions. Many sea day activities were designed to challenge and transform the individual. These sessions offered further ways for people to discover not just the cultures and countries visited, but also themselves. The activities allowed them to be curious, to share their stories, to understand the wheel of life, and more. Much more.
* All Fathom Travel Impact Excursions totals are as of April 16, 2017. Sailings continued until June 2017.