Fathom Cruise to the Dominican Republic – Our trip was aboard the Adonia. It was a very enlightening and fun voyage. It was a chance to see another side of the country that most tourists never get to see. It was also a chance to meet new people and do some good, no matter how small it felt. Often times, l, and l am sure a lot of other people, tend to feel guilty about being so fortunate.How often have you been at a resort with all the conveniences, only to take a look at the people serving you your drinks, food etc. You notice the difference immediately. You may want to help, but not know how. Fathom is here to show you how to #traveldeep.
The Adonia has been on the news lately as the first American cruise ship allowed to dock in Cuba in over 50 years. It travels to the Dominican Republic on alternate weeks. We were invited to cruise and learn about the new Impact travel by Fathom organization. We gratefully accepted. It was definitely something that interested us. Our prior visit to Punta Cana years ago to a resort was fantastic, but a bit uncomfortable. We left the nice resort enclosure to go explore the inner city twice and got to see the poverty first hand. It was quite the contrast and we felt it sharply. I have seen it in Nigeria, India and other places that we have visited. Thinking only organizations like Youth Corps was the only way to help, it was nice to know that there is an alternative with Fathom.
Our journey started from the Port of Miami, a lovely destination all by itself. We left on a Sunday at 4PM. We arrived at Amber Cove in the D.R on Tuesday afternoon. We were docked there till Friday afternoon leaving plenty of time for our impact activities. Between the Sunday and the Tuesday, we had a few classes with our group leaders where they explained the various things and what we would be doing in detail. There were optional classes available. I took the Spanish Phrases class. It will be helpful for me in Seville for sure :-) .
Our Cabin on the Fathom Cruise ship Adonia:
The Impact activities we chose with the help of one of the Fathom staff members were:
Economic Development – Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative
– Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship
Education – Community English conversation and learning.
We were divided into groups. Ours was number 5, and our group leader was a very enthusiastic young man named Gil. His joie de vive was infectious. He also taught the Fathom Cruise shuffle to the guests :-) . That was a lot of fun and broke the ice on the first day.
Here are the reasons why we think you should take the Fathom Cruise:
You meet like-minded people:
The Adonia is a 704 passenger cruise ship. Compared to the behemoths, it is a small and cozy vessel. This means you become friends with other passengers as you see them often. You already have something in common, a mutual desire to help those less fortunate, a definite starting point. We got to meet people from all over the States. There was a big contingent of travel agents on this cruise and it was fun to hear their opinions on a variety of topics.
You have fun:
Though smaller, the Adonia has a full size spa (only got a manicure this time), a gym, a pool and my favorite..a lovely library. There were lots of places to grab a bite and it was nice having dinner at the Pacific Grill where the food was excellent. Each and every night!!! Kudos to the chefs!. I’m pretty sure we gained a few pounds on the trip. The house band was fabulous. The lead singer has a really good voice. Each night, the entertainment ranged from a movie to salsa lessons to board games.
You really help the community:
The average household income in the Dominican Republic is less than $6,000, and more than 40% of the population live below the poverty line. Fathom has partnered with companies on the ground to make an impact. We were led on our sessions by representatives of a company called Entrena while we were docked. They were kids from the very same communities who had bettered themselves by learning English and were now gainfully employed.
Our Impact Activities:
The Chocal Experience:
This was our first impact activity. We visited the Chocal factory. This company was founded by 22 local women. Here in this small house, they make and package chocolate. For 3 days every two weeks when the Adonia docks, they get approximately sixty extra pairs of hands which help increase production. We got to do the labor intensive parts of the production leaving them time to do what they do best – make the yummy chocolate . We laborers :-) got to separate the bad cocoa beans from the good. We also removed shells etc. that snuck through the separation and grinding process. This involved a lot of shaking trays to separate the slivers of fine chocolate from the pesky. Good eyesight and patience is definitely needed :-) . It was a lot of fun! Hearing some of the stories of these women, you are happy that they no longer have to travel over 2-3 hours each way to work. Being in their own community, they can have a shorter commute and spend the precious time with their families.
Here, you really felt you were helping. On an average day, the women in this company make about 40 pages of paper. On the day we went, we made 134 pages in just our afternoon group. You can see what a big impact Fathom has on their production. Our job was to separate the inked paper from the white and shred by hand into little pieces which were then put into a washing machine and then blended with just two household blenders. This mixture was then put into sinks. My favorite part was filling over filling the mold, then staying still to let the excess mixture strain out leaving you with a page where you then transfer it to a flat surface. This is then dried in the sun..and presto..recycled paper.
This was by far my favorite impact activity. Federico was a bit worried with his Italian accent, but it turned out fine. We visited the little town of San Antonio where we were met by Antonio, the town pastor and mayor at large. We were given the lesson of the week. There is a binder that contains the basic English course. The first fifteen minutes is spent refreshing their memories of the last lesson, and the remaining time on the new lesson. My partner and l taught 7 people while Federico and his partner had 5. I was really surprised at myself at how much l enjoyed teaching and reinforcing. Everyone was so eager to learn. I started out with just two people and later on a very shy boy and his even more shy older sister kept looking in and l eventually talked them into joining us. By the end of the lesson, they were sad, as was l..time went by so quickly. It was very gratifying.
Other Impact activities include:
Reforestation and Nursery
Making concrete floors in community homes
Creative music and arts
You’re sure to find something to your liking. Up to three impact activities are included in your trip. You are under no obligation to do any of course. You can just chill and have a regular vacation, but it was really great to see everyone rushing about going to classes and doing impact activities.
Do we recommend Fathom Cruise?
A resounding yes is the answer. I did have a conversation with one agent who said she wouldn’t be recommending this cruise to her clients because she felt it wasn’t enough, like for example..the cabins did not have the bath robes promised. She thought l felt the same. My answer to her was that this kind of trip is more about the people you are helping and less about you the individual. Someone who would whine about something so trivial should be on a fancy cruise. This is more for an altruistic, socially conscious person. Nothing wrong with wanting all the luxuries on a cruise, but your big picture should include your destination and your purposeful travel. She however knows her clientele best. I have no qualms about recommending it. Of course there are going to be minor hiccups, after all…it only got started in May..we were the fourth set in. I hope our readers are more forgiving and truly want to make a difference :-) . This cruise gives you the opportunity to help the less fortunate and to have a lovely vacation as well. We usually donate money, but it felt good to be on the ground helping for a change. Fathom Cruise organization is offering special prices for upcoming sailing dates. Nope..we don’t make any money off it :-) . You can read all about Fathom on Adonia here. Make sure and check out the good work they are also doing in Cuba :-) .
Pin it for later:
What do you think of this new Fathom Cruise experience? Does it sound like something you would like to do? Have you ever done volunteer work? If yes, what impact did it have on you? Would you recommend this sort of travel?