There’s something about Spring as a season of renewal that makes us think about the sustainability of travel, and how long we can enjoy the planet as we do without pausing to give something back. With Spring comes Earth Day, a time (hopefully more than one day) when the travel industry focuses on protecting the environment at some of our favorite places. And then there are companies who think long term like Fathom, a different kind of cruise that combines one’s love of travel with the desire to make a difference in the world.
Give Back, Give Big
Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest travel and leisure company with 10 famous big ship brands, launched Fathom in June 2015 to provide guests with a new and rewarding cruise experience. Thanks to a buy one-get one free sale, you could be on their very first sailing to the Dominican Republic in April 2016 and participate in a number of fun onboard and offshore activities.
“At Fathom we are creating purpose-driven impact experiences for our travelers that will make a lasting difference in the lives and the communities in the Dominican Republic,” said Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation.
Fathom travelers cruising aboard the 704-passenger MV Adonia to the Dominican Republic can customize their trip to maximize interest and fun for family members. There are the island’s ruins -– like the early European town of La Isabela — to explore. Because the ship docks at Amber Cove, travelers can tour Puerto Plata’s historical sites and shop in the bustling downtown area, stroll the oceanfront Malecon promenade, and visit Cathedral San Felipe, a rum factory, Plaza Independencia, and other museum attractions that ground visitors in the local culture.
This is a week-long Caribbean cruise after all, so there are daily options for beach-going, snorkeling, Scuba lessons, ziplining and exploring the island on foot, with guides, and via catamaran. On the ship, activities like relaxing and sunbathing together — what repeat cruisers love – are all there.
What Am I Volunteering For?
Even though the Dominican Republic is the most visited travel destination in the Caribbean, says Fathom staff, 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. This company has committed to offering families daily options for educational, environmental and economic development activities, ranging from building water filters for Dominican homes to helping a women’s cooperative produce artisan chocolates. As part of a home improvement initiative, travelers will help pour concrete for new floors, paint houses, fix broken furniture, clean and improve community surroundings and common areas, or plant fruit trees – all done alongside homeowners and other members of the community, including local children and teenagers, who your kids will enjoy meeting (and practicing Spanish with.) Fathom travelers may assist another women’s association to create eco-friendly arts and crafts made of locally recycled paper. Both programs enable Fathom travelers to have a direct and enduring impact on growing the potential income sources for cooperative members.
Soon to come are impact activities that will feature host family experiences and special needs rehabilitation assistance – whatever works for the social good. By educating, inspiring, and training passengers, Fathom says, they can assure local communities that visitors will deliver high quality, sustainable assistance at scale.
Start Local Think Bigger
Sound like too much to handle? Many local tourist attractions, such as cultural institutions, art schools, museums, historical sites, thrive on volunteer assistance. At Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, for example, there are monthly events and training opportunities for new volunteers to assist at the aquarium, in research, and on location with various projects.
Destinations such as America’s National Parks welcome volunteers in a variety of ways; you can work in a plant nursery and raise seedlings, or work at Visitor Centers, survey local plants, do research about historical monuments and much more. The government’s site Volunteer.gov lists many short and long term opportunities.
And of course some destinations like Togwotee Mountain Lodge in Wyoming recruit volunteers for causes near and dear to their hearts – in this case, an annual Pink Ribbon Riders snowmobile competition weekend each March that raises money for breast cancer research.
Start small. You and your family may want to volunteer a day or two with a local project before committing to a week-long volunteer vacation. Try it; we know giving any amount of time and attention to others will be so rewarding you’ll want to pack your bags and your sunblock.
News: You Don’t Have to Give an Arm and Leg to Give Back
We have long wondered why so many volunteer vacation opportunities are so expensive, and the reason is that fees for participation often support a large not-for-profit staff and their other activities.
Not so with Fathom. Fathom cruises are priced like a cruise vacation but offer so much more: Prices for the seven-day trips to the Dominican Republic start at $974 per person, excluding taxes, fees and port expenses and including all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences, onshore social impact activities and related supplies. Prices will vary by season, but there’s a two-for-one sale going on through March 31, 2016 on Dominican Republic sailings from April through June of 2016. The sale enables your family to cruise for half price (a family of four would pay for only two, for example), and April – May rates begin at $628 per person; June rates begin at $733 per person to the Dominican Republic.
What’s next after the DR? Fathom intends to sail to Cuba, where seven-day itineraries will start at $1,800 per person, excluding Cuban visas, taxes, fees and port expenses and including all meals on the ship and lunch while in the three ports, onboard experiences and on-the-ground activities. Prices will vary by season. To reserve a spot on future sailings, travelers may call 855/932-8466 or work with a travel professional. Learn more at www.Fathom.org.
This blog post was sponsored by Fathom, the impact travel company, but opinions about the worth of involving family in volunteering and social good projects are entirely my own.
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