Fathom was launched by Carnival Corporation & plc in June. // © 2015 Carnival Corporation & plc
Feature image (above): Fathom features itineraries in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. // © 2015 iStock
Maurice Zarmati can’t seem to retire. In 2011, after more than 40 years with Carnival Corporation & plc, he announced that he was stepping down from his post as president and CEO of Costa Cruises North America, and since then he has been tagged for one consultancy after another. Now, his mission is to give the agency community the information and tools needed to sell Carnival Corporation’s new Fathom line in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and he’s as passionate about his role as ever.
“If I have my foot in, I throw my whole body in,” Zarmati said.
Launched in June to offer social-impact cruises to the Dominican Republic, Fathom has since received U.S. approval to sail from the U.S. to Cuba and expects to get clearance from Cuba soon. Zarmati says that 95 to 97 percent of Fathom’s activities are centered on agency partners. Fathom is currently piggybacking on presentations at trade events for Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises to reach the agency communities.
One of the challenges for North American agents is that they may not have seen the 710-passenger Adonia, brought in from P&O Cruises, which will still essentially operate the vessel. The Fathom staff doesn’t have to attend to issues such as crewing and hotel management but can concentrate on its own specialty: social impact.
“Adonia is a beautiful ship,” Zarmati said. “Agents can see it on the web, but I’m hoping we can arrange visits before long.”
The other challenge is that this is not a typical cruise product; it’s a very dense cultural immersion. Fathom is likely to appeal to a sector of the traditional cruise guest but also draw others interested in authentic experiences and making a difference — many of whom have never been on a cruise ship.
Fathom recently made its Cuba plans public — still subject to approval by the country’s government — to call in Havana, Cienfuegos/Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba on its weeklong cruises starting May 1, 2016. Delivering on its promise to provide authentic cultural immersion and dialogue with the Cuban people as well as service opportunities, the company has set up an impressive daily schedule of experiences, from visiting an organic farm and meeting artists, health workers and educators to attending local musical performances.
The same applies to the Dominican Republic’s community-led shore excursions with a purpose, where Fathom’s sustained effort in several areas will make a true difference. Participants can choose to be involved with Wine to Water, providing essential water filters, teaching children English, cultivating cacao plants and working with a women’s cooperative chocolate factory. The Dominican Republic has the advantage of the new $85 million Amber Cove port, from which all activities will radiate.
Fathom has consolidated its fare options into four categories: inside stateroom, oceanview, balcony and suite. The company has also streamlined pricing for single, double and triple occupancy, and pricing includes most of the shoreside activities, lectures and films on the two sea days.
Pricing for Cuba, starting at $1,800, is approximately double that of the Dominican Republic cruises. Fathom will alternate weekly departures to the two destinations once its Cuba itineraries are set. Taxes, fees and port expenses are additional and estimated at $200 for the Dominican and $500 for Cuba.
There is a 50 percent discount per person for triples and quads. The single supplement of 150 percent for staterooms and 200 percent for suites is offset by Fathom’s Single Traveler Share Program, which matches single travelers with others of the same gender who are interested in interior or oceanview accommodations. If Fathom cannot find a suitable roommate, the guest travels alone in the room at the per person double fare, saving 50 percent.
According to Fathom president Tara Russell, a percentage of every impact-travel ticket purchase price goes to Fathom partner organizations to cover on-the-ground activities, including supplies, travel, personnel to assist with the activities and funding to support the partner organizations’ overall missions.