by Kevin Griffin writing for cybercruises.com
Reactions to the news of Carnival’s new fathom social-impact cruising product have pretty well petered out by now, as we all wait and see. After all, the first cruise will not leave Miami until April 2016. From last week’s column, you will know that fathom is aimed at taking cruisers to foreign countries for the purpose of improving the quality of life of local residents.
The first country chosen is the Dominican Republic, where the new line’s Adonia will spend three nights a week docked at Carnival’s new Amber Cover terminal near Puerto Plata while passengers help out ashore.
But going back, in the last century was the International Grenfell Association in northern Newfoundland and Labrador, where rich Americans volunteered and sent donations. The Cluetts of Cluett Peabody & Co (of “Arrow” shirt fame) donated a schooner to haul goods and supplies north to the Labrador coast.
The International Grenfell Association in northern Newfoundland and Labrador: the small steam-powered hospital ship, Maraval, a Grenfell commemorative stamp and St. Anthony, Newfoundland, in 1920. At the bottom the “Corsica Sardinia Ferries Forest” programme.
In addition to cash contributions, Lord Strathcona, one of the founders of the Canadian Pacific Railway, provided the Mission with a small steam-powered hospital ship, the original of which had once been his private yacht.
Among the many unpaid volunteers who worked in Labrador were names such as Cyrus Vance and Henry Cabot Lodge.
Sir Wilfred Grenfell, the English doctor, who first arrived among the Labrador fishermen in 1892, was well known for having built hospitals and nursing stations and establishing co-operative stores, agricultural centres, libraries, schools and orphanages on that coast.
He also made an annual cruise to all these posts in the Mission’s hospital ship.
University students and volunteer nurses went to work amongst the fishermen and natives in the Mission’s various posts and hospitals. While they all arrived by ship, they did so only two or three at a time to each community, for the summer for the students, more often for a year for the nurses. But these volunteers did not arrive 600 or 700 at a time for just three days, as they will with fathom.
Brothers Nelson and Laurance Rockefeller worked aboard a new Grenfell Mission ship, Maraval, in 1929, and in 1930, cruise ships began calling at many of the Grenfell outposts. Their passengers assisted the local community by buying local handicrafts and hooked mats with fancy patterns that were made from old silk stockings contributed by lady supporters in the south.
These voyages, known as Grenfell Labrador cruises, unfortunately vanished with the outbreak of the Second World War in the autumn of 1939.
But while heavily themed, these cruises did not concentrate exclusively on the Grenfell Mission. Fathom will be the first line to be dedicated exclusively to this type of activity. The hedges are there, however.
As well as being president of fathom, Tara Russell is now global impact lead for all of Carnival Corp & plc’s ten brands. And Sara Macefield of the UK’s Travel Trade Gazette managed to wheedle it out of Carnival Corp & plc chief executive Arnold Donald that the initial charter on Adonia was for only six months, and that she was not actually leaving the P&O fleet.
From a purely business point of view, if it is not possible to book 600 or 700 people every week, at what looks to be double the going cruise fare, there will no doubt be other ways for this project to go forward. For example, there is no reason that all the other nine Carnival brands could not include social-impact activities in their shore excursions.
Crystal Cruises already offers so-called “You Care, We Care” shore excursions, giving guests the opportunity to make a difference in the places their ships visit on every itinerary where this is possible. These adventures, focusing on hands-on volunteer efforts ashore, are offered on a complimentary basis and without obligation to make donations.
Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean, Corsica Ferries has come up with a novel idea of its own that has what you could call social impact. Through its “Corsica Sardinia Ferries Forest” programme and with the help of 200,000 participating passengers, it has planted more than 32,000 trees in the region of Saint Martin in the Peruvian Amazon.
This hooked mat from the Labrador coast is typical of those sold to passengers on Grenfell Labrador Cruises in the 1930s. They were woven from silk stockings donated to the Grenfell Mission and generated a new source of income for women of the coast
So far, 160 local producers have planted twelve different varieties of tree in 164 different plots in the upper Amazon. The programme was out into place not to make money, but to reduce the impact of CO2 emissions made by its ferries.
Other maritime ventures that include activity a “social-impact” nature include Mercy Ships, which operates the world’s largest hospital ship and offers a volunteer abroad programme, Semester at Sea, which offers long educational voyages that include some aspect of social impact activity in its trips ashore, and Peace Boat, a Japanese non-governmental humanitarian organization that charters ships for world cruises.
The 16,672-ton Africa Mercy is presently in Durban and will next move to Taomasina in Madagascar next week, while, as reported last week, Semester at Sea will be taking delivery of its sixth ship, the 600-berth World Odyssey, ex-Deutschland, in August.
The 1,022-berth Ocean Dream, meanwhile, is on Peace Boat’s 87th global voyage, which began in Yokohama on April 12. Built in 1981 as Carnival’s first new ship, Tropicale, in 1981, she left Reykjavik last Wednesday for Curacao and is due to complete her present voyage in Kobe on July 26.