I did a few posts in the summer about Carnival Corps’ new venture, fathom (yes, ‘fathom’ with a small ‘f’). You’ll remember that this new line will be taking over Adonia in 2016, and will be doing 7 night itineraries from Miami to the Dominican Republic, and to Cuba. But these aren’t traditional Caribbean cruises; the passengers will be able to give something back to the local communities. Here, for example, is a quote from the fathom website about the Dominican Republic itineraries:-
Almost from the moment you step on board your ship in Miami, you’ll realize that a Fathom™ voyage is anything but travel as usual. Yes, of course you’ll have leisure moments, creature comforts and time for recreation. But, during your time at sea, you’ll also be focused on building a community with your fellow travelers, as you participate in on-board activities designed specifically to prepare you for your on-ground impact experience.
Once your ship docks in Amber Cove, you’ll put all that preparation to good use. During your time on the ground, you’ll work alongside local community members on carefully chosen projects focused on improving educational, environmental, and economic conditions in the Dominican Republic.
For the itineraries to Cuba the website says this:-
As with other Fathom trips, your on-board journey will include an orientation to the country’s history, customs and culture, including guided sessions with the Fathom team to share your insights, ideas, and opportunities about the future of cultural exchange travel to Cuba. On shore, you’ll put that orientation to good use as you get involved in people-to-people experiences that include a variety of cultural, artistic, educational and humanitarian activities. As you share information, as you build bridges of positive human relationships and experiences, you’ll be in the first wave of a Fathom experience whose ultimate goal is to help facilitate and sustain programs that meet the needs of the local communities.
Note the mention of ‘Cultural exchange travel’ in the description of the cruises to Cuba. That’s significant, because licensed travel providers to Cuba (licensed by the US State Department, that is) have to provide “authentic cultural interaction with Cuban people”; that’s defined as requiring eight hours a day in structured people-to-people activities (during days actually in Cuba, of course). So serious stuff. (Here’s a link to the fathom website.)
Alternatively….. MSC will have a ship – MSC Opera – based in Havana this winter and offering a 7-night itinerary from there to Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico and back to Havana. These itineraries will start with at least 36 hours in Havana at the beginning of the cruise. Then in winter 2016/17, MSC Opera will be joined by a second ship, MSC Armonia, which will be doing similar itineraries. Does this mean that MSC has taken “cultural exchange activities” to their hearts? Perhaps not. The requirement that travellers should undertake cultural whatsits is a US requirement, of course, and falls on companies arranging travel from the USA to Cuba – which is what fathom will be doing as their cruises will start in Miami. But MSC’s cruises are all fly-cruises (flying to Havana), and the airports from which they’re offering flights are all either in the UK, Europe, Canada or South America – not the USA. So the US regulations don’t apply to these MSC cruises.
I’m sure fathom is very worthy, and I hope it does well, but I have a feeling that I’d rather do Cuba with MSC.