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The Rise and Fall of Fathom Cruises

Susan SchaeferWe first talked about the new Fathom Cruise line back in July 2015.  After launching their alternating itineraries to Cuba and the Dominican Republic less than eight months ago, Carnival Corporation has announced they will cease operations of Fathom Cruises in the summer of 2017, barely a year after they started sailing.

Carnival Corporation has not given up on Cuba, however, stating that they hope to announce Cuba sailings in the future on their other cruise lines.  They just will not continue to have a cruise line solely dedicated to “voluntourism” and social impact itineraries.  Instead, they will be looking to incorporate aspects of Fathom’s unique focus into other cruise lines and itineraries.

In the meantime, Fathom will continue to exist as an excursion company offering “social impact” excursions to the Carnival Corporation family of cruise lines.  They have already started offering these excursions to passengers visiting Amber Cover on AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Holland America, Princess Cruises, and P&O Cruises.

Why didn’t Fathom succeed?  When we first discussed the launch of Fathom Cruises in July 2015, we briefly talked about the cost, specifically the cost of the Cuba itineraries.  With prices over $2,000 per person, it was an uphill battle with some passengers.  As I mentioned in the initial article, we were going to be tasked with carefully qualifying clients for these cruises.  It wasn’t going to be a simple case of just talking clients into trying a new cruise line.  The ship (Adonia) is a relatively small ship (approximately 700 passengers) compared to what most passengers are used to today (2,000 passengers or more per sailing).  To compensate for fewer “heads in beds” plus a lack of a casino (a major income generator for most cruise lines), the cruise fare was notably higher than what many people were willing to pay.

I am definitely not ready to call the Fathom Cruise experiment a failure.  I think once Carnival Corporation can figure out how to navigate the landmine of government regulations (both in the U.S. and Cuba), and can incorporate Cuba itineraries on larger ships with more onboard income generation, I think the idea of social impact itineraries and excursions will surge.  No doubt the recent U.S. elections and the death of Fidel Castro may weigh into how Carnival Corporation proceeds, as well as other cruise lines, but I think travel to Cuba, however limited right now, is here to stay and to expand.


Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at susan@shipsntripstravel.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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