On a Fathom cruise, a sea day like no other

Impact guide Gil Lang tells Fathom passengers how to improve their storytelling skills. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Travel Weekly cruise editor Tom Stieghorst is sailing on the first cruise for Fathom, Carnival Corp.’s new social-impact line.

ABOARD THE ADONIA — Fathom’s cruise to the Dominican Republic begins with a day-and-a-half at sea, and the activities onboard really set it apart from any other cruise I’ve been on.

Like all the sessions I would attend on our first day at sea, it was participatory, interpersonal and a bit confessional. This is not a cruise for someone who wants to be left alone.Fathom has a philosophy to impart. After breakfast, everyone was asked to attend the “Being a Fathom Traveler” workshop, where an “impact guide” briefed passengers on the Fathom way.

To organize, Fathom grouped passengers into cohorts of about 10 to 12. The guide asked us each to name a favorite travel destination. Then we were all asked to sit next to someone we don’t know.

Paired off with a stranger, we had five minutes to describe to each other something bold we had done, an interesting fact about ourselves, and what we think the key to happiness is.

Our guide, Jeff, then told us about himself and what Fathom is – transformation through travel.  If Fathom has a motto, it is “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

We were introduced to some of the buzzwords that Fathom employs, such as “alongsidedness,” which describes how Fathom passengers and Dominicans work together on the land part of the trip.

Fathom is a cruise with substance, a chance to take stock of who you are and where you’re going.

Some of the workshops are more practical. One teaches phrases in Spanish and another called “Empowering English Tutoring” is for passengers who will spend time helping Spanish-speaking students at school.

Later in the day, I attended “The Story of You,” a workshop meant to strengthen storytelling skills. We paired off again and did five exercises. The first one, creating a secret handshake together, was fun and helped break the ice. We told each other a story about our names and then spent the better part of an hour crafting a story about a dramatic moment in our lives.

We told the story three times to three different people, each time getting some techniques from our impact guide, Gil, to make the stories stronger, more vivid and memorable.

I caught part of another workshop, “The Curiosity Advantage,” about looking at things differently and staying open to fresh ways of doing things.

Impact guide Greg Shapiro with a slide showing the progress of a land-mine removal enterprise in Angola. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Impact guide Greg Shapiro with a slide showing the progress of a land-mine removal enterprise in Angola. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

My final workshop for the day, “Social Innovation in Action,” was another group exercise. Four groups competed to create a social enterprise that would solve a big problem — overfishing and clearing land mines were the two we worked on.

Afterward, we saw videos of actual solutions created by social entrepreneurs, including the ingenious application of mine-sniffing rats in Angola to speed the de-mining process.

If this is your thing, there’s probably no better cruise than Fathom. It requires an open attitude and a willingness to contribute. The return is learning something about yourself and a jump-start toward knowing your fellow passengers.

Fathom is a cruise with substance, a chance to take stock of who you are and where you’re going. It might not be the cruise you want to do every time, but it won’t be the same old, same old, that’s for sure.


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