I never thought I’d be a “cruiser”. I’ve wanted to give it a shot, but in a more responsible way, conscious cruising. When planning a trip I never had the desire to book a cabin on a ship to the Caribbean, quickly stopping at each location. The strictness of the itinerary, the quickness of the journey and the typical lack of genuine local interaction always turned me off. It’s basically the opposite of travel opportunities that I usually seek out.
Then I met Fathom, and just like your mother warned, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Disguised as a cruise, Fathom has many of the same amenities of a regular ship, but once you dig deeper, you find a lot more substance. It’s a sustainable tourism project masked as the familiar cruise concept. Their impact travel has brought responsible tourism to the sea and in doing so it’s inviting a new type of traveler to the cruising game.
I felt in a lot of ways it was like ‘guilt free’ mass travel. I still could enjoy the delicious meals on board, have a room with all the amenities and take time to relax at the pool in Amber Cove while spending our whole time in the Dominican Republic in the same spot, working alongside a local non profit organization IDDI, who’s mission is to mission is to aid families and communities in socioeconomic transformation.
Aboard the Adonia
The Adonia is a smaller version of the ships those frequent cruisers are used to. I loved the fact that the ship didn’t feel like a floating island. It was a way to connect with other travelers easily, forging friendships over the week together. You still have your buffets and sit down dinners, live music and activities. In addition, you have courses available to prepare you for your impact activities once you arrive in the Dominican Republic. These classes give you a chance to brush up on your Spanish or learn about the teaching curriculum Fathom brings to the schools. Don’t this there isn’t time for yourself or a vacation! It’s not all work, we had meditation, storytelling workshops, dancing classes & a painting night. It’s a great mix of being able to discover more about yourself and others while letting loose and having fun.
The other unique aspect of Fathom is once you board you receive information about a core group you can check in with periodically throughout the trip. It is a way to prepare you for your social impact experience with a more in depth discussion. We had several great meetings, giving us important information about the DR, it’s customs and culture as well as giving travelers the chance to think about their purpose on this trip and as a global citizen.
There were some little things that I appreciated about the ship outside of the group activities. It was little touches that showed me Fathom is trying to separate itself from other cruises.
The products in the bathroom were all fair trade items, and the shops on
board also sold fair trade, another small way to promote positive purchases.
There was a scavenger hunt of sorts on the ship, wooden curiosity boxes with little treats & hints inside. I had a distractedly fun time walking by, spotting one and revisiting my child like curiosity to see what was inside.
Impacting Activities for Conscious Cruising
Just like any other cruise, you are able to go out on your own or participate in activities. We dock in Amber Cove, a port in the northern region of the island that is dedicated for Fathom & Carnival ships. We were the only ship that week so we had our own quiet piece of paradise. The impact activities are the cornerstone of Fathom’s mission, providing a chance to engage with the local community. There are several different activities that you can schedule during the week, giving you the ability to make leaving both sides with a lasting impression. The great part about the impact activities is that you have control over your itinerary, building your own experience.
RePapel and the Dancing Queens
I had the opportunity to spend an day at RePapel, the recycled paper project, which is a women’s cooperative work space where they sell re purposed items. We got to see the process start to finish, helping to take old, used sheets of paper and transform them into something new. The economic and environmental impact is immediate and its special to feel like an instant part of their tight group. Singing, dancing, smiling and laughing, these ladies really know how to make their helpers feel like we belong.
The whole process was an afternoon of fun that was more rewarding than work. Sorting through recycled paper, pulping, washing and forming brand new sheets. There was as much dancing and shaking as there were spins in the wash cycle. We moved through different stations, learning about the other purposed products they make. Jewelry, coasters and candles are among the other items crafted and sold. The most inspiring part of this business is that these women have the opportunity to earn their own wages to provide stability for their family. The smiles and dances were the highlight of the day, you couldn’t leave here without feeling genuinely happy.
Chocal Chocolate Cooperative
This was one of my favorite experiences in the Dominican Republic. A group of women started an artisan chocolate cooperative to avoid traveling long distances to work in the tourism industry. Being around for their family was so important to these women that they developed an entrepreneurial idea to create a local business. Our group had a great time finding the good beans from the bad, taking the shelled beans and sorting out the cocoa nibs, molding the chocolate and then finally, wrapping bars. It was wonderful to see such a happy, hard working group of women who corrected an employment problem and found a need in the work place. Best part of a work day here at Chocal was purchasing a big box of chocolate bars to take back to family and friends.
Being able to sit down and learn more about the women, their families and the community was something I wouldn’t have the chance to do if I was on a beach within the confines of a resort. Making these connections is the cornerstone for Fathom and it’s what will leave me with my best memories of the DR. This is the concept that attracted me to Fathom and their cruising concept. Communicating with locals on a deeper level and helping to leave the place better than when you have arrived. Be sure to check out Fathom, their impact opportunities and see how you can have a more meaningful vacation!
- I was invited on a Fathom cruise to experience their innovative itineraries but as always, my opinions expressed are my own.