Carnival’s Fathom brand has lost its ship but not its mission

Carnival's Fathom brand has lost its ship but not its mission

A year after it lost its only ship, Carnival Corp.’s
experimental Fathom concept remains alive and busy reinventing itself, though
it’s not much talked about.

Carnival’s social-impact brand made history in the spring of
2016 by pioneering the company’s bridgehead between Miami and Cuba. It was also
key to the opening of Carnival’s $85 million Amber Cove port of call in the
Dominican Republic. 

What distinguished it most from other cruise brands was that
it gave travelers who were interested in doing charitable work on vacation a
place to call home.

Yet despite a considerable push by Carnival CEO Arnold
Donald, Fathom failed to reach critical mass as a stand-alone brand, so
Carnival returned Fathom’s only ship, the Adonia, to its P&O Cruises
subsidiary in June 2017.

Since then, Fathom has operated in the lowest of keys. It
remains a Carnival brand, said corporate chief communications officer Roger
Frizzell, albeit a brand with no ship. Yet, its heart still beats within a
small organization in Seattle.

Tara Russell, the brand’s founder and guiding light, said, “In
many ways, we think of ourselves as Carnival Corp.’s creative travel lab. …
we have a broad variety of activities that we drive and undertake for the
organization.”

In particular, Fathom has focused on two projects for
Carnival. The first is maintaining Fathom’s original mission on a reduced scale
within the Princess Cruises brand. The second is creating Fathom-style shore
excursions throughout the Caribbean. If the projects thrive, they could pave
the way to a revival of Fathom on a more sustainable basis.

Fathom’s venture with Princess involves the booking of
Travel Deep groups on seven Princess sailings this year. The Travel Deep
concept mostly replicates Fathom’s social-impact mission of providing
meaningful activities on a cruise, but in this case within the friendly
confines of a mainstream cruise ship and its activities.

“This is an introduction to test the audience, test the
appetite and test the reception,” said Russell, who works out of Seattle.
She retains the titles of president of Fathom and global impact lead at
Carnival Corp.

To participate in Travel Deep, cruisers pay a $200 premium.
The package includes up to three impact shore excursions, a cocktail party,
onboard programs, hosted dinners and Fathom-branded merchandise.

Four of the seven cruises have sailed so far. The first drew
142 participants. 

“We’ve had a mix in numbers since then on different
sailings,” Russell said, adding that satisfaction scores have been very
high.

Russell emphasized that there hasn’t been much time between
marketing the cruises and the sailing dates. 

“Were we to offer this more fully, it would be our
intention to open in a broader range of time within the booking curve,”
she said.

The time-constrained marketing for Travel Deep has mostly
been done by Fathom, but Princess has also contributed, and Russell said
Princess vice president of sales John Chernesky has been talking up the
sailings at travel agent conferences.

“He said it’s been encouraging, because people have
been real curious and wanting to hear more,” Russell said.

A second clandestine project going on at Princess debuted
this summer under the name the Detourists Caribbean. It is offered to all
passengers on the Caribbean Princess and reprises many of the onboard elements
of the Fathom program, such as storytelling and photography workshops.

Another feature that parallels the Fathom onboard program is
the placement of surprise boxes for passengers to find. On Fathom they were
called Curiosity Boxes, and they contained placards that had inspirational
sayings.

On the Caribbean Princess, the boxes are orange in color and
are called Detourist Traps.

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