Ever heard of voluntourism? Neither have we, but last week Carnival Corporation announced they have added a new cruise brand that caters to the traveling do-gooder. Launching April 2016, fathom, the name of the new cruise brand, specifically with a lowercase f, plans to bring hundreds of socially conscious non-cruise-types from Miami to Amber Cove, Puerto Plata’s new cruise port. Claiming to have created a new tourism category it’s calling social impact travel, this Carnival cruise product offers “authentic, meaningful impact travel experiences to work alongside locals as they tackle community needs.”
— Tara Varga Russell (@taravrussell) June 3, 2015
The price tag for the 7-day feel good time is only $1,540 (that sentence could contain a bit of sarcasm). “This is not a cruise,” Tara Russell, CEO of fathom told BuzzFeed News. “It’s a social impact travel experience that happens at sea on a small re-purposed ship. The cost is ‘impact inclusive’, and covers lodging, food and all the impact experiences on board and three impact activity days on the ground.”
But what does all of this “impact activity” stuff actually mean? Apparently it includes educational, environmental, and economic improvement projects, such as practicing conversational English with school children, helping a women’s co-op pick cacao plants, and building of clay water filters.
If we do a little comparing, an eight-night Caribbean cruise leaving Miami in April 2016 aboard the Carnival Breeze starts at $997 per person, including taxes and fees. So, that’s only about an extra $500 to boost your own self-esteem. Because according to what Tara Russell told BuzzFeed: “We make it really easy for a traveler to plug in and have a meaningful impact experience. We want them to see themselves as a giver of themselves on the trip.”
Giver of themselves?
We are not the first to question voluntourism, but Carnival has addressed concerns in its press release by stating the company is working closely with its partner nonprofit organizations, including Entrena and the Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral, and local leaders in the Dominican Republic to ensure cruise volunteers are addressing genuine needs that include education, the environment, and economic development. Furthermore explaining, “Because fathom will regularly transport hundreds of travelers to the country, the support will be significant and sustainable – fathom travelers will make long-lasting contributions to the community.”
One last question: What if the ticket sales aren’t as good as expected? Will this all still be considered sustainable activity?
It’s also worth mentioning that you could book a flight from Miami to the Puerto Plata airport, stay at Villa Taina Hotel for a week, eat, and work with one of our local programs like the Dream Project for just about the same price.
What do you think about fathom (with a lowercase f), voluntourism, and impact activities? Let us know in the comments below.