*Disclosure : I was a guest aboard Fathom Travel’s Adonia on her June 5 -12th sailing to the Dominican Republic, all opinions are my own.
Everyone travels for different reasons, some because they want to immerse themselves in a new culture, others because they long for adventure or just to decompress from a busy lifestyle. There are so many places to go, and things to do.
Another way of travelling that has been around for a while in many forms is Impact Travel, it usually entails going to a foreign country for a fair length of time and essentially “volunteering” your services while you are there. It is a wonderful way to give back to the community and be inspired by the joy brought to the faces of the locals that you help. One of the drawbacks to this type of travel, has always been the length of time that is required to participate in these kinds of programs; so it usually is a significant investment in time, as well as money. But there is another way…
Recently, I joined Fathom Travel on an Impact Travel cruise to the Dominican Republic. Fathom has been working together with partners on the ground, Entrena and IDDI, to help make an impact on the lives of the Dominican people. Together, they have created remarkable experience in travel.
According to Fathom Travel site, “40% of the population in the Dominican Republic lives below the poverty line, and the average household income is less than $6,000 (1). More than 3 million Dominicans don’t have access to piped water (2)”. Both Entrena and Iddi have established programs, and strong community relationships within the Dominican Republic that allow us to understand the specific needs of the community, and in turn, to work alongside local residents to address some of those needs.
Some of the impact activities that make a difference in the lives of the local residents are:
Student English Learning
The Individual teaching sessions are one of the most effective tools for language-learning to help increase English proficiency, this in turn gives students increased opportunities in higher education and stable incomes throughout their lifetimes.
Clean Water Access
Access to safe drinking water is a priority need in underserved communities; waterborne illness is a leading contributor to infectious disease. Equipping homes with ceramic water filters reduces student and worker absenteeism due to gastrointestinal issues, and leads to a stronger, healthier workforce.
Concrete Floors in Community Homes
In many homes in the poorer communities, they have only a dirt floor to live on. This common, basic dirt floor is a genuine health risk. Along with the dust that is moved around, they become wet and muddy when it rains, they can’t be cleaned, so everything that is tracked into the house stays put, creating a very unhygienic environment leading to more illness.
Every month, homes in a different small area of a community will be chosen to be upgraded with new concrete floors.
Work alongside members of the surrounding community, including children and teenagers, to help them create surroundings they’ll be proud to maintain and take care of and that will create a healthier environment for them to live.
Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative and Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship.
Both of these are important sources of income for the Puerto Plata region. By participating in these activities, you help to improve production and increase sales, helping these women to support their families, and help their business thrive.
Set to sail
All of the activities above, and more are part of the wonderful concept that Fathom Travel has put together. You can experience as much or as little as you would like, and at the same time enjoy a wonderful cruise experience.
When I first heard about this concept, I thought that it was an amazing way to be able to give back and experience the culture in the Dominican Republic. I was very eager and excited to find out more about it.
The Adonia is a small ship compared to many of the other cruise ships, but the impact travel concept is not the only thing that makes it special. From the moment you step onboard the Adonia, you are greeted with warm smiles and friendly faces willing to help out when needed. My embarkation time was early, and they did not have some of the cabins ready, but we were offered to head to the conservatory for lunch while we waited for our staterooms to be finished.
The conservatory is the buffet style dining area, but all the staff was available and ready to help so that there was no cross contamination of any of the dishes. (Which can be a problem with buffets). I was quite pleased at the selection, and the many choices they had that were gluten free.
So new at this
Now so that you know, this was my first cruise…. I had nothing to compare it to; so I was taking it all in. When they announced that we could go to our cabins, I headed to my stateroom to check it out. I hadn’t noticed that my original stateroom had been changed and I had been upgraded to a balcony stateroom. So I headed down to what I thought was my deck, to my surprise, I couldn’t get into the room… luckily, a crew member was passing by and asked if I needed assistance. I mentioned my problem and showed him my printed out itinerary showing the cabin number I was standing in front of. He asked if he could look at the cabin number that I had been given with my cruise card… then he said “ You must have been upgraded as this says you are on deck 8 and that stateroom has a balcony”. I was very happy to hear that, along with feeling a little silly that I had not realized the change…
The cabin was quite spacious and lovely, the balcony made it all the better!
Once I was settled in, I headed to the Lido deck to see if anyone I knew had arrived. I finally met some of the people I had been chatting with online, along with a few other new friends.
People were starting to gather around the pool and Lido deck for the sailing at 4 pm, we were a little late in leaving port, but the festivities around the pool were starting up and many joined in on the fun and didn’t notice. I joined in on the dancing on the deck, so fun!
A group of us (bloggers/writers) gathered in one of the many bar areas on the ship (the Glass house) for drinks before dinner. Then we headed to the main dining room ( Pacific Restaurant) for first of many nights and dinners where I enjoyed the company of my fellow passengers, as well as some incredible gluten free meals.
The wait staff was always so attentive. Shandru, the head waiter introduced himself to me the first night and said that he would take care of me for the duration of the cruise and make sure that my meals were completely gluten free. He gave me the menus for the next day and said that I could order ahead of time, so that they would be prepared especially for me. He went through the menus, suggesting what I could have and what things could be substituted… I felt incredibly at ease… this is one of the parts of traveling that can be difficult when you are on a special diet. As with most ships alcoholic beverages are not included, but the pricing is quite reasonable; they will even keep your wine for you for the next evening if you don’t finish it.
The itinerary was full of great things to do the first evening, but I wanted to just stroll around the ship and explore. Even as a small ship there were plenty of places to explore!
I will be writing all about my impact activity experiences with Fathom Travel in my next posts!
Pricing for the inaugural season for the seven-day Fathom Impact Journey to the Dominican Republic starts at $499 per person. The base price of a trip includes on-ground impact activities and related supplies, onboard impact programs, daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a stateroom. A few select impact activities have an incremental cost to cover materials and supplies. The price is based on two people sharing a stateroom, and prices vary by season.
Already excited about this great concept in travel? Check out the website for the other wonderful activities and experiences on the cruises.