Carnival launches "fathom"

By ,   June 5, 2015 ,   Cruise Industry

Carnival Corp. is launching a new brand, expected to create an innovative travel category. Called "fathom" (with a lower case "f"), the new company will offer the so called “social impact travel” and will be the first line dedicated to volunteer tourism (voluntourism).

According to Carnival Corporation, Fathom would cater to “vastly underserved market of consumers” who wanted to have positive impact on people’s lives. The new company would offer meaningful experiences in order to help locals tackle community needs. Fathom will give travelers the opportunity to work directly with people in unique ways to improve their lives.

In practical terms, starting in 2016, April these consumers will have the opportunity to book 7-day voyages with Fathom’s cruise ship, the 710-passenger Adonia, and head from Miami to Carnival's port in the Dominican Republic, Amber Cove. There, they will be able to choose from a range of experiences and activities both on board and ashore.

Each week, a new group of cruisers will board fathom's Adonia and undergo 2 days of training in volunteer activities such as teaching English or building clay water-filtration devices. After every passenger has been trained, the vessel will arrive at Amber Cove, the new port developed by Carnival. The company invested $85 mill in the facility, located on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. It's expected to open this fall, when Carnival Victory calls at the port on October 6.

Once at Amber Cove, cruisers will spend up to 3 days working with local volunteer organizations and residents, employing the skills learnt on board. They will also take part in reforestation projects, but when not participating in social activities, will be able to explore the region and participate in recreational activities available to Carnival brands visiting Amber Cove. Entertainment and activities on the ship will be low-key, with options including Dominican movies. Guests will not find a casino, nor glitzy theater productions. Food options will feature local specialties.

Carnival will transfer the Adonia ship from its P&O brand in the U.K. The vessel will undergo a dry-dock refurb in March 2016, in order to receive a completely different feel without major structural changes, according to fathom President Tara Russell (founder and chairman of the  food production social enterprise Create Common Good).

Pricing, including volunteer training, excursions, related supplies, fees, taxes and port expenses, starts at $230 per person per day for a cabin with a window: a week-long voyage for two will cost $3,220. To book, travelers will have to pay a $300 deposit. Fathom cruises go on sale this month. Alcohol and gratuities will not be included.

A portion of every ticket will go to partner organizations in order to cover on-the-ground activities: travel, supplies, personnel assisting with the activities, funding to support the overall mission.

According to Carnival, fathom had identified a "sizeable and growing market of potential social impact travelers" - around 1 million from North America, in addition to global cruisers seeking for a service-oriented experience. Nearly 40 % of these individuals have never taken a cruise before.

Though a number of cruise lines, including Lindblad and Crystal, offer excursions that send guests into communities to do some volunteer work, having a line and ship dedicated to voluntourism is unique in cruise industry.