June 12, 2016: Miami, Florida
We’ve arrived into Miami and boarded the Fathom Adonia for only its 4th cruise to Cuba (Less than 2000 people to date have made the voyage we are about to undertake!)… We’ve taken a tour of the ship and we’re excited to set sail as we head towards our first port of call in Havana, arriving a little more than 18 hours from now.
That’s Where The Similarities End & Cruising With Impact Begins
Slowly, but surely, the unique elements of Fathom and it’s unique approach to cruising were starting to emerge… As we toured the ship, we suddenly realized it… “There’s no casino!” (While Disney ships and the Pride of America in Hawaii don’t have one, either, it is a clear response to the younger travelers on the Disney fleet and the all US itinerary of the Pride.)
As the announcements were made over the public address system the next big shift hit… “No Cruise Director?!?” The term “Impact Guide” had been mentioned once or twice to this point, but up to this moment, we really hadn’t given it much thought…
Throughout the ship, where one would normally find artwork, in its place were beautiful landscapes and interactive displays with descriptions like “Turn the trip into a journey”, “There’s always more to discover” or “Share Your Story”: (It’s a free build your own video memory booth — awesome!)
“Send A Note to Your (Future) Self”: (Write yourself a postcard with a cool experience, a memory to be shared, etc. and Fathom will mail it to you… In a time where most vacations are lost and forgotten within minutes of returning to the chaos of real life and work, this was something fun and immediately noteworthy…)
And then, there were the Curiosity Boxes: (There are about a dozen in various locations all over the ship — find them all and open them! Each one is unique and expands on the core concepts of Cruising with Impact…)
As we completed the Muster drill, we returned back to our stateroom and found a folder on the desk with a lot of information about our cruise… Bright, bold colors, with just 5 words on the cover… “adventure awaits. are you in?” Below that, an impactful font welcomed us to Fathom with an all-caps “Hola!” As we read the information inside, it was official… To #TravelDeep is to cruise very differently than we had done in the past… The best part? The more we learned about Fathom and its approach to cruising, the more we liked it!
Sailaway — First Chance to #TravelDeep and Get To Know Others
Right from the sailaway party, while other cruises are running passengers all over the ship to fill out their “passport of savings”, Fathom provides great music from The Craze Band along with several “Impact engagement points” around the pool deck. At each spot, you get to meet an “Impact Guide” and connect with other passengers in fun and meaningful ways.
In one corner of the pool deck a map of the world was designed on one of the ship’s metal walls… The impact guides were taking insta-photos of passengers and providing magnets so within minutes we could “meet” fellow passengers and find things in common (are they from my state, from a country I have visited, etc.) in 30 minutes, the wall was full of photos!:
Message in a Bottle
In another corner of the pool deck, right near the Crystal Pool, a couple of the impact guides took what looked like a large plastic wastebasket and toss all of its contents into the pool! From a distance, I couldn’t tell what was dumped, but a few moments later, we had another very cool surprise… Travelers on previous Fathom cruises to Cuba had “words of wisdom” to share with future passengers about what we could do to make this trip even more memorable/special. Maybe a cool picture to take in Cienfuegos or a vendor in Havana to say hello to on a tour, etc. How to share those ideas? A message in a bottle. Our cruise’s passengers lined up along the pool edge with butterfly nets and skimmers and we each pulled a bottle (or two) out to pop the corks and to read and share the messages with others on deck. Again, simple, impactful actions with some really cool outcomes:
There were a number of other activities on board during sailaway (I’m not giving away all of the details… you just have to experience them for yourself!) and within an hour, I had met no less than a dozen new people, found a number of travelers joining us from California (my home state) and countries I have traveled to in the past, and enjoyed a few rounds on the dance floor with the Impact Guides and fellow passengers learning a new line dance. Such a great change of pace from the same-o same-o of sailaways past!
A Dynamic Dining Room
To #TravelDeep is about being open to new experiences and meeting new people. When I found out that the entire Pacific Restaurant was open seating and that you would be at a different table each night this forced me a little out of my comfort zone. Not only would I be dining with new people every night, but the interesting thing was, since everyone was “in the same boat” (pun intended), people introduced themselves when they sat down, we found really interesting (and unique) topics to discuss, and it made mealtimes engaging, fun, and really interesting. By the end of the week, I have met another 60-100 people and connected with many beyond the 7 day cruise.
Bye, Bye, Bingo!
The daily schedule presented the framework for how cruising with Fathom would fundamentally be different from previous travel and really set the stage for meaningful and engaging time on shore in Cuba: (This is just a sample from the first evening of the cruise!)
- 60 Minute Introduction to Spanish Conversation: Great instructors and it was all about sharing your knowledge of the language with yourself (you know way more than you think!) and with others. It was a great team effort as we worked in groups to expand our language skills and gain the interest to strike up a conversation once in port.
- 60 Minute Getting to Know Cuba: The Impact Guides were front and center in these sessions introducing our ports of call not in terms of shopping deals with your specially stamped maps, but in terms of the history, the people, the music, the cultural components of the city — opportunities and ways to interact and engage with shop owners, university students, street vendors, tour guides, and to truly make the time we had in each port of call as full and useful as possible.
- 60 Minute Introductions to Cuban Dance: Dance instructors onboard provided the instruction and footwork with the goal of providing opportunities for passengers to see it, experience it, and in some cases, share your dancing talent with the many Cubans who pride themselves in the music and dance (and yes, there are countless places and times to do so when in port!)
- Team based games like Scavenger Hunts and Outdoor Games Night immediately connected you to new people, getting to know them, while developing strategy and working together to achieve the goal or objective. It really didn’t matter who won any of these events.
- Cuban Movie Night: Some of the most compelling ways to learn and appreciate the culture of any place is to see it through the eyes of it’s own people. “The Havana Motor Club” is a documentary about the love affair Cubans have with their classic cars and how the underground sport of racing these amazing vehicles brings light, hope, and new challenges to the people of a changing Cuba.
It’s been an impressive first day (first 8 hours!)
A unique and personable welcome on-board…
Impact guides who’s sole purpose is to make this journey memorable and as engaging as possible with the people of Cuba…
Activities that help break us out of our regular routine and to set the stage for the People2People visits on the ground to come…
Next Entry: The epic sail into Havana and our first People2People exchanges in Cuba!