OVERVIEW: When we heard that Carnival-owned Fathom Cruise Line was closing out its Impact Travel cruises on the Adonia, we made a very quick decision to book one of their hybrid cruises visiting both Cuba and the Dominican Republic before ... Read More
OVERVIEW: When we heard that Carnival-owned Fathom Cruise Line was closing out its Impact Travel cruises on the Adonia, we made a very quick decision to book one of their hybrid cruises visiting both Cuba and the Dominican Republic before the opportunity disappeared. The impact activities are intended to help local people by working alongside them. This, of course, is very different from the usual type of cruise vacation.
BEFORE: We drove from North Carolina (a loooong drive) and stayed at the Miami Red Roof Inn with a cruise and stay package (stay one night, leave your car free for up to a week). The hotel also offered a free breakfast and free shuttle to the cruise port. The room was clean and spacious.
EMBARKATION: This was probably the easiest embarkation ever, probably in part due to the size of the ship -- only 704 passengers. The cruise port was pleasant -- air-conditioned, free wi-fi, nice restrooms, a clear view of the ship.
SHIP: The Adonia is a little jewel among cruise ships. It is clean, neat, and decorated in a traditional, very classy, British style -- all wood paneling, turkish rugs, and comfortable armchairs. There is no casino on the ship, which I found very refreshing, so there's always a place to sit and rest, talk with others, play a game, or just relax. There are several interesting lounges including the Curzon Lounge which is set up for entertainment or movies. It's easy to walk the length and breadth of the Adonia and get to know it very quickly. Because it is so small, there is a bit more movement of the ship. On the sea days, we were rocking and rolling quite a bit and took our seasickness pills to offset the unexpected motion. One thing that surprised me is that for the required drill, we actually had to bring our life vests to the drill and put them on. But at least we were seated in an air-conditioned lounge and not lined up in the heat on a deck somewhere.
CABIN D000. We received an unexpected and very welcome upgrade from an interior room to an ocean view room on the lowest public deck right at the front of the ship. It was one of the nicest cabins I've had with a large window and a recessed area around it big enough to sit in or store many things. There was plenty of closet and storage areas. The bathroom area was small, but about what I've come to expect on a cruise. I cruised with my sister and the twin beds were arranged side-by-side with about 6" between. We found that we liked that arrangement as we could talk in the evenings, wrapping up our day and there was room to get around the beds on three sides. There was also a small sleeper sofa.
SERVICE: Our room steward Sherland kept our room spotless, anticipated our needs, and always responded with a smile.
DINING: The food was excellent and featured dishes from Cuba and the Dominican Republic all week, although there were other offerings as well. While all staff was polite, we found eating in the dining room was painfully slow and it was hard to get refills on beverages and other routine things. When we checked out the buffet, we found that they offered the same menu as the dining room, so we took most of our meals there. Just outside the buffet near the pool were sandwich/burger areas and I enjoyed a Cubano twice. For the evening meal, wait staff added napkins, silverware and wine glasses to the inside buffet areas, making it just as nice as the dining room.
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES: We knew from the outset that this cruise would be different, offering fewer entertainment options. There were no "shows," no casino, only one or two bars -- and also no smoke-filled rooms or rowdy passengers and silly contests. We liked this. There were informational sessions offered such as how to be a Fathom Traveler in Cuba and Dominican Republic and how to prepare for the impact activities. These sessions were useful.
CUBA. US Citizens still cannot go as regular tourists as there is still an embargo on travel for US Citizens to Cuba. We had to get a special visa ($75), called a people to people license and were required to participate in documented cultural and educational experiences while there. This can be through a group or visitors can "self-certify" their activities, but must keep records and documentation for 5 years. We elected to purchase an excusion put together by Fathom which met the criteria. We visited Santiago de Cuba, enjoyed visiting several historic sites, watching local dancers, and having a meal with a local family.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. Here we participated in two impact activities. We helped at a women's cacao/chocolate co-op one morning, learning the basics of preparing and drying the cacao beans, and actually working to sort beans, pick shell fragments from crushed beans, preparing bags for chocolates, molding chocolate and planting cacao beans. It was hard, hot work, but very educational and satisfying. Our other activity was working with another women's co-op, this one making recycled paper and paper products. This also was hot work, some of it testing my physical abilities, but I will never forget how happy and welcoming the women were and how much our labor truly did help. There was also an opportunity to purchase chocolate or paper products both on-site and at the port. These were quality products and I was happy to contribute in that way, too. At the end of the week, the Impact Travel team shared statistics on just what we'd been able to accomplish. Other activities involved pouring concrete floors, reforestation, and other needed work. It was good to be a part of a team that helps people. Even though the Fathom Cruise Line is closing, I understand that Fathom Impact Excursions may be opened up to other cruises in the future. I hope that works out.
IMPACT TRAVEL FOLLOW-UP: For me, I felt that participating in the activities was sufficient in and of itself. I wanted to meditate on the experience and perhaps consider ways that I can help from home, or ways that I can help people in my own area to become more self-sufficient. I definitely will be on the lookout for the Fathom Impact excursions, if they should be offered in the future. However, I was disappointed that the Fathom Impact follow-up sessions on board focused largely on self-aggrandizement. There were also sessions offered during the week regarding some new-age type activities such as determining my "spirit animal." I definitely could (and did) pass on that. This mindset was a little off-putting and did not seem to blend well with the activities. Participating in the activities and meeting and working alongside local people was reward enough.
CONCLUSION Even though the Fathom Impact Travel cruises are shutting down, this was a useful, memorable, and meaningful experience for me. I hope they will be able to offer the activities as excursions to others. I understand the Adonia is returning (along with the entire crew) to the P&O fleet and I hope one day to sail on that delightful ship again one day. Read Less