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What is Voluntourism?

In short, the answer to this question is: an opportunity to work with local communities and obtain a deeper understanding of the wider world. With that answer comes many more questions, such as: who will this appeal to? What will it entail? And why is such an idea going to be so popular?

Voluntourism is a new concept which has been thrust into the limelight following P&O Cruises’ announcement earlier this month. They announced that their smallest ship, Adonia, will be transferred to a new cruise brand known as ‘fathom’ in 2016. As of April 2016, the 710 passenger vessel will embark on seven-day cruises from Miami to the Dominican Republic and provide guests with the opportunity to participate in three onshore social impact activities.

This week, Cruise Franchise takes a closer look at voluntourism and why it could open the cruise industry to a completely new market.


There is a growing market for those within the 20-30 age group for gap years and travel opportunities. These opportunities often take people to Africa, South America and Asia to provide them with eye-opening opportunities with local communities. Whether it be teaching English at a school, working on a farm, or contributing to a local building project – young people have found great appeal in “voluntourism.”

Additionally, parents who may have embarked on such an experience for themselves and want to provide the same insight for their children. However, finding a way of being able to do this in a safe and controlled way has been difficult until now.

The opportunity presented by fathom will allow travellers to embark on these journeys with an assured level of safety. It also provides a cost-effective and inexpensive opportunity to make a difference for a shorter period of time than a gap year.

This is where voluntourism meets social impact cruising. Passengers travelling onboard Adonia will receive all the necessary training over the course of the first two days of the cruise. The training will include conversational Spanish lessons, impact activity training and creative workshops – ensuring all passengers are well-equipped before meeting the local communities.

Dominican Republic

Based on weekly sailings, fathom passengers will travel from Miami to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic before spending three days in the Puerto Plata region. They will be able to participate in three different activities which range from teaching English in local schools, constructing and delivering water filters and working with women’s co-operatives to make artisan chocolates.

Fathom is being marketed as: “Travel with a purpose. Travel with meaning. Travel that transforms things. Sometimes including you.” As previously stated, it will appeal mostly to the 20 – 30 age group and families – but it is also hoped that it will appeal to 50-plus travellers who “aren’t always sure where to begin” according to Carnival Corporation chief executive, Arnold Donald.

Whilst the weekly sailing from Miami to the Dominican Republic will be the only itinerary available in fathom’s inaugural season, Carnival are hoping to introduce more itineraries should fathom prove to be a success.

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