(Photo: Eldar Nurkovic/Shutterstock)

The company is the brainchild of Tara Russell, who in 2013 suggested to longtime friend and Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald that voluntourism could offer great potential in the cruise space. Donald agreed and persuaded Russell to take on the venture as president of Fathom, under the Carnival Corp. umbrella. Fathom will sail to the Dominican Republic and Cuba. The Fathom team worked with the government and nonprofit organizations in the Dominican Republic to identify the greatest needs and determine how the passengers would be able to contribute. In June 2015, Fathom officially was introduced to the world, and in April 2016, it will sail its first cruises.

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Fathom Cruise Highlights

Why Go?

Only cruise line to offer seven-day volunteer cruises

Ship sails year-round from Miami to the Dominican Republic, Cuba

Cruises provide passengers training for volunteer activities

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While other lines offer volunteer excursions, Fathom is the only cruise line that will sail full volunteer cruises year-round. The line will sail seven-night cruises departing from Miami and spending three to four days in Amber Cove, a port located on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Fathom will alternate itineraries between the Dominican Republic and Cuba, where it will operate under the U.S.'s people-to-people guidelines

Fathom doesn't call itself a "cruise line," but rather a "social impact travel" company because it offers a "radically different onboard and shore experience" than what is offered by any other cruise line.

The company aims to have a positive impact on three areas: economic development, education and the environment. Passengers work side by side with residents on tasks such as cultivating cacao plants or teaching English.

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Unique in the cruising world, Fathom is dedicated to volunteer travel or "voluntourism." Onboard, that means time is spent learning about the communities passengers will be visiting in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, practicing skills that will be used ashore and bonding with fellow cruisers. Cruises will take place on a relatively small ship -- the 704-passenger Adonia -- and the intimate experience is designed to help passengers unite over a common mission: social impact. Passengers will learn skills such as teaching English and making water-filtration systems out of clay.

Adonia lacks a casino and polished theater productions, both common on other ships, but the experience is designed to focus on sustainability, community and volunteer work. That means lots of practical workshops and lectures, Dominican or Cuban movies and authentic Dominican and Cuban food. Retailers onboard will offer products made with sustainable ingredients, such as natural dyes.

Experiences are customizable, so travelers can elect to combine a variety of social impact and recreation activities. Cruise fares are relatively inclusive, covering items such as fees, taxes, excursions, training and supplies. While voluntourism is the aim, Fathom still is keeping fun in mind, and passengers will have time to relax and have fun with activities and pool time.

Fellow Passengers

Generally, passengers onboard Fathom will skew younger than the typical cruise passenger. The line is targeting older Millennials (defined as those born between 1980 and 2000) and families, as well as affluent Gen Xers and baby boomers. Many passengers will have a history of donating to causes or volunteering with outreach organizations. Around 80 percent will be sailing their first cruises with Carnival Corporation, and about half of those will be sailing their first cruise altogether.

Fathom Fleet

Editor's Note: Fathom will no longer operate cruises as of June 2017; Carnival Corp. will move Adonia back to P&O Cruises' fleet.

The Fathom fleet will comprise one ship: the 704-passenger, 30,200-ton Adonia. The ship, currently P&O Cruises' Adonia, joins the Fathom fleet beginning in April 2016. It was built in 2001 as R8, the eighth ship in a series of vessels commissioned by the defunct Renaissance Cruises. It has been called Minerva 2 (when it sailed for Swan Hellenic) and Royal Princess (when it was part of Princess Cruises). Adonia will undergo a dry-dock stint in March 2016 that will refurbish the interior spaces without making any major changes to the structure.

Fathom will offer seven-night cruises from Miami to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic as well as seven-night cruises from Miami to Cuba. In the Dominican Republic, the itineraries include at least three days in port, where passengers can work on volunteer projects with residents. Amber Cove is located on the north coast of the DR; Carnival Corporation invested $85 million in the port's development. In Cuba, passengers will visit Havana, Cienfuegos/Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba.

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