Fathom: Cruising’s Greater Good

Greater Good

Go beyond typical travel with the new cruise brand, Fathom.

By Sharon Kenny

It seems Carnival Corporation is no longer content just filling people’s minds with fun memories and their stomachs with good food. The company (parent to 10 cruise brands including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line, and Seabourn) is now trying to feed their souls, too.

Meet its latest cruise brand — Fathom. A uniquely inspired social impact travel experience, Fathom aims to go beyond the traditional cruise vacation. The experience will enable meaningful personal enrichment for travelers through participation in activities that will create sustainable social impact in the Dominican Republic and participation in cultural immersion activities in Cuba. And in the bigger picture, it may create a whole new group of cruisers by enticing people who have never considered a cruise before.

Thought to Fruition

Fathom’s first cruise is scheduled to set sail from PortMiami in April 2016, and the early announcements have already generated enthusiasm. Fathom received more than 3.5 billion impressions after the initial announcement, and anticipation has been building among future Fathom cruisers. And while some vacationers already mix volunteering with travel, this is the first time they will be able to do it from the comfort and safety of a cruise ship.

“Fathom appeals to me because this is an experience where I can mix travel with the opportunity to learn, connect, and make an impact,” explains Ashley Suggs, a teacher from Idaho. “Fathom gives me an added level of security since I am traveling alone, as well as confidence that the projects I will participate in have the best interest of the target communities at heart. I’ve been on cruises in the past and enjoyed them, but this trip will impact me on a completely different level. What really makes my heart race is the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than I am.”

So can a cruise really change your life? Fathom president Tara Russell thinks it can. “Our goal is to empower Fathom travelers to leave an enduring, positive impact on the destinations and people we visit, and to have a meaningful and memorable experience for themselves at the same time,” she says. Plucked from a nonprofit she’d started in Boise, Idaho, Russell had a long career in the nonprofit and private sectors outside the cruise industry, and was a public speaker whose topic “cultivating your soul” hardly seemed to be the building blocks for a cruise line executive. But Russell’s influence is all over Fathom.

It was a chance meeting with Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald that eventually evolved into the idea of Fathom. “With her passion and her social entrepreneurial spirit, I knew she was the right kind of leader to create what is now Fathom,” explains Donald. “Fathom is a unique venture and we needed someone with an ability to connect with people and who knew what people were looking for to add meaning to their life. People ask what Fathom means, and they think it must relate to measuring in the cruise industry, but for Tara and our team it’s more about the depth of your soul.”

Personal Journeys

Talking to Russell is inspirational in itself. By her own admission, she likes to show not talk, and a conversation with her is filled with pen and paper drawings and notes. For example, she draws three intersecting circles to explain how all three partners — the traveler, the community, and the corporation — will benefit from Fathom, and another drawing to illustrate the five windows….

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