As a parent, I want to instill in my kids a sense of gratitude and respect for others from all walks of life. It’s so easy for all of us to feel entitled or take things for granted. I can easily fall into the trap of comparison in my own life until I’m brought back to reality with large, humbling doses of perspective. I wanted my kids to be stretched in this area in a new way. That’s where a family adventure on a Fathom cruise came in. I was invited by Fathom to be on the final pilot trip to the Dominican Republic in the spring before Fathom launched their new cruise line focusing on impact travel.
So how is this cruise line different?
Well, they are cruising differently.
Pioneered by Fathom, impact travel is a whole new category of travel: it’s travel with purpose. Travel that transforms lives. Sometimes including your own. Impact travel with Fathom provides the opportunity to build community with like-minded travelers, become immersed in another culture, and work alongside its people to create enduring social impact.
Every Fathom™ journey is based on our sincere belief that the person-to-person connection is among the strongest catalysts for transformation. What sets Fathom apart is the long-term, systematic partnership approach with its partner countries paired with the unique business model that allows for sustained impact and lasting development. Fathom’s scale and global vision reach beyond what the world has ever seen.
I truly believe that this new type of intentional, impact travel will take off because of the investment and planning by Fathom combined with the partnership with Dominican organizations and travelers. There is a limitless number of impact potential for both the travelers and the people who live in the Dominican Republic. When I was invited to bring my family, it was a no brainer. I wanted my family to connect, experience, and understand why I was so excited and passionate about the work they were doing in the Dominican Republic.
I wanted this cruise to wreck my family.
Let me explain.
My prayer was that this trip would wreck all of us in a good way- filled with more appreciation for what we have, expanded love for people, and experiences and friendships with Dominican people and travelers that would last beyond the trip.
The trip did just that.
How and where can I even begin to express in words what this trip was like for our family?
This was my boys’ first cruise and trip out of the country. My first trip out of the country was in high school and it really opened my eyes. I wanted my boys to develop a new worldview too.
Here are some of the many benefits my family experienced during our Fathom cruise and what I think other families will appreciate about Fathom as well.
A Fathom Cruise gives you the ability to serve together. Most humanitarian/volunteer/mission trips require that kids be at least 16 years old to attend. Kids on a Fathom cruise can start as young as 8. This allows more families to share this type of impact travel experience together. I loved that we could do service projects together as a family.
Your room and board is already covered. Another concern for families who want to serve internationally is where they will sleep, having to get shots, and what they will eat. All of your meals and sleeping are done on the ship while docking at the brand new port Amber Cove in Puerta Plata which alleviates all of those concerns.
Your impact activities are included in the cost of your cruise. You can choose how many impact activities you want to be a part of, whether you would prefer morning or afternoon, or none at all, each day. I would highly recommend reserving your activities in advance because the popular ones fill up fast. Water filtration and concrete floors are the only impact activities that charge an additional fee to cover the cost of materials. Your transportation and programing are taken care of so all you have to do is wear a smile and be ready to serve.
You have opportunities to be better prepared before going into the community. Our family took advantage of the workshops offered on the cruise while at sea. We took an intro to English class and attended our Cohort group where we were given an overview of what to expect during our time in the Dominican Republic along with an opportunity to meet other travelers.
The port at Amber Cove has great amenities that you have access to. During your free time, you can relax at the large pool, zipline, enjoy waterslides, shop, eat, and even help at the reforestation nursery. The pool and waterslides do not have any additional fees.
Families can rediscover and enjoy simple entertainment. My kids enjoyed spending most of their time in the pool, rediscovering their love of ping pong, and playing board games in the library. I liked that there wasn’t a lot of over the top bells and whistles on the ship because I feel that the contrast of what we did on the island would have been too distracting and easy to forget.
There are activities onboard that encourage you to become more curious and adventurous. There are curious boxes and scavenger hunts. We were also encouraged to get out of our comfort zone on the trip in some way. That could be trying a new food or talking to someone new.
Sharing a meal becomes more interesting when you have new friends. The only night our family ate by ourselves for dinner was the first night. The rest of the time we shared meals with other travelers which was way more intriguing. After our while, our kids decided that they wanted to ditch us parents and the fancier dinner to spend time sharing a meal with their new friends. We were ok with that. One of the sweetest moments was when my boys wanted to wear their “dress up” shirts for a special birthday dinner with all of their friends at a special kids table in the restaurant. The kids were in a close proximity to an adult table but also shared a great night together.
You can choose how busy you want to be during your vacation. Our family participated in 4 impact activities during our time in the DR. We still had plenty of time for leisure and adventure. We swam at the pool at Amber Cove and even hiked 12 of the 27 waterfalls located about 20 minutes away one afternoon. I would not change a thing. I’m glad that we participated in an impact activity each day and also had plenty of time to relax. It was the perfect mix of a little work and play.
My family witnessed hard work and sacrifice everyday. My family worked alongside locals in their businesses. We were part of increasing production and investing into their business with the products that we bought. We witnessed how resourceful and creative these employees are. My kids got to see and experience the process.
The staff on our cruise also worked HARD with a continuous smile on their face.We asked our servers and staff their names and their stories. Their stories and sacrifice for a better life for their families put things in perspective for our family. As a family, we talked about how hard it would be to be separated from family and how fortunate we are to be together.
Kids will experience the difference between being a traveler vs. a tourist. Our Fathom cruise gave us opportunities to engage with the community in meaningful ways that are not typical of tourist interactions. My family was invited into a Dominican’s home to share a lesson on English where the children came prepared with notebooks in eagerness to learn. We taught a new lesson in the curriculum that is presented every two weeks by travelers to give this rural community more opportunities. My kids learned how to recycle paper and danced with my friends at RePapel. They learned about the process of making chocolate from bean to chocolate bar and shared in the labor, and my family played games with other kids at their school for a summer camp where they got to craft, play, and laugh together with other kids. These were not typical tourist encounters. These were meaningful exchanges that benefited both parties.
During our cruise we had opportunities to reflect on our trip and share our experience with friends or our future self to keep those impactful memories during our trip alive with postcards. Fathom also has a photographer on site at the impact activities to capture the moments so that you can be in the moment.
Your shopping can help great organizations. The gift shop on the ship is filled with products that are mission minded in helping others. I love my handmade headband that I bought from the store that supports Krochet kids. We were also happy to support our new friends at the RePapel and Chocal gift shops after serving alongside their employees. Who doesn’t love chocolate?
Tangible results- Our family was part of the 6th Fathom voyage. Here are the statistics presented to us from the sum of 6 voyages from Fathom to the DR. (The stats were calculated to include our impact activities during our trip)
These stats almost get me a little teary eyed when I think about how much impact 6 cruises have made and how many more lives will be better because people chose to cruise differently and be a part of a legacy that will help generations to come.
Reforestation– 8,656 seedlings and plants
Chocal– 1,679 pounds nibs cleaned= 49,550 finished chocolate bars and 25,008 products packaged and prepared for sale.
RePapel– 11 women members of a cooperatively owned business- 4 artisans found a workshop for their labor and a market for their product- 3,851 sheets of paper produced
Concrete Floors – 16 homes now have concrete flooring – 111 people live in a safer home with improved quality of life
Water Filters– 316 Filters produced- 1500+ people consume clean, safe water
English- 728 Learners- each benefit from consistent, repeated foreign language interaction with native English speakers 13 hours-direct interaction and instruction from English speaker, which signifies 5.4% of the 240 hours recommended by international bodies to achieve elementary proficiency in English.
Our family will never be the same because of this trip. My boys’ worldview has been expanded and they have a greater perspective.
Our experience on a Fathom Cruise did wreck all of us in a good way. Our family is filled with more appreciation for what we have, we have expanded love for people, and cherish countless experiences and friendships with Dominican people and travelers that have lasted beyond the trip.
Find out for yourself to experience what happens when a cruise line and impact travel collide into something beautiful.
You can find out more about a cruise from Fathom on their website.
Thanks again to Fathom for inviting my family to experience this cruise. All opinions are my own.