When I was little, I would get incomprehensibly excited about special occasions and travel. I would spend all day during the Fourth of July cutting out paper fireworks because I couldn’t wait for our block party and neighborhood fireworks to start. As a kid—whether because my parents were good planners or because that’s the nature of being a child—the special occasions and trips never disappointed. Well, we’re all grown-ups here now, and we know that things aren’t always as shiny and good as they seem.
So this blog post is going to serve as a record of my pre-cruise expectations I have of Fathom, so we can compare them to my real cruise experiences in my next blog post: the bad as well as the good.
I started with the Bad because I didn’t want to leave you with a negative impression of Fathom, because I’m actually really excited about the product!
The Off-Board Activities
The point of Fathom is to bring volunteering and social meaning into what otherwise would be a normal, possibly bland cruise. The activities onboard relate to activism and mastering social media to tell a story, as well as live music from Dominican bands, dancing lessons, normal cruise things. As for off-board activities, there are two types: shore excursions and impact activities. The impact activities vary from helping children practice their English, to working in a chocolate co-op, to making water filters. I’ve already had my little heart’s expectations dashed with the impact activities.
We’ll be spending 72(ish) hours actually docked in the Dominican Republic. So from the start, I was already a little bummed about the amount of time I’d actually be doing impact activities. But once my cruise was confirmed, I discovered I only got to choose three impact activities out of a possible eight. On top of that, some of them cost extra money! People are already paying to go on a volunteer cruise, so it seems a little outrageous that Fathom would ask more money of people to do certain activities. So not only is very little time overall spent volunteering, I don’t even get to do more than three activities!
I’m also a little bummed about the location of Amber Cove, Fathom’s port in Puerto Plata. I’ve never taken a cruise before, but I was under the impression that Caribbean ports in particular are not really good representations of local life. Fathom bills itself as authentic—especially through the impact activities—but we dock right next to a private resort. The center of town seems difficult to walk to, and the beach is half an hour away! (And $20 as a shore excursion…)
Those are the things I’m less than thrilled about. So let’s move on to the things I’m super-duper excited about!
This post would never end if I listed all the things I’m excited about, so here are just some highlights.
The Impact Activities
Clearly, I’m super jazzed about the impact activities—my complaint is that I can’t do more! I’ve signed up to work in a chocolate co-op(!!!), work in a recycled paper co-op, and plant trees for reforestation. I decided to shy away from activities like helping students with English and making water filters, because I don’t feel skilled enough to do either. Did I mention I can’t wait to learn about chocolate, help make chocolate, help taste chocolate!? (Honestly, I could just work at a chocolate co-op an entire week and consider it a successful trip). But apart from the chocolate, I’m really excited to be able to help support locally-owned businesses in the Dominican Republic with my labor (and, most likely, my wallet).
(Yes that’s in all-caps. That should give you some idea about my enthusiasm for the food.) I’d like to mention again: I’ve never been on a cruise. And I’ve heard amazing things about cruise food. Fathom only travels to two countries: the Dominican Republic and Cuba; so most tantalizingly, they have Dominican and Cuban-inspired dishes! Cuban sandwiches all day, every day? Yes, please! Not to mention, on Twitter recently, I was discussing my upcoming cruise and was advised to try all the desserts. Yes, ALL the desserts!
The Onboard Activities
Y’all know I’m a planner--that’s one reason I became a travel agent. One of my most favorite things to do to get psyched up about a trip is to plan out my whole trip, basically hour-by-hour. So as I did this for my upcoming cruise, I got more and more eager. Scavenger hunt? Dance lessons?! YOGA EVERY MORNING?! Guys!! I cannot wait to try all of these onboard activities. They’ve also got social impact activities onboard! There’s a visual storytelling class (which I’m super interested in—what with my blog and all), a social innovation in action class, a mindful meditation class! These are all things that as a millennial and someone interested in sustainability I can’t wait to try!
I’m looking forward to interacting with two types of people onboard, and one specific type of person ashore. Ashore, I’m bursting at the seams to meet the locals. I love to learn, and frankly, I love learning about people most of all. How do they live? What are their traditions? What do they eat? (Yes, okay, I’m obsessed with food.) My biggest challenge—apart from not speaking Spanish very well—is to keep my enthusiasm from morphing into something a bit creepy. I’ll have to remind myself that these people are not there for me to gawk at and study like animals. I would never intentionally make someone feel that way, but my excitement can sometimes get the best of my intentions.
Onboard, I’m looking forward to interacting with like-minded people, who are also concerned about sustainability and social justice. But more than that I’m looking forward to interacting with people who wouldn’t really consider themselves activists or political. I’m looking forward to people who decided to go on this trip because it looked interesting, but they’ve never really done anything like it before. I’m looking forward to meeting the people who will be changed more radically than me by this trip. You don’t have to tell me that traveling sustainably and mindfully is good—I’ve made it my job! But I cannot wait to see what happens when groups of unassuming people stretch themselves to do extraordinary things.
Basically, I’m expecting this trip to be life changing. Am I setting the bar too high? ;)
Now get out there and go!