The newest brand in the cruise industry operates as Fathom Cruise, featuring impact travel. Carnival Cruise lines created this option which offers guests the chance to volunteer while on vacation. Currently, Fathom Cruise sails to the Dominican Republic one week and to Cuba the next. Cruises are one week long and each is a separate seven-day cruise. The Dominican Republic cruise offers impact activities while the Cuba adventure is strictly cultural travel.
I bet you are wondering what impact activities are? They are ones that the passengers participate in by dedicating time, attention, and efforts to those less fortunate. To make it short and sweet, impact activities are your volunteer work. They range from pouring concrete floors and helping work in a chocolate factory, to teaching English to the locals. The Fathom Adonia holds 704 passengers and is the first and is the only ship in the fleet thus far. It is also reasonably priced.
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On the 6th week of the Adonia cruising to the Dominican Republic, my husband, Eddie, and I joined several journalists/bloggers as guests on a Fathom Cruise. We signed up for our impact activities prior to the cruise, but spots were still available after we set sail. Fathom recommends that each guest picks three impact activities, but the choice is ultimately yours. Families with children eight years and older are welcome to sail and participate. The Dominican Republic is a beautiful Caribbean destination with much history and beauty, but a tremendous amount of poverty. This is where these volunteer activities become a big impact.
How was Our Stateroom?
Boarding the ship was simple, even for the novice traveler. We were given our Adonia (a-DOAN-e-a) cruise ship stateroom cards and made our way to see our room. Our ocean view stateroom was definitely much larger than others I have had on cruise ships. It had a queen sized bed, coffee/tea facilities, writing desk, in-room safe, chair, and a large closet. The bed was comfortable, lighting adequate, and our TV offered several stations. On the flip side, the bathroom, which housed a shower, sink, and toilet, was microscopic. Seriously, I was not sure that I could even manage to wash my hair in this tiny shower. The sink did not offer space to hold our personal products, but a medicine cabinet and shelves helped. All in all, we were happy with the accommodations and our faithful room attendant.
What is the Fathom Adonia Cruise Ship Like?
The Fathom Adonia ship was tastefully decorated, which is no surprise seeing as it was previously a British itinerary. Rich, dark woods were a nice change compared to the bright, super gaudy typical cruise ships. Stately hallway walls were adorned with awards, items of prestige, and gorgeous photography of the areas we would be sailing to. The demure colored fabrics and classy furniture added a sense of calm and relaxation to the ship’s vibe; I found it a refreshing change.
There were several areas for socializing, including Raffles Coffee Bar, Crow’s Nest, Curzon Lounge, Glass House, and my favorite, Anderson’s, featuring full-length windows. Other points of interest included the fitness center, spa, and swimming pool. The library was the most beautiful room on the ship. In addition to books, the library also had puzzles and games for the whole family to enjoy.
What Activities Does Fathom Cruise Offer?
The Spanish Phrases language class came as a surprise to me. It was a beginners course and I found it useful since we were traveling to Spanish speaking areas. Other activities offered on our Fathom Cruise included family scavenger hunts, morning meditation, writing and storytelling classes, trivia, movie night, cocktail classes, and dance classes.
The $15 cocktail class was something my husband and I participated in. We enjoyed the friendly staff and tasty drinks. Crew mate Josef led the two classes that we participated in where we made Classic Daiquiris, Whiskey Sours, Bahama Mamas, and more. The class lasted an hour and we each had one full-sized cocktail and got to taste the others.
Craze was Adonia’s talented band that entertained us daily with both popular and throwback music. Their singer, who resembled Malibu Barbie, had a lovely voice and interacted well with the crowd. Best of all, Craze was really good! My favorite event was Bandioke, where audience members sang their favorite songs, with help from the Craze band, on a huge stage.
The swimming pool with two whirlpool tubs was a popular spot with the guests. Lido deck bars made it easy to grab an enjoyable cocktail. Staff sponsored activities also took place on the pool deck.
The Spa on Fathom Adonia
I am a big fan of cruise ship spas and I was happy to see that the ship’s spa offered Elemis products, my favorite. Though I did not have a body treatment, I did have a Keratin hair service and purchased Elemis skin care products. Fathom Cruise’s spa is located beside the exercise room and saunas, which are free to all cruisers. The small thalassotherapy pool at the back of the ship was not free, nor could you use it after a spa treatment. The charge was $29 per day, which I found ridiculous. The staff seemed strapped since this is such a different style of vacation, and unable to offer the usual discounts for services while in port. I hope Fathom realizes that cruisers are used to those discounts and that holding the spa to the list prices is not to their advantage.
How was the Food?
I am never a fan of cruise ship food, and Fathom’s Adonia was no different. I did have a few things that were very good, but also some that were not. The breakfast buffet in the Conservatory was unimaginative and just average. Breakfast in the dining room was a better, but they had a limited menu. Lunch and dinner in the buffet were mediocre at best: however, I liked that it included Indian options, which were prepared very well. One day, there was a poolside barbecue on the pool deck with chicken, fresh fish, burgers, salads, and hot dogs. It was enjoyable.
The Lido Grill on the pool deck offered a casual selection of sandwiches and fries. Best of all, a couple of days they had a Dominican-inspired Chimichurri burger that was superb! The burger was filled with spicy peppers and I found it really flavorful.
Dinners in the Pacific Grill were enjoyable, but the food was hit or miss each night. My favorite items were the Prime Rib, Red Snapper Curry, Chicken Satay, and Mushroom Risotto (order two, it is that good!), while my least favorite was the Halibut over pasta with red sauce, mashed potatoes, and topped with a fried egg.
The Ocean Grill- An Optional Pay Restaurant
A group of friends and I chose to dine at the Ocean Grill one night and it was worth the $25 surcharge. Eddie and I ended up visiting again on our last night with some new friends we had met. I ordered the same meal both times because it was that good. My recommendations are the Shrimp appetizer, Tropical Ceviche, Beef Flank Steak, and Bread Pudding for dessert. The service was commendable and the food quality was definitely worth the money.
Hanging with Fellow Bloggers & Journalists
I cannot lie. Though the impact activities were incredible and made just as great an impact on me, traveling with other bloggers and writers was wonderful. We had so much fun tossing around and sharing ideas as well as making memories in the beautiful country of the Dominican Republic. Sharing my experience with incredibly talented writers (Backroad Planet, Go Epicurista, Pretty in the Queen City, and McCool Travel) was the highlight of my trip. Other great writers that were on board included:
- Adventure Mom
- Guide 4 Moms
- One Modern Couple
- Bon Touriste
- Consumer Queen
- Duke Stewart Writes
- Nomad Women
- We Said Go Travel
- Road Loud
- Destinations, Detours, and Dreams
- Girl Gone Travel
- 10 Miles Behind Me
The Amber Cove Fathom Cruise Port
During our stay in the Dominican Republic, the boat docked at the beautiful Amber Cove cruise port for three nights. This proved to be a blessing since we could take part in the port’s activities, visit the pool, use the water slides, go ziplining ($12 per day), or shop. There were also taxis nearby to take you wherever you wished to go during all hours of the day and night.
Amber Cove was very nice and clean, with boutiques I would actually consider shopping in as opposed to the touristy places that most cruise ports offer. Of course, the typical jewelry stores were there, but none had pushy sales people. Amber Cove offers free WIFI, but it is patchy in some areas. Still, it is a better WIFI connection than that on the Adonia ship.
The Coco Caña Restaurant was connected to the Amber Cove pools. They offered a poolside bar, pool food service, and an indoor restaurant. Be sure to ask for the WIFI code, which is even better than the Amber Cove option. The food was pricey but a nice change from the food onboard the ship. Cocktails were around $8 each and buckets of beer were 5 for $18.
My Excursion with Fathom- Top 10 Best of Puerto Plata
The Dominican Republic is flanked by lush mountains and hills in the background while sparkling blue waters lined the coast. The country makes up two-thirds of the island with 1/3 belonging to Haiti. Our excursion was to explore the best offerings of the area and the price was $39.99 per person.
We stopped to visit Plaza Independencia, home to the gorgeous Cathedral San Felipe, Brugal Rum Factory, Amber Museum, and Fortaleza San Felipe, the historic Spanish fortress. Please note that some excursions were canceled due to low participation.
Other excursions offered by Fathom Cruise line included Museums Art & Fort San Felipe, La Isabela Columbus History & Folklore, Playa Dorada Beach Escape, and Power Snorkel Adventure to name a few. There were also opportunities to rent poolside, hillside, and oceanfront cabanas.
Take a Side Trip
I recommend booking a taxi and going into Puerto Plata, which is the closest town to Amber Cove. The posted rate was $80. My friends talked the drivers into discounts, between $25-50, which allowed for a few hours with a private guide and time for exploring. On our trip, the driver took four of us to the Brugal Rum Factory, beaches, Plaza Independencia, and a few other stops for $10 per person; basically the same itinerary as with the cruise ship only much cheaper.
How Much Will this Vacation Cost Me?
While the Fathom Cruise concept is new, the Dominican Republic trip currently offers special rates between $499-$799. After November, rates will be back to $999 and above for an inside room. Additional fees include gratuities and transfers to and from the ship. Optional fees include professional photographs, alcoholic beverages and sodas, souvenirs, spa, and specialty dining.
FYI: The Adonia allows you to purchase liquor in the Dominican Republic and bring it back onboard for consumption during your cruise. Most cruise lines hold the purchases until the end of the cruise, but Fathom has thrown out that practice. Thanks!
Improvements I Recommend for Fathom Cruise Line
Soundings, Fathom’s daily newsletter, is your Holy Grail when cruising. It lists all the activities for the day plus times and locations of every event. The type and font are incredibly too small and there is much-wasted space on the pages. I recommend increasing the font as everyone cruising does not have 30 year or younger eyes. Another suggestion would be to explain the process of the impact activities in a much clearer fashion. On our embarkation day, several people met with their cohorts, but we had no idea this was even an option. We were also confused about what classes to attend for the activities that we signed up for. Drink plans were not available, which I heard had been offered on previous cruises. I would be certain to offer the same amenities on each cruise and not waiver on anything.
Big Thumbs Up to Fathom Cruise Line
The Adonia’s crew was the most attentive and friendly that we had ever encountered, in over 25 cruises. They went to great lengths to make sure that we were happy with our meals and service. The food quality on Fathom was better than most Caribbean ocean cruises that I have been on. Guests are allowed to bring one unopened bottle of wine onboard as well as unlimited bottled water. Shopping on a cruise ship has never been something that I would be interested in until I saw the gorgeous items in Fathom’s gift shop. They offer beautiful souvenirs and accessories, which are often made by local artisans. Our accommodations were spacious and comfortable. Thanks to Fathom for using fair trade toiletries, too.
To read about my volunteering aboard our Fathom Cruise with their impact activities, check out this link.
*** As of spring 2017, Fathom Cruise Lines is no longer in business. You can still cruise with these awesome itineraries on their Carnival Cruise ships.