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Give Back On Your Next Family Vacation

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

Some parents and kids want to do more than just play at the beach on their family vacation. They want to combine having fun with making a difference – and they’re not alone. According to a recent study conducted for Travelocity, 63% of Americans want to take a trip that combines volunteering opportunities with enjoying leisure time. Finding vacation options that allow parents and kids to do both in a safe and meaningful way has been challenging, but now it’s gotten much easier.

Carnival Corporation recently launched a new brand called Fathom that allows families to combine having fun with helping others on vacation. Fathom will offer seven–day family–friendly cruises from the port of Miami in 2016, sailing every two weeks to the Dominican Republic starting in April. Fathom currently expects its "people–to–people" cultural immersion cruises to Cuba to launch the following month. Families with children ages eight and older are welcomed on both. On Fathom’s social impact cruise vacations to the Dominican Republic, families can work alongside local organizations to make a difference in local communities.

The Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic is an excellent choice for Fathom’s first destination. This area is known for its natural beauty, but the average household income there is about $6,000 US per year and over two million Dominican citizens have no piped water. In addition, there are significant education needs here. Working together, there are numerous ways for volunteer–minded families to make a lasting impact. In addition to social impact experiences, families can choose to take part in any of Fathom’s wide array of recreational activities while in Puerto Plata. Fathom guests can create their own individual daily schedules, deciding when they want to participate and how much they want to do. Some social impact experiences may require a larger commitment of hours than others, so families can choose their activities based on their interests and the kind of vacation they’d like to enjoy while in port.

Puerto Plata has not been a well–known Caribbean vacation destination in recent years, but the region has a historic past. Founded by Christopher Columbus and his brother in the 1490’s, it’s home to Fort San Felipe, the first fort in the New World. Puerto Plata’s city center features a beautiful seaside pedestrian boulevard for strolling, a palm–studded beach, thatched–roof beach bars and plenty of shopping. The beach town of Cabarete, one of the best windsurfing spots in the world, is located nearby. So is Ocean World Adventure Park, which is sure to be a hit with families. Here, guests can enjoy dolphin experiences and a variety of animal encounters, snorkel in Ocean World’s Tropical Reef Aquarium, and play in the freshwater pool and at the beach. All–inclusive experiences at local beach resorts offer another great way for families to experience the area.

Carnival Corporation’s newest port, Amber Cove, is also set in Puerto Plata. Since families will live onboard Fathom’s ship while in Puerto Plata, this exceptional new $85 million cruise port is a real asset. Set on a 25–acre site, Amber Cove makes an excellent home base for families cruising with Fathom. There’s a huge pool with a swim–up bar, a lazy river, a zipline and waterslides, a kids’ waterplay area, and much more. In addition, the port’s large transportation hub for tour buses and taxis makes travel logistics safe and easy for families and other Fathom cruise guests. There is no beach within the Amber Cove complex, but shore excursions are available to area beaches including Cabarete, Punta Rucia, Coconut Cove and others. All–inclusive excursions to local family–friendly beach resorts are also offered as well.

The Puerto Plata community is excited about welcoming cruise guests to the area. Fathom has worked closely with tourism officials and others in the Dominican Republic to identify the best local non–governmental organizations (NGOs) and community groups to partner with in the Puerto Plata region. On their social impact vacation, Fathom guests can work alongside local leaders and community members in meaningful and rewarding ways. In the Dominican Republic, examples of these volunteer activities include working with local classroom teachers to teach English skills in schools; helping a local women’s cooperative to produce artisan chocolates and generate income–producing opportunities; and supporting local communities in producing water filters that will help provide healthy drinking water for many families.

Fathom’s social impact activities are designed for a variety of different ages, physical activity and skills. Some activities may have minimum age requirements for safety reasons, while others are well–suited for a wider range of guests. Here's a closer look at three of Fathom’s engaging options for giving back:

Teaching English in Local Schools.  Tourism is big business in the Dominican Republic. Carnival Corporation’s new Amber Cove cruise port is expected to welcome 350,000 cruise guests on 23 ships in its first year alone. Punta Cana, La Romana and other areas of the country also have significant tourism operations. While Spanish is the primary language in the Dominican Republic, a large number of the country’s tourists speak English. English language skills can help students and others get jobs in the tourism industry and secure a brighter future for themselves and their families. Students genuinely want to learn English and more teachers are needed in Puerto Plata to help. That’s where Fathom can play a key role. Every two weeks, Fathom can bring English–speaking volunteers to help local students ages 6–14 learn English and practice their language skills.

Helping a Women’s Chocolate Cooperative.  Located in the Palmar Grande area of Puerto Plata, the Chocal women’s chocolate cooperative makes high quality organic chocolate products by hand. Of the group of 30 women active in the cooperative, 18 of them are running the chocolate factory. The cooperative’s products are distributed in retail outlets and at events. A loan made it possible for the group to use their current building for factory operations and greater production is needed to generate more income. Fathom guests can help in numerous parts of the cacao bean harvest and production, allowing the cooperative to increase their product output in a sustainable way while maintaining their high quality.

Producing and Distributing Water Filters.  Many areas of the Dominican Republic have no piped water supply, including some in the Puerto Plata region. As a result, there is a high incidence of water–borne illnesses among families and others. Wine to Water, a non–profit organization founded by Doc Henley in 2003, has been active in providing clean drinking water in communities around the world. Wine to Water’s main focus in the Dominican Republic is water filtration through containers produced at the organization’s ceramic facility on the island. Helping hands are needed to boost the manufacturing and distribution of these ceramic filtration containers to families in need. Fathom guests can help make these ceramic filtration containers and, while the ones they have produced are drying, distribute those made by previous volunteers to appreciative families in the Puerto Plata area.

Fathom offers an excellent way for families to cruise with a purpose, have fun together, and make an impact. Working together, a group of families and individuals can immerse themselves in the local culture and make a lasting sustainable difference for communities in need. For more information about Fathom and its family–friendly social impact cruises,
visit www.fathom.org.

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