I didn’t trust Carnival for a second that it really wanted to build a sustainable business relationship with the Dominican Republic through its "voluntourism" brand, "fathom" (not capitalized). I expressed my doubts here.
Hiring pseudo-sustainability expert and faux-celebrity Tara Russell to market the brand seemed as un-authentic as the "workers" who posed in the new cruise brand’s advertising photos. Next to the poor Dominican farmers standing in the photos, the "fathom" crew looked more like United-Colors-of-Benetton models who got lost during a South Beach photo-shoot.
Well the truth is out. Carnival’s much ballyhooed new social travel brand "fathom" will operate to Cuba next year after Carnival won the right to start doing business in that country. The catch was that Carnival couldn’t just detour a crowd on the Triumph swigging buckets of Bud Lights to Havana; it had comply with strict "U.S. Department of Treasury rules that allow licensed travel companies to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities that support the Cuban people," says Travel Weekly.
It seems like this was Arnold Donald’s plan all along. Mr. Donald was using all of the right words in the announcement today: "We look forward to working with the Cuban authorities for their approval to help make the social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between US citizens and the people of Cuba a reality."
But Cuba is no Dominican Republic whose claim to fame is, well, that it is not as poor as Haiti and that it could actually use volunteers. Cuba, on the other hand, will become the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean, to the detriment of Nassau and all other cruise ports in the region. So the Adonia will be one of the first cruise ships to officially enter the former communist island from the U.S. Carnival will use the fare-paying, feel-good cruise tourists to subsidize the soon-to-be-highly-profitable enterprise. Yes, Carnival’s CEO Donald is a genius. Tricky but a genius.
Was Ms. Russell in on the switch-a-roo from the start? Was she part of the cruise team lobbying Washington for the Cuba gig? The Adonia will still sail to the Dominican Republic for a while it seems (but it will doubtlessly be phased out as people will prefer Havana). But anyway, Ms. Russell is happily singing the corporate cruise gobbledygook: “Our goal remains the same for both destinations – to enable travelers to immerse, learn, serve and flourish while making enduring, sustainable contributions on a scalable and systematic basis."
January 8 2016 Update: It doesn’t seem that Mr. Donald ever lost his home as a child to Fidel Castro.
April 10, 2016 Update: Carnival chooses profits over principle; plans to sail its Fathom brand to Cuba without Cuban Americans.
Photo Credit: Carnival / fathom