Carnival Corp. Creates Fathom… New Social Impact Cruise Brand

Open Jaw


Tara Russell

MV Adonia

Carnival Corp. has launched a new brand called fathom which they say falls into a new travel category they are terming “social impact travel". fathom will operate as a standalone brand; the 10 th global brand within the Carnival Corporation.


Carnival says that they have created fathom to offer “authentic, meaningful impact travel experiences to work alongside locals as they tackle community needs". Long term partnerships are being developed with countries to help sustain impact and lasting development.

The company's first destination will be the Dominican Republic, a very popular tourist destination but, also a country where the average household income is approximately USD 6,000/yr. and more than 2 million Dominicans do not have access to piped water.

Setting sail in April 2016, fathom will offer 7 day voyages from Miami aboard the MV Adonia, a 710 pax vessel redeployed from Carnival Corporation's P&O Cruises (U.K.) for the start-up of the new operation. Depending on their passions, interests and skills, travellers will have the opportunity to choose from a range of social impact activities and experiences both onboard and onshore.

“fathom will cater to a growing market of consumers who want to have a positive impact on people's lives, and aren't always sure where to begin," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. “We believe travel is a meaningful way to allow for personal growth while making purposeful and engaging contributions to the world. We are so pleased that fathom will give travellers a unique opportunity to work alongside local people as part of a larger scale effort that will demonstrably improve lives. Both our travellers and the local citizens will learn and benefit from the opportunity to serve together."

Donald brought in a non-traditional, social entrepreneur, Tara Russell, Founder and Chairman of Create Common Good, a food production social enterprise, to lead this effort. Russell will serve as President of fathom and as Global Impact Lead for Carnival Corporation. Russell established and led the team that has been working on the design and business model for fathom since late 2013.

“We createdfathom to meet the real hunger in the world for purpose, while at the same time tackling profound social issues through a sustainable business model," said Russell. “We harness the assets and resources of the world's largest travel and leisure company and combine them with the talents and hearts of those working in social enterprises around the world.

“Travellers will work in partnership with proven, trusted local organizations on the ground to amplify their missions for far greater, sustained impact," Russell said. “Because fathom will bring hundreds of travellers to a destination on a regular basis, fathom can achieve focused and holistic, collaborative contributions in a broad region of the country – allowing fathom travellers to make a collective, transformative impact that they know will extend far beyond their involvement. They also will know they played an important role in ensuring the region flourishes. We are excited about making the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic our 1 st partner destination, and we are optimistic about taking all that is being built in and through fathom to other global destinations and to the broader Carnival corporate family."

According to Russell, the fathom team took an innovative design-thinking approach to deeply understanding both its travellers, as well as the needs identified by stakeholders across all parts of society in the Dominican Republic, and will continue to leverage the unique approach.

“fathom will mobilize, educate and equip up to 700 travellers on every trip allowing for thousands of impact activity days per week – and tens of thousands of travellers a year to communities of promise, providing unprecedented scale for impact," said Russell. “fathom has been built differently, having worked carefully to ensure any and all efforts fathom travellers engage with are authentically impactful, scalable and sustainable. fathom's scale allows the opportunity to continuously innovate in the social impact space, while achieving holistic, transformational societal contributions that will help a broad region flourish."

fathom research has identified a sizable and growing market of potential social impact travel consumers – approximately one million North Americans who are strongly predisposed, in addition to global travellers already pursuing service-oriented travel experiences worldwide – who they have determined will be interested in this type of travel offering.

In addition, the company believes fathom will attract a significant number of travellers who have never before cruised. According to research, nearly 40% of the individuals who will book a social impact trip on fathom might otherwise never have chosen to cruise.

According to Russell, fathom will attract people of all ages and from all walks of life, but especially North American, U.K. and Australian citizens ages 20 to 60 years old. The company expects to be particularly popular among:

  • Millennials – people in their 20s and 30s looking to make a difference in the world;
  • Parents seeking a way to open their children's eyes to other parts of the world (approximately 1/2 of travellers are expected to be families)
  • Adults 50+ years of age eager to find rewarding ways to help other people apart from writing a cheque.

“During the past 10 years, in countless conversations I have had with people eager to serve others and make meaningful societal contributions, there has been a common theme – people struggle to know where they fit in and often people have challenges finding trusted, easy ways to make a difference," said Russell. “fathom exists to address this desire and to create enduring, life-changing impact, both in the communities where fathom operates, and in the lives of the travellers who embark on one of our journeys, allowing for unique impact experiences before, during and after the trip."

The new brand selected the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic as its 1 st impact destination based on a number of factors: genuine needs; infrastructure to support social initiatives; enthusiasm for the fathom concept by locals at all layers of society including country officials; its location (proximity to Miami and Amber Cove, the new Dominican destination being launched by Carnival Corporation in October 2015) and its innate beauty. The fathom team worked closely with local Dominicans, resident Dominican business and educational leaders, Dominican government officials and leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country to fully understand the societal needs and determine the best way for fathom to participate in addressing those needs.

Fathom has initially identified 2 lead impact partners in the Dominican Republic – Entrena and the Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral, Inc. (IDDI). Both organizations have deep roots in the country, including long-established programs and strong social connections in the northern Dominican region. Fathom travellers will work alongside these organizations across the northern region to help Entrena and IDDI programs achieve much greater impact. Because fathom will regularly transport hundreds of travellers to the country, the support should be significant and sustainable.

A portion of every ticket purchase price will go directly to fathom partner organizations to cover on-the-ground activities in the Dominican Republic, including supplies, travel, personnel to assist with the activities and funding to support the partner organizations' overall missions. This sustained partnership between fathom and its impact partners allows these organizations to have predictable revenue streams to even further amplify their missions.

"Having led the Dominican based non-profit IDDI, for more than 31 years, I have worked with a very large number of corporations ranging from energy, sugar, chocolate and cigar producers, as well as tourism and free-trade zone companies," said David Luther, founder and Executive Director of IDDI, a non-profit organization with the mission to help alleviate poverty in rural and urban areas of the Dominican Republic. “I have always insisted on a horizontal relationship based on a win-win partnership, but on many occasions it has taken a great deal of convincing on our part for these to understand the benefits to the private sector of improving the overall well-being of Dominican society.

“fathom and Carnival Corporation are without a doubt the exception. They are making a strategic bet on contributing to the development of the Dominican Republic incorporating this initiative into their business plan, which is to me a remarkable step for a corporation of their size. This is not just Corporate Social Responsibility, but a vision of bringing people together as a catalyst for change, be they passengers on a ship or members of low-income communities – very, very innovative. In this, fathom and Carnival Corporation are demonstrating they are willing and capable of creating experiences that transform lives."

“Entrena is excited about and committed to the fathom concept of impact travel for the north coast of the Dominican Republic," said John Seibel, founder and President, Entrena, an organization specializing in training, education and social enterprise. “We believe this concept will enhance sustainable development efforts to foster widespread prosperity among these Dominican communities by improving lives, creating hope for the future, and providing profound and meaningful experiences for fathom and for all Carnival Corporation passengers."

Fathom travellers may build their own schedules and will have the flexibility each day to choose from a variety of social impact and recreational activities. At launch, the company will offer a selection of fun, immersive and meaningful activities focused on education, the environment and economic development along with all the incredible experiences the Puerto Plata region innately has to offer.

Impact activities will vary in length from a few hours to multiple days. Depending on their passions and skills, travellers may spend up to 3 days on causes they care about, working alongside locals and fathom partner organizations on one or more projects suitable for a wide range of ages, levels of skill and amounts of physical activity. Sample activities may include:

  • Economic Development: Help cultivate cacao plants and organic fertilizer at a nursery and assist a local women's cooperative in producing artisan chocolates. This activity is designed to produce high-quality plants to increase farmers' yields through sustainable practices and – importantly – create income opportunities for rural women. Over time, this activity will allow the cooperative to increase their workforce so the cooperative can achieve economic independence.
  • Educational: Work side by side with Dominican school teachers in classrooms to teach English skills and help boost students' academic performance and participate in adult-learning programs to teach small groups of local community members conversational English to help improve their ability to qualify for jobs that provide a higher level of income.
  • Environmental: Provide hands-on support to craft and build water filters – using clay, a natural resource found locally – and deliver those filters to families throughout the community to provide healthy drinking water. With limited piped water supply, this will make a meaningful difference in the quality of people's lives throughout the region.

When not participating in social impact activities, travellers will enjoy exploring the beauty of the region, experiencing the many Dominican beaches and sites of interest, or participating in any one of an array of different recreational activities available to the entire family of Carnival Corporation brands visiting Amber Cove and the Puerto Plata region.

The onboard experience will be customized to this unique travel market, including specialized, purposeful retail options and amenities, as well as geographically inspired menus, music and additional onboard cultural immersion. While docked in the Dominican Republic, the fathom ship will serve as a comfortable, convenient home-base for travellers.

Prices for the 7 day trip to the Dominican Republic start at $1,540 per person, which includes an exterior cabin with a window, all meals on the ship, onboard social impact immersion experiences, 3 on-shore social impact activities and related supplies, taxes, fees and port expenses. Prices will vary by season.

There will be 4 pricing levels, based on cabin configuration and location – interior cabins, exterior cabins with a window, exterior balcony cabins and suites. Additional recreational activities, cabin upgrades and dining and beverage packages will be priced separately. Travellers may begin tailoring their trip in fall 2015 (e.g., impact activities selection, cabin selections, etc.).

In addition to leading the new fathom brand, Russell will work with Carnival Corporation's 9 other brands in her role as Global Impact Lead on social impact strategies and opportunities. “With fathom, we are building one-of-a-kind, collaborative community social impact models and experiences and a solid network of reputable local and global NGO partnerships that, once established, can be considered for replication across global regions and company brands," said Russell. “As fathom grows and evolves, we will continue exploring additional fathom destinations and experiences and identify powerful brand partnerships we can establish, both within the Carnival Corporate family, and also more broadly outside the corporation with other like-minded impact brands. In addition, we will evaluate these unique fathom assets to determine which models can be scaled across other Carnival brands as a way to bring new experiences to existing cruise line guests."



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