Voluntourism With A Twist: fathom™ Impact Travel Comes to Puerto Plata

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company, has recently announced its new brand of service-based cruises. Called fathom, the brand will be led by president and social entrepreneur Tara Russell who came up with the idea for fathom in 2013.

The 710-passenger cruise ship, Adonia, will make its maiden voyage from Miami, FL to Puerto Plata in April 2016 and will dock at Amber Cove for three days while passengers conduct their impact activities within the region. Non-profit organizations, religious groups, and school groups typically offer most voluntourism experiences. That is until now.

What is impact travel?

Fathom.org states that “impact travel is a whole new category of travel: mindful, purpose-driven, and with an easily accessible framework for making an impact on the wider world we live in.” Whether you use the term impact travel or voluntourism the premise is essentially the same: vacationers traveling to destinations abroad to volunteer their time within communities that are developing or in need.

Fathom has partnered with two organizations based in the Dominican Republic to execute their mission. They are Entrena, an organization that specializes in education and training, and IDDI, a non-profit that helps residents out of poverty.

What is the expected effect of fathom Impact Travel on Puerto Plata?

 The poverty level in the Dominican Republic is very high, with over 33% of the population living in poverty and almost one-fifth living in extreme poverty.1 The fathom.org website cites an even higher poverty rate of over 40% of the Dominican Republic’s residents living under the poverty line.

With fathom, the types of impact activities travelers will participate in will vary and depend on what their personal interests and skills are. Projects will focus on environmental, educational, and economic improvements within the area. Many options to make a difference while in Puerto Plata include teaching students to speak English, cultivating organic chocolate plants, and helping a community gain access to clean water.

In a recent Miami Herald article, David Luther, the founder and executive director of IDDI expressed his optimism in the positive impact continuous help from volunteers could achieve. He named reforestation, beach cleanup, sustainable farming and other activities as a good start to making a difference.2

What does a fathom Impact Travel trip to Puerto Plata include?

Each fathom voyage starts at a base price of $1,540 per person and includes a stateroom with ocean view, daily breakfast, lunch, dinner, onboarding events, ground transportation to your impact activities, taxes, fees, and port expenses. Prices are based on two people per stateroom and additional activities and accommodations are available for an additional fee. Volunteers will also have time to pursue their own interests after their daily impact activity is completed.

The Adonia onboard events will focus on preparing passengers for their impact experience and include orientation to the Dominican Republic, Spanish lessons, partaking in Dominican cuisine, and activity training. Travelers are encouraged to connect with fellow passengers while onboard.

As April 2016 approaches, fathom will begin to release additional details on what travelers can expect from their travel experience, including specific examples of how they can help while in Puerto Plata.

Who participates in impact travel?

Results from a survey conducted in 2007 indicate that voluntourists are typically women between the ages of 20 and 25, with 90% of the destinations occurring in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.3 The fathom brand is expected to attract people in their 20s and 30s who want to make a difference, adults ages 50 and up who are looking for ways to give back, parents who want to show their children other parts of the world, and travelers who have never considered taking a cruise but would in the future because of the social impact aspect of this experience.

Other potential impacts

Who does voluntourism actually help?

There are those who argue that voluntourism actually does more harm than good. This side of the debate – the side that is against voluntourism – cites that many voluntourists do not have the necessary skills to make a true difference in the communities that they travel to, especially if they are expected to complete complicated tasks.

Another crucial aspect that many contend is that the very act of voluntourism brings more fulfillment to the person doing the volunteering and not the community in need. As one writer puts it, “The problem with voluntourism is that it treats receiving communities as passive objects of the visiting Westerner’s quest for saviordom. Even more vile is its reliance on poverty as a visible spectacle.”4

The positive economic impact of the arrival of tourists via Amber Cove is expected to be a substantial one. Although construction is ongoing, the building of Amber Cove and its preparation for thousands of arrivals beginning in October will create close to 400 jobs. In addition, there will be an influx of revenue as tourists explore Puerto Plata and its surrounding areas and participate in excursions, restaurants, and shopping.

What effect will cruise ships have on Puerto Plata’s environment?

It has been over 30 years since the last cruise ship docked at Puerto Plata. Once Amber Cove opens in October 2015, it is expected that 13 cruise ships with 57 calls will occur within a 7 month period, accounting for more than 155,000 guests.5

Takepart.com estimates that one cruise ship produces 21,000 pounds of sewage every day. 6 Ships release an estimated 1.2 million to 1.6 million metric tons of tiny airborne particles each year, particles that are thought to lead to premature deaths worldwide.7

Whether you are for or against voluntourism, the fact remains that it is a market that has grown to a total of 1.6 million voluntourists a year, a number that is expected to increase.8 Only time will tell the potential environmental impacts on Puerto Plata. For those interested in voluntourism, it will be up to each individual to determine if the pros outweigh the cons.

We’d like for you to weigh in. Do you think that fathom Impact Travel will be beneficial for Puerto Plata? If so how? Leave a comment below and let us know how you feel.

Take A Cruise to Puerto Plata: Here’s How!

Take A CruisePuerto Plata will begin welcoming cruise ships to its new port, Amber Cove, in October 2015. Carnival Cruise Lines will send its Victory ship for its first visit to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic for a one day port of call.

Amber Cove, and this ‘first voyage’ of the Carnival Victory cruise ship in October, is very significant for the Puerto Plata region for a number of reasons. This 30-acre, waterfront property will include two berths and a cruise center and will accommodate up to 8,000 passengers and 2,000 crewmembers daily. The last cruise ship to call at Puerto Plata occurred over 30 years ago, making this $65 million project a catalyst that will propel Puerto Plata and the surrounding areas into a popular cruise destination. Amber Cove is expected to create over 400 jobs. Look for the following Carnival Cruise ships to make port in Puerto Plata from October 2015 to April 2016: Breeze, Conquest, Fantasy, Glory, Sunshine, Splendor, Valor and Victory.

CarnivalPuerto Plata means port of silver. It is said that the name originates from the fact that the port features gorgeous beaches and sparkling blue water. That’s what day tourists will experience when arriving. Carnival takes great pride in its ports and by sheer circumstance revitalizes even the most traveled cities.

CruiseThere is plenty to see and do in and around Puerto Plata as it is the first custom-built tourist area in the Dominican Republic. Upon docking, tourists can walk or take a brief taxi ride into downtown Puerto Plata. There are eco-friendly tours, golfing, surfing, sightseeing, cultural exploration and great dining experiences for all.

This is an incredibly appealing region with history that dates back to the 1500s. Cruise ship passengers have plenty of options for water, land, and air excursions to partake in. Tourists can experience spectacular views of Puerto Plata city and its vast shoreline by taking a cable car tour. It’s possible to see places that include Fort San Felipe, the first fort built by European settlers in the New World, Christ the Redeemer Statue on Mount Isabel de Torres and the ever popular Amber Museum. If you’re looking for kid-friendly activities and family adventure, Puerto Plata has it all.

Whichever mode of transportation you choose in order to get to Puerto Plata, whether it be by land, by air, or by sea, the experience in Puerto Plata is certain to be an amazing one!

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic is the Perfect Destination Wedding Location

Destination WeddingDestination weddings are known for making a lasting impression and creating a lifetime of memories. A destination wedding in Puerto Plata gives you a beautiful scenic backdrop for that special day and a honeymoon that dreams are made of.

A destination wedding in Puerto Plata offers guests an array of activities during their stay. The city offers beautiful, white sandy beaches, and a rich history steeped in unique Dominican culture. Guests can enjoy a variety of adventurous activities such as windsurfing, kiteboarding, diving, and water rafting. Visit the wondrous Damajaqua Cascades by tour, hiking or climbing. Enjoy a cable ride up Mount Isabel de Torres, an 800 meter high mountain, which boasts vast views of the city and coastline, a 7-acre botanical garden tour, and a replica of Christ the Redeemer, the famous Brazilian statue. See sugar cane plantations and flourishing island terrain by taking a Dominican Outback ATV tour. If it is tranquility guests want there are golden beaches to relax on and sparkling blue waters for swimming. If shopping is the pleasure peruse the collection of boutiques in the Central Park area of Puerto Plata city or luxury shopping at the Plaza Turisol Complex, which is the largest shopping center on the north coast. Guests will appreciate the rich, green golf courses that are located throughout the island. After a fun-filled day wedding guests can enjoy a lively dining and nightlife experience.

Wedding AnniversariesWith a destination wedding, group accommodations, such as renting a luxury villa, can be less expensive as villa rentals tend to be equivalent to booking a luxury hotel room. They are spacious, private and a perfect place for a wedding party to gather and prepare for the big day. Luxurious all-inclusive accommodations offer a wide range of amenities and impeccable service. Every need will be met including pampering throughout the stay.

Plan a destination wedding around one of the big events that occur annually on the island: go whale watching in January, February, and March; experience Carnival and the Procigar Festival in February; gain insight into Dominican culture at the Puerto Plata Annual Cultural Festival in June; dance the night away at the Merengue Festival in September; be there for the start of the winter season of professional baseball in October listen to the world’s best Jazz musicians at the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival in November. These events and more highlight the rich culture of the island and provide you with endless possibilities for fun and relaxation.

Whether there for tranquility, adventure, or love a destination wedding on Puerto Plata will build lasting memories for a bride, groom and cherished wedding guests.

Top 5 Cities to Visit Near Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Inside Puerto Plata would like to recommend these top five cities that are definitely worth visiting while vacationing in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic! 

Check out Luperon, Cofresi, Cabarete, Santiago and Sosua, and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Top 5 Cities to Visit Near Puerto Plata

Here’s Why Villa Rentals Are Perfect for Business Travelers

Business Traveler2

If you are a frequent business traveler, hotels and hotel rooms may start to look the same no matter your destination, and you may find yourself yearning for an accommodation that offers a little more pizazz. For a signature business experience, luxury villa rentals may be the answer to that yearning. Luxury villas can certainly make your next business trip easy and comfortable by providing better accommodations, cost efficiency, team-building opportunities and meeting privacy.

Better accommodations

Private luxury villas typically offer more services than hotels and easily serve double duty as an office/home away from home environment. Villas are spacious abodes where you can walk around freely and indulge in the added comfort. Private villas come with private pools, a private chef and daily maid service. In addition, luxury villas are fitted with multiple television and stereo systems, areas for relaxing and unwinding, and full gourmet kitchens. Some luxury villas maintain on-site laundry services and fitness rooms right on the premises. When engaging and entertaining business guests, it is much more convenient to do so when you have the space and amenities that luxury villas provide. If traveling with your family on business, staying in a luxury villa is the perfect alternative to staying in a crowded hotel room.

Cost efficient

There is a common myth that luxury villas are more expensive than luxury hotels. The reality is that luxury villa rental rates per bedroom are on par with luxury hotel rates. Depending on the villa location, such as in the Caribbean, you can expect considerable savings by staying in a villa accommodation due to the lower cost of living and tourist driven location. For extended stays even more savings may be realized, as villa owners are prone to offer a promotion for long-term stays. 

Team building

Business TravelerCorporate retreats or team travel can be very daunting experiences. Wouldn’t your retreat be even more enjoyable if it were spent in a luxury villa, replete with the best amenities available? Villa rentals are not just great for large groups but small groups as well. Luxury villa rentals can help facilitate the bonds that are likely to be developed in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

Privacy for Meetings

A main appeal of luxury villas is the feeling of privacy in an expansive space. Imagine holding your meeting on a terrace overlooking a well-kept, tropical garden.  These are attractive details that renting a luxury villa contribute to a business traveler’s experience.

For your next business trip, consider booking a private, luxury villa as a sensible, luxurious alternative while conducting your business meetings and achieving your business goals.

What to Expect During Puerto Plata’s Low Season

MaleconDid you know that Puerto Plata is one of the most visited cities in the Dominican Republic? During high season (mid-December to mid-April), there is a tremendous influx of visitors and travelers looking to spend their vacation in the Caribbean sun. However, if your preference is to experience a more relaxed environment that is less busy then traveling to Puerto Plata during low season is the right time to do it!

VictorianAlthough each resort may differ, Puerto Plata’s low season typically begins in mid-April and ends in late May/early June. Most islands, including the Dominican Republic, have year-round, beautiful, tropical climates. Temperatures during Puerto Plata’s low season are very mild and range from 75°F to 90°F (24°C to 32°C). Although there may be the occasional and intermittent afternoon rain shower, traveling during this time avoids Puerto Plata’s hurricane season. Generally, no matter what time of year you may visit, you are bound to experience sunshine and lovely weather.

Spa DayYou can expect fewer tourists and crowds during Puerto Plata’s low season. But make no mistake — there are still plenty of fun activities to partake in. During the month of May come and enjoy an authentic, leisurely city tour. Take your time strolling down Puerto Plata’s Malecon or waterfront. As you stroll, explore the various boutiques, vendors, and restaurants that are open and available. Revel in the Victorian-style buildings and architecture. If culture is what you yearn for then plan your visit during the month of June where you can celebrate with the locals during the 7-day Puerto Plata Cultural Festival.

Cultural FestivalUnlike high season, during low season most hotels and rental properties offer discounted rates on their accommodations. For last minute savings, take advantage of the opportunity to rent a luxury villa or private property. When staying in a hotel or resort, plan to travel during low season if you’re seeking more personalized service. The resort staff will be able to cater even more to your needs due to fewer travelers. This ultimately equates to a more relaxed and rejuvenating vacation, which is a great advantage for traveling during low season.

During low season, you simply must indulge in Puerto Plata’s world-renowned beaches, incredible nightlife and multicultural cuisine. Be sure to schedule a relaxing spa day and enjoy your well-deserved holiday.

If you’re thinking of vacationing during Puerto Plata’s low season, now is the perfect time to make your reservations.

Puerto Plata: A Paradise for Canadian Travelers

Puerto Plata offers something for every traveler and has been a favorite for Canadian travelers for many years, primarily due to its accessibility and a plethora of affordable all-inclusive accommodations. Besides beaches, world-class kite boarding, windsurfing, and golf, Canadians travel to Puerto Plata to be immersed in the culture, cuisine, and Caribbean life. In January, February, and March (the most popular time of year for Canadians to travel to Puerto Plata), one of the top attractions is whale watching in Samana Bay.

 In 2013, the Dominican Republic received 687,891 Canadian tourists, of which 130,320 (19%) arrived via Puerto Plata International Airport1. During the first three months of 2014, over 20,000 Canadians arrived in Puerto Plata each month for winter sun, rest, relaxation, and an escape from the cold weather at home2.

Canadian Infographic

There are several Canadian airlines, such as Air Canada, Air Transat, and Sunwing that have direct flights to Puerto Plata. Cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Hamilton all offer multiple flight schedules weekly that allow Canadians the flexibility to visit Puerto Plata as frequently as desired.

Canadian presence beyond Puerto Plata

Canada is the most active foreign investor in the Dominican Republic and as a result there are many Canadian expatriates living on the island. Canada and the Dominican Republic have over 50 years of diplomatic relations and bilateral ties are very strong. Their bilateral ties are reinforced by the presence of a Canadian Consulate in Puerto Plata and Canadian Embassies in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. These Offices provide services that aid in anything from working visas to business visas to provisional residency. The Dominican Republic is home to many Canadian retirees who benefit from tax exemptions that are available to retiring expatriates.

Real estate – This market is among the lowest priced in the Caribbean and rental yields are also doing well. This is due in part to resort developments and the construction and renovation of the international airports. The ability to purchase residential homes with ocean views and white sandy beaches right outside the door is priceless. Free golf memberships sometimes accompany the purchase of prime real estate.

Canadian-owned businesses – Canada is heavily invested in the Dominican Republic. Although Canada’s focus is mainly in the mining and financial sectors they also have a hand in products, services and technologies. Canadian businesses in the Dominican Republic expand and succeed by helping to create jobs and spurring growth and prosperity within the country. Canadians invest in the Dominican Republic to establish strong connections and build pride within this island nation.3

As a result of Canada’s investment within the Dominican Republic, this popular destination has come alive with expats traveling, renting, buying and enjoying this beautiful island life.


1Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, Tourists arrival by air, according to residence; www.bancentral.gov.do

2Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, Monthly tourists arrival by air, according to residence; www.bancentral.gov.do

3Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, Showcasing Canada’s Strengths and Capabilities in Dominican Republic and Haiti; http://www.international.gc.ca

Travel Tips: Innovative Ideas When Traveling With Kids

Child Map1. Don’t Forget And Always Remember

When traveling with children, it is imperative to book your details ahead of time, and take your time to ensure all of your travel details are correct. Make sure to prepare for the climate by packing clothing appropriate for the weather at your destination. However, you must be prepared for a change in the climate, so an extra set of “back up” clothing is a good idea for the entire family.  Keeping in mind that your little ones will need to be entertained, especially during flights, car rides and down time items such as a kid’s camera is a wonderful option, as your child/children will be documenting the trip from their point of view. At the end of a long day full of fun, you will enjoy revisiting the day’s activities through the eyes of your child. Items such as an iPad and coloring books help ensure a smooth travel experience. Encourage journaling and games, both of which can be packed in large zip lock bags for quick and waterproof access. This is also helpful when encouraging your child to journal and document the trip along the way.  Your child will love to revisit their trip over the years by reading about their adventures. You never know when the unexpected may occur and your daily plans may change, so consider our tips and make sure you have fun activities and items for your children to pass the time.

2 Children2. Things You’ll Need

Check with your accommodations to inquire if they offer strollers, cribs, pack-n-plays, highchairs and booster chairs.  If you need these items for your child/children, you will want to ensure they are available to you upon arrival, and save you the headache of lugging everything on the plane. You will also want to make sure the requested items are available and set up upon arrival, as your child will be equally as tired, after a long day’s journey. Inquire with local stores in the destination city/town that you will be visiting, to see which store(s) offer food for your little ones, especially if your child requires specialty items or toddler treats. Please keep in mind, parents of young children will need to sterilize items, such as bottles. It would be wise to pack a portable sterilizer, as they are not always easy to find when traveling. Prior to arrival, you can ask for a universal car seat, which the hotel can provide upon check-in. However, to ensure your child is safely transported to your point of destination, we strongly encourage you to bring your car seat with you, and check the car seat when you arrive at the airport. Last but not least, make sure to carry all of your medications on your person, as there is always a small chance that your luggage could be lost.  

Zipline3. Daily Activities

If you would like to see more than one or two places in a day, be realistic about what territory you can cover when toting along the little ones.  Discuss with the others in your party about what is on the top of your list and prioritize accordingly. You’ll need to split up the chores, take turns and fit in rest periods if you have little ones that will need downtime or a nap.  Try to pre-book whenever possible, whether it be at a restaurant, on an organized tour or for childcare.  It’ll make everything easier when organizing your days, and ensure an enjoyable and successful traveling experience.  If you have certain needs while visiting tourist attractions, it’s important to contact the company that you will be utilizing to ensure your needs are met and confirmed prior to the tour.  Upon arrival, pack all the items you’ll need during your next day’s trip the night before.  Your trip will be much easier and more enjoyable when you are not scrambling in the morning to pack. Also, by packing the night before, you have the chance to double check and ensure you have not forgotten anything. Remember to book activities that are child friendly, and ask whenever you feel the activity may be in question.  There are many activities that have age and height limitations, so be prepared with a daily back-up plan should you be turned away.

Travel Tips: Five Must-Have Items When Traveling to Puerto Plata

Canon Camera#1 – A digital underwater camera is the perfect travel mate and tops our list of must have items to travel with. An underwater camera is certainly ideal for scuba diving, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, surfing and other water-based activities that you are sure to participate in during your Puerto Plata trip. Puerto Plata’s world-class beaches and adventurous water activities are definitely worth investing in an underwater camera. 
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