Story: an account of past events in someone’s life or in the evolution of something
What is YOUR story? Think about it for a second. Now, think about the world around you and how your life is different than much of the world; not better, but different.
Our recent trip with Fathom Travel to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic gave us and hundreds of other people the chance to ask that question to ourselves as well as to those with who we interacted. Stories are the fabric of life and Fathom Travel is focused on sharing the stories of locals and having an enduring social impact through travel.
>>Also, be sure to check out our post on Everything You Need to Know About Cruising with Fathom<<
Our Story With Fathom Travel
We had never been on a cruise prior to boarding the Fathom Adonia, partly because we enjoy independent travel and setting our own course. Following timelines generally isn’t for us when traveling, so we were a little skeptical before sailing. However, the concept of impact travel is one that resonates with us, so we were also excited to see what Fathom had in store.
Within minutes of boarding you could tell this was a different type of travel/vacation experience. Most people seemed interested to engage with others and find out about backgrounds and why you chose Fathom. After a number of conversations with longtime cruisers, it was clear this was not the norm. We enjoyed the conversations and felt it was a great start to our week as we sailed away from Miami.
Fathom introduced us to the impact travel concept via on board activities, done in small groups during the sailing days before arriving in Puerto Plata. These activities are designed to help you get to know your fellow travelers, show you what you can expect once on ground, and how we can all have an positive social impact when traveling.
We participated in different sessions and felt they were beneficial, especially after experiencing the on ground activities later in the week. The impact guides do a nice job of opening dialogue during the sessions and then letting travelers take the lead and roll with it. Specifically, storytelling is an important way to share experiences and Fathom has multiple sessions that focus on helping travelers craft and share their stories.
Sharing a powerful story can have a deep and lasting impact, which is what Fathom is trying to create.
A complaint about ‘voluntourism’ is that it is not a sustainable practice for local communities once tourists (volunteers) leave. This is where Fathom is different, in that it partners with local organizations on the ground who continue the positive impact after travelers leave. Through these partnerships, the positive social impact can have a lasting effect on the local community.
Fathom offers a number of impact activities for travelers in Puerto Plata, from teaching English to local children to helping pour concrete floors for a family in need. This is not simply a donation of tourists’ time and money, as you are working side by side with locals who are investing in their future.
Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative
One activity we participated in was the Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative. This is an economic development activity aimed at improving the life of women in the region by improving production and increasing sales, which in turn can create additional jobs for local women.
We were excited to see and take part in the process of preparing the raw materials, chocolate production, and finally the packaging of product for final sale. It was interesting to see the process involved, from sorting good and bad cacao beans to wrapping individual chocolates for final sale. It is a labor intensive job, but one the region can work at developing with its natural resource, the cacao plant.
We do feel the activity is worthwhile and that Fathom travelers can truly make a lasting impact with continued visits to the facility. Our only critique from our time at the cooperative was a lack of direct interaction and conversation with the women who worked there. However, we understand this is a work in progress and that future visits may be different.
RePapel Recycled Paper Workshop
Another economic development activity we took part in was the RePapel Recycled Paper Workshop. RePapel produces recycled paper and crafts, providing local women the opportunity to sell goods in the tourism industry. By partnering with RePapel, Fathom is providing support for the business, allowing the women to expand their association as business grows.
We participated in the entire paper recycling process, which was very interesting. The women have lots of enthusiasm and work right along with you. There are multiple steps in the process, which we were able to try out with the local women close by in case we had questions. Along with making paper, plenty of singing and dancing took place, which made the activity even more memorable.
We really enjoyed our time at RePapel and could see the immediate impact we had through the increased production. We also helped make various crafts and candles, which was fun and a different experience as well. The paper was definitely a highlight and we would highly recommend this activity to any future Fathom traveler.
The Adonia is small by industry standards, fitting roughly 700 passengers, but is perfect for getting to know your fellow travelers. Below is a list of some amenities you will find on board the ship.
Amenities: fitness center, spa, pool/hot tubs, private pool, wine/tapas bar, library (excellent book selection), four restaurants, five bars/lounges, and plenty of open areas to relax or enjoy a conversation
With this being our first cruise, we leaned on fellow travelers to give us their opinion on the ships’ amenities in comparison to other cruises. The general consensus was that we lucked out and were a bit spoiled for our first cruise. Even though it was more structured than our usual travel experiences, it was apparently very relaxed compared to most cruise lines.
Dress was generally casual and we rarely waited (almost never) in line for a table, food, or drink. The wait staff was extremely courteous and friendly, lots of the smiles! From Bosco, our cabin steward, to Aril, a waiter in the wine bar, we always enjoyed our interactions and conversations during our week on the ship.
The pool deck had lots of seating for when you did want to relax and servers were not far away if you needed a cold drink from the bar. Food and snacks were available almost all day, so you certainly did not go hungry while aboard the ship. We tried and enjoyed almost every food place on the ship, including the buffet, outdoor grill, Pacific restaurant, and wine/tapas bar. We thought the food was overall very good, although everyone will have their opinion.
Now, if you are looking for a casino, live music every night until 3am, and a crazy party atmosphere, the Adonia probably is not the ship for you. But, if that is what you are looking for in a cruise, I’m not sure why you would care to take part in a Fathom trip anyway. The idea of dropping loads of money and drinking all night, doesn’t seem to fit with social impact travel in our opinion.
We felt the amenities offered on the Adonia were just right for our needs. Heck, some aspects were fantastic! Compared to camping in Africa for two months and cooking our own meals everyday, it was heaven! 🙂
Impact travel is a trend we do not think is going away and Fathom Travel is leading the way.
We heard personal stories throughout the week, from Fathom staff, fellow travelers, and Puerto Plata locals. Absorbing the stories of others and allowing them to sink in is a great way to view the world through a different lens. We heard stories of struggle and triumph, which makes us appreciate what we have and what we want to do in the future. Our story will evolve, but our week with Fathom will certainly have an impact on the way we travel and our interactions moving forward.
Our week aboard the Adonia was overwhelmingly positive and we hope more people are open to taking a chance on a different type of travel experience with Fathom Travel. Building new friendships and leaving a positive impact on Puerto Plata were our goals before we stepped foot on the ship. We can honestly say both were accomplished.
Try something new, share your story, and impact the world in a positive way.
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We traveled as guests of Fathom Travel. All opinions are our own.