Carnival Ends Fathom Experiment

adonia123Carnival Corp.’s social-impact brand Fathom will cease operations by the summer of 2017, less than a year after it began operating, and will return its lone ship, the Adonia, to British line P&O Cruises.

The Fathom experience and its socially conscious shore excursions will live on, however. Carnival announced earlier this month that guests on six other Carnival Corp. brands will get the chance to participate in a social-impact excursion.

But the cruise line, the first of its kind, will no longer have its own place in the Carnival fleet, despite “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from Fathom guests and the cruise line’s Dominican partners, according to its president Tara Russell.

“Fathom is continuing, but just in a different form working through all our brands,” Carnival spokesperson Roger Frizzell told TMR. “We are anxious to see it grow and expand in other ways going forward.”

Fathom began operating last April, sailing social-impact cruises to the Dominican Republic. It added Cuba sailings a month later, becoming the first cruise line to sail Cuban sailings from a U.S. port.

While Fathom’s Cuban sailings have been popular—in September, Russell said sailings for the rest of 2016 were almost sold out and there is “extremely strong demand for 2017”—its social-impact branding failed to catch on.

When it was initially launched, Russell said the goal was to provide “meaningful travel” opportunities to people looking for “one of the most powerful life-changing experiences one can ever have.”

During Dominican Republic sailings, guests were brought on excursions to improve homes and common areas in impoverished neighborhoods, work with special-needs rehab therapy patients, support arts and crafts at a women’s cooperative, and visit one-on-one in the homes of Dominican host families.

But Fathom started to shift its shore excursion selection toward a more traditional setting when it added visits to the former home of Ernest Hemingway and tours of the countryside and small towns outside of Havana earlier this year.

Carnival still hopes to continue its presence in Cuba after Fathom’s last sailing; the company has requested permission for its other brands to sail to the island starting June 2017.

“We plan to continue sailing to Cuba for many years to come based on the success of our first cruises to the country, which have proven to extremely successful,” Frizzell said.

Meanwhile, Adonia is now being scheduled to sail in the UK for the summer season for Carnival’s P&O brand.

Taking a different tack on socially-responsible tourism, meanwhile, the Travel Corporation, the parent company of Trafalgar and Uniworld among other brands, last month launched a program of its own.

It partnered with ME to WE, a well-established organization whose founder Craig Kielburger has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, to offer luxury-level “purpose-driven” excursions where guests interact with locals on long-term social-impact projects in Ecuador, India and Kenya. With customers including Madonna and Natalie Portman, Sir Richard Branson and Prince Harry, ME to WE says the right approach is to combine luxury accommodations with high-end accommodations.

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