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The Carnival Corporation is cruising into public service.

In an unprecedented social pioneering initiative, Carnival, the world’s largest cruise company, is transforming the industry into a profound global partnership for civic responsibility.

It’s a cutting-edge concept for the cruise ship business and a welcomed change for passengers who want to engage in volunteerism and help disadvantaged regions during their vacation.

Carnival Corporation has created an extraordinary “social impact” travel experience that will offer passengers opportunities to work alongside local residents as they address community needs.

Carnival’s new brand, called Fathom, will launch in April 2016 and will operate as a standalone brand, the 10th global brand in the Carnival Corporation fleet.

African Americans who enjoy cruising may be interested to learn that Carnival’s first destination under the Fathom brand will be the Dominican Republic. It’s an island of color known for its spectacular beauty and popularity with cruisers, but it’s also a country where the average household income is approximately $6,000 USD a year and more than two million Dominicans do not have access to piped water.

Some are already referring to Fathom as a social justice vacation – and the concept couldn’t come at a better time as financial resources for humanitarian efforts are dying up worldwide.

“Fathom will cater to a growing market of consumers who want to have a positive impact on people’s lives, and aren’t always sure where to begin,” Arnold Donald the first African American CEO of Carnival Corporation, said in a statement. “We believe travel is a meaningful way to allow for personal growth while making purposeful and engaging contributions to the world.”

“We are so pleased that Fathom will give travelers a unique opportunity to work alongside local people as part of a larger scale effort that will demonstrably improve lives,” Donald added. “Both our travelers and the local citizens will learn and benefit from the opportunity to serve together.”

Beginning in April 2016, according to Carnival officials, Fathom will embark on seven-day voyages from Miami aboard the MV Adonia, a 710-passenger vessel, for the start-up of the new operation. Depending on their passions, interests and skills, travelers will have the opportunity to choose from a range of social impact activities and experiences both onboard and onshore.

Carnival officials said Donald hired Tara Russell, Founder and Chairman of Create Common Good, a food production social enterprise, to lead the Fathom effort. Russell will serve as President of Fathom and as Global Impact Lead for Carnival Corporation. Russell established and led the team that has been working on the design and business model for Fathom since late 2013.

“We created Fathom to meet the real hunger in the world for purpose, while at the same time tackling profound social issues through a sustainable business model,” Russell said in a statement. “We harness the assets and resources of the world’s largest travel and leisure company and combine them with the talents and hearts of those working in social enterprises around the world.”

“We are excited about making the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic our first partner destination, and we are optimistic about taking all that is being built in and through Fathom to other global destinations and to the broader Carnival corporate family,” Russell said.

Today, Donald, 60, leads the world’s largest cruise line with 120,000 employees and 100 ships for the 10.5 million passengers who cruise with Carnival each year.

During an interview with in February, Donald said African American travelers and passengers who cruise with the Carnival Corporation have a variety of interests.

“As Carnival’s first Black CEO, I have learned the obvious: Black folks are like everybody else,” Donald said. “There is range of interests, a range of orientation, and there are African-Americans who strongly prefer the (luxury) Seabourn experience, and there are African-Americans who strongly prefer our Carnival Cruise Lines (more affordable) experience.”

“You have studious African-Americans, extroverts; folks who want to party,” he added. “Carnival is probably more diverse in the traditional sense than many of the other brands. It’s more contemporary marketing. But we have African American guests on all of our brands.”

The diversity of Carnival Cruise Lines is perhaps why Donald agreed to partner with Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Voyage for the fourth straight year. This year, the cruise, which sailed from Miami, was extended to eight days and Donald said Carnival offered Joyner its newest and largest ship, the Carnival Breeze, which can accommodate 3,690 passengers.

Meanwhile, according to Russell, the Fathom team took an innovative approach to deeply understanding both its travelers, as well as the needs identified by stakeholders in the Dominican Republic.

Russell said Fathom will mobilize, educate and equip up to 700 travelers on every trip allowing for thousands of impact activity days per week – and tens of thousands of travelers a year to global communities.

Carnival officials said activities will vary in length from a few hours to multiple days. Depending on their passions and skills, travelers may spend up to three days on causes they care about, working alongside locals and Fathom partner organizations on one or more projects suitable for a wide range of ages, levels of skill and amounts of physical activity. Sample activities may include:

  • Economic Development: Help cultivate cacao plants and organic fertilizer at a nursery and assist a local women’s cooperative in producing artisan chocolates.
  • Educational: Work side by side with Dominican school teachers in classrooms to teach English skills and help boost students’ academic performance.
  • Environmental: Provide hands-on support to craft and build water filters – using clay, a natural resource found locally – and deliver those filters to families throughout the community to provide healthy drinking water.

“Together we aim to help communities and travelers flourish by providing immersive, life-changing experiences for travelers and allowing our partner communities to prosper,” said Russell.

Trip prices start at $1,540 a person, which includes a cabin on the ship, all meals onboard and three on-shore activities related to the volunteer effort.

Travelers may reserve a spot on future Fathom sailings by calling any travel agent or visiting or by calling 1-855-9fathom.

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