I am a little behind with my FATHOM review of my Jan 15th & May 21, 2017cruise. I was so impressedafter my Jan sailing that immediately booked to the FINAL sailing to the Dominican Republic with FATHOMCRUISES. This was my 23rd cruise since 2006. I have sailed on RCI, NCL and CCL prior. I will be honest,back in January I really wasnot certain what I was exactly signing up for with this very different experience. I was starting to wonder if this ship was more like a transport ferry built up for overnight accommodations. So asI usually do, (I did myresearch) I watched YOUTUBE videos, Iresearched info on the new Amber Cove portand became more and more intrigued with all the info I was collecting. I am so happy that I had this opportunity to be a part ofthe 1st inaugural season for Fathom.
The Fathom impact concept was a new “form of cruising" created under the umbrella of the CarnivalCorp. The ADONIA is a small ship thatwas chartered from asister brand P&O UK cruise lineas the on sea foundation for this experiment in the DominicanRepublic. Since this was the FINAL sailing of FATHOM onboard the Adonia I had to think of how to go about completing my review. Was a "critique" now redundant to others since this was thelast voyage? However, once I went through all my notes and photos I realized that this new concept to cruising or IMPACT TRAVELneeded to have a voicefor future endeavors. So this review is going to be alittle different. I will combine experiences from bothmy January trip as well as the May trip highlighting changes onboard as well as on land.Some critique, some recognition as well as someinformation for both corporate and passengers to the DR and Amber Cove port to consider.
EMBARKATION and the MS ADONIA: The ADONIA sets sail out of the Port of Miami. Itappeared as a dingy of aship docked alongside the giant sisters of all theother brands. A running joke onboard was thatthe Adonia was the lifeboat for the RCL Enchantment of theSeas. A Taxi from MIA international to POM (Flat fee $24), however with the new UBER system you couldcut your cost down to $9. The check-in process was very easy and similar to most other POM check-ins except with a ship of only 700 passengers the terminal was much less crowded. There was afamiliarity feeling among many of the passengers I met in the terminal on my first trip and soon realized many were return passengers. On my May voyage there were over 200+ return passengers out of 700, not a badratio at all for acruise line that has onlybeen sailing for 1year.
My first impression stepping aboard the Adonia in Jan was WOW, thisis a nice ship. The smallest vessel that I have sailed on, but it was very comfortable. My thoughts of "an upgraded transport ferry" were quickly abolished. I always try to walk the ship and scout out all the rooms while it is quiet prior to the on-load of passengers. The rooms were clean and ready to go. I was overly impressed by all the furniture and side nooks and areas that would be any readers dreamescape. The corridor wallswere adorned with inspirational quotes that would lead us into the concept of IMPACT travel ahead of us. While theinterior lounge walls were the records of the history of the Adonia. This was definitely a DIFFERENT type of atmosphere than any other cruise ship I have sailed. Uponmy second boarding in May it simply felt like "HOME"and I could not waitto be re-acquainted withthe staff I met from Jan. There was no casino and no large production lounge, but a smaller more suitablegathering space with a more intimate stage area perfect for the size of theship. The Pool area was set up just like a regular cruise ship, but without the jumbo-tron TV or loud party pool games many other ships have.The overall ship atmospherewas casual and relaxed. The interior of the shipand lounges felt more like a living room settingover a basic cruiseship. Eachcreating a nice functional space for casual gatherings.
The STAFF was split into two categories,The "Adonia crew" and the "Fathom staff'. They were all wonderfully working in tandem to accommodate the casualvacationer and theFathom traveler. One or two photographers onboard that pretty much manned thephoto area and didn't block every hall trying to make a sale. The drink staff did not stop you every time you passed them and ask if you wanted a drink. All you had to do was flag them down or raise ahand for service. The Adonia wasyour vacation space and the staff was there to serve not impede on your private time.The Fathom staff tookon more ofthe impact and socialaspect of the trip preparing 700 passengersover the course of two days with aconcept of IMPACT TRAVEL to theDR and what to expect. This was done though cohort groups which everyone wassplit up into with set meeting times for discussion and preparations. You first learned "What is Fathom and Impact travel", then history of the Dominican Republic. It was a chance to interact and relate to fellow passengers onboard sharing stories and background. There were also additional optional 1hr seminars you could join in like "intro to Spanish" and team building groupsand functions. Many of theseseminars were used as a roundabout way to alsoteach us as passengers the difference between Empathy & Sympathy through relating of our personal experiences between oneanother. It was a great recipe for prepping us for our journey we were about to experience when we arrived in the DR-Amber Cove.
If this sounds like a 12- step program so far to you, it sort of was, however what this Fathom Cohort crewwas able to do with a ship of 700 strangers over a day at sea was in my opinionfascination. I also loved how they withheld any detail about the actual IMPACT excursions on land we were about to experience.
FOOD /DINING & socialatmosphere: The maindining room was openseating and I managed tohave dinner with many different people each night. Ipersonally am a people person and like to hear about other travelerexperiences and they're feedback similar or indifferent to the sameexperience I was having. There was a step up Dining room as well as a moreformal cocktail lounge which was nice for pre-dinner cocktails and gatherings. You could feel the anticipation aboard with the passengers as we sailed closer to our destination. I was having dinner with a table of new andreturn guests discussing the prep process onboard I was seeing, and theexcitement from the new guests was enlightening. I chuckled and responded to someone “…thegreat thing is that we have not even arrived at the DR and you still have noidea what you are about to experience, we do”. This new "concept incruising" was intriguing to me the more I began to pay attentionto it and how it transformed all of us from passengers to travelerswith a common goal.
CRUISE DIRECTOR:Well you can scrapethat off your worries. The Adonia did not have one constantly interrupting on the speakerand overly trying to make you laugh or cringe and tasteless jokes about the toilet system or cabin sizes. Instead there was an onboard Fathom personnel that wouldmake casual announcements and reminders of some daily activities for specialacoustic musicians onboard, a must see seminar or special fun activity which often had many crew members participatingalongside passengers.
AMBER COVE, Dominican Republic: This is a NEW cruise port built by the Carnival Corporation. It is separated from the local community and all vacationing excursions and Impact activities would need to depart via TAXIor BUS into the local surrounding communities of Puerto Plata, Sosua and local villages up and down the coast. If you were a casual cruiser you had the option to take part in the usual Zip Line, Snorkeling, tours, Deep Sea Fishing and other various adventures offered onboard. You could remain in the Amber Cove cruise port and lay by the free pool, walk the shops, check out theImpact center, or trya rental of thevarious water activities like paddle boarding, peddle boats,cabanas, mini zip lineetc.
IMPACT EXCURSIONS: If youwere taking part in the IMPACT excursions you departed for either amorning or afternoon assignment, leaving the remainder of the day to enjoy a PM fiesta or possibly one of the typical vacation-like excursions. All Impact excursions departed via pre-assignedmini busses to your destinations. IMPACT activities involved, Reforestation, Student English,Community English, Paper recycling entrepreneur/crafts , Concrete floors, Cocoa or Coffee production, Soap making and WaterFilters.
During my trips I was lucky enough totake part in Recycled Paper & Crafts, Reforestation (Beach & Forest),Soap making & Concrete. During my 2ndtrip I did 5 impacts, three of which were Concrete. Although many may see this as the mostphysical of the impacts, I had such a great time with every home I workedin. The IDDI cooperative you workalongside are made up of some of the most caring workers. There was a job suitable for everyone andbeing able to speak with many of the IDDI workers personally I was veryimpressed with their caring nature and gratitude for the help we provided forthe Dominican people. My second favoritewas Reforestation which is also run by IDDI and I managed to work on the beachdunes in Jan and the Forest in May. Eachoffers a different experience yet giving you the feeling of making adifference.
Even though I have taken many cruises I always have fun and meet new people. I try and do different types of excursions and activities while on board. It is a vacationand while some people haveasked why I would chooseto do a working vacation, I did not view it assuch. In my mind this was a way to give backas well as meet new peopleand have some "me-time"at the same time. I laughed, I met many new friends, and yes I did work hard and got dirty, but I also came home with a better sense ofappreciation to the way others in this world we live in function. The FATHOM IMPACT EXPERIENCE hastaught me more about Empathy & Sympathyfor others as well as opened my eyes to awhole new form of vacationing that is not all about myselfindulgences. Of course Ido enjoy regular cruising, as a matter of fact I amalready booked on a typical cruise later this year and happy to say one of the ports will be Amber Cove. It will be interestingto get to experience this port now as avacationing traveler and get to see another side of what ithas to offer outsidethe Impact travel.
The May voyage as Imentioned was the final trip to the Dominica!Republic for Fathom. We were lucky enough to also have onboard most of Fathom Corporate traveling with us andparticipating in the activities. Questionand answer sessionsas well as some information onwhat the future will endurefor the growing Fathom Concept. I was especially grateful to hear first-handabout this. The Adonia ship may be going away, but the concept will be broadened across various Carnival sister lines beginning with Holland America. Itwill also expand on land into your local communitiesworldwide likeuniversities, youth groups, church & rotary groups as well as future exploration withtravel agencies. The expansionwill move into additional worldly destinations where theconcept of IMPACTfor a BETTER COMMUNITY& LIFE can beenacted.
There are some aspects that definitely need attention, such as the advertisement and promotion to the broader community. The online website andcustomer service for a bettercommunication andexchange of information is needed. As I spoke with many ofthe corporate staff onboard I became aware that FATHOM is already awareof this and did what they could with the funds it was provided and able to utilize. Yes, it grewfaster towards the end than at the beginning, butit was manageable. If it expanded too much too quick could havebeen a disaster to keepup. This was a learning experience and helped to lay the foundation for a "Bigger journey"into the next phase of Fathom Impact travel. It appears theCarnival brand ishelping to get behind it and hopefully it catches on going forward. Themarket is there, the interest is there, the assistance and need is therein many areas of the world. At this point the seed for the idea has been planted into the thousands of cruisers whom joined fathom during theinaugural season launch .
There is a big need now is for those of us to help endorse and spread the word. One way is to check out the website upgrade and sign up fortheir communitynewsletters and announcements at http://www.fathom.org//Fathom has a social media presence andcontinues to send out announcements andupdates of past trips and how it continues to create impact going forward from past work donebe thousands of participants. Iencourage everyone reading this to take the time to write a review, mail a letter, send an email and most of all word of mouth is a valuable toolto spread information. Feedback and your voice is an important tool and can go a long way.... especially in numbers.
There are several people I meton mylast trip I feelneed to berecognized forall their effortsthey put into FATHOM to helpbring it to the cruising world. They sacrificedand worked very hard to create something from anidea towhat it istoday.
First and foremost: TARA RUSSELLthe president of Fathom. Thank you for all you have done andcontinue to do. Your idea sparked something new andrefreshing that I feel can grow into a much broader concept and cruising experience. Keepup your good work.
Next,the onboard FATHOM COHORT TEAM: Yourdedication all the waythrough to the final voyage was fantastic. Many rumors that oncethe crew approached the endof thecharter, things would begin to slack and fade off. I washappy to see it did not as well as NEW ideas, onboard activities andexpansion to previous onesstill happening even on the last trip. BEST of LUCK to everyone on your journey onward whetherit is within the Fathom brand,across othercruise lines within the CarnivalCorp. or out into the world where I amsure you will continue to create Impactwherever you go.
And finally,to the entire ADONIA crewand Captain Trevor Layneforyour incredible hospitality while we Fathom passengers were guests aboard your vessel. Your work ethic was incredible andthe ship isbeautiful.I have already checked into the P&O-ADONIA itineraries and may possibly try to once again have the opportunity to meet some of you again onboard the Adonia… (Even if the Fathom logo and murals have been taken down) Safe sailingsonward.
The Impact I was able to bring back for myselfwas just as importantas what I felt I left in the Dominican Republic. I'vebecome an advocate for this new concept to all of my fellow cruisersand friends. It is something you could never understand until you take the opportunity to participate. It maynot be foreveryone, but you will neverknow until you give it a try. I hope when you see an impact excursion on a "regular cruise line" in the future you do. I hope theCarnival Corporation canalso consider more contribution into this 7th leg of theirlines and a possible NEW future addition of a ship dedicated to continue the onboard· experience. If at the least consider a twice a year special voyage on one of the Carnival ships or sister brands fully dedicated and advertised to the concept of FATHOM IMPACT TRAVELsimilar to your "Journey Voyages" or "Special Singer /concept voyages" Please
From someone that totally "drank the juice" and now a big fan for Impact travel to continue.
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