ARCC Student Thailand Trip

Giving Back on a Different Kind of Cruise


When you go on vacation, working is typically the last thing you want to think about, but that may be a changing trend.

Voluntourism or community service isn’t new in the travel industry. Even if you don’t have first hand experience, chances are good you’ve heard of the concept. Often it involves students.

ARCC Student Thailand Trip

Northern California based Adventures Cross Country or ARCC works with high school students and organizes community service trips all around the world, from working in Thailand at elephant sanctuaries to working in San Francisco with St. Anthony’s Foundation and the Glide Foundation. For years, giving back on the go has been thought of as something kids do, not adults.

Fathom School Impact Activity

But a new cruise line launched this spring named Fathom, is out to change that. They’ve developed programs called impact activities in the Dominican Republic to make it easy for travelers of all ages to give back when they head ashore. These kids spent a chunk of their summer learning English with the help of cruisers. Easy to use lesson plans make it simple to practice things like shapes, colors and numbers. Crayons come out and though there are certainly language barriers, it’s amazing what you can overcome.

Not the teaching type?

Sorting Chocolate at Chocal

If you have a sweet tooth you can chip in and help Chocal, a women’s collective that makes chocolate. Cruisers essentially help increase production by doing sweet tasks like sort cocoa nibs, mold tempered chocolate and package chocolate bars into boxes. It’s one of the best smelling places I’ve ever been lucky enough to work. As you’re working, samples seem to magically appear, providing tasty inspiration. Before folks head back to the ship they can buy some chocolate to take home. If it lasts that long.

And because it’s vacation.. it’s ok to take a day off..

27 Waterfalls, 27 Charros

Once the ship docks in Puerto Plata, on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, it stays there. You arrive Tuesday around lunch time and leave Friday about lunch time, so you can come and go pretty freely, taking part in impact activities and simply exploring. I took a day off from service work to visit 27 Waterfalls. After about a 45-minute hike to the top, the fun begins as you make your way down in the wettest, wildest way you can possibly imagine. Sliding, jumping, splashing, you’ll do it all, and definitely want to brag about it to family and friends.

Fathom sails out of Miami. The company is just getting started. The trip I was on was only the fifth sailing to the Dominican Republic, so I suspect the impact activities are going to get even better as they go. Sailings start at $499, but range in price depending dates and on the type of cabin you book on the ship. If you have flexibility and can take advantage of last minute trips, pay attention, I met some folks on board who found some amazing deals.

Photos and review by Dana Rebmann. Dana’s cruise was hosted by Fathom, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.

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