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.

The World’s First Latina Disney Princess

Princess Elena of AvalorInside Puerto Plata would like to congratulate Dominican born Aimee Carrero in her new role as the voice of Disney’s newest and first animated Latina princess, Princess Elena of Avalor. Princess Elena is making a grand entrance into the world of Disney on Disney Junior’s show “Sofia the First” and will then spin off into her own television show in 2016.

Disney’s princesses are pop culture in the lives of young girls and have been so for decades. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella represent iconic heroines to young girls and Disney hopes Princess Elena will do the same. While Disney has other princesses of color, such as Mulan, Jasmine, and Tiana, Disney believes Princess Elena will bring a feeling of inclusion, positive representation, and value to young Latina girls.

Princess Elena is a confident and compassionate teenager who grows up in the fairytale kingdom of Avalor. Her stories will be written to include elements familiar to children with different Hispanic and Latino backgrounds and heritages.

Princess Elena’s story began decades before the storyline where she will make her debut. Her kingdom and family were taken from her by Shuriki, an evil sorceress who captured her in a magical amulet while trying to protect her little sister from an enemy. Her introduction back into the world will come when Sofia the First learns that the amulet she currently wears is where Princess Elena is trapped. Sofia will free Elena and help her regain her kingdom. Disney has described Elena as bold, caring, funny and clever, and states that she will have to learn the good skills of leadership as she regains Avalor and becomes a successful ruler.*

A Nielsen Report in 2012 reported that many companies such as Walmart and McDonalds have spent millions on marketing to Latinos. Disney is now doing the same by having a true Latina Princess become the next iconic heroine.

Disney’s Princess Elena of Avalor is one long awaited Latina princess!

*Momdijan, Cynthia. Disney Junior Worldwide. Disney.com. https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/blog. January 30, 2015.

Inside Puerto Plata Shows Hometown Pride for “Orange is the New Black”


On Sunday, January 25, 2015, the ever popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” brought home three SAG or Screen Actors Guild Awards. Inside Puerto Plata would like to shine a spotlight on four actresses in “Orange is the New Black” with ties to the Dominican Republic. These women of color bring great pride to their country through their work in this diverse comedy of Latinas, Blacks, Whites, transgenders and other group’s perspectives of life in a women’s prison.

“Orange is the New Black” is based on a memoir written by Piper Kerman. The series delves into the characters’ lives both in and outside prison and reveals real stories of life in prison in a comical and satirical way.



Dascha Polanco is inmate Dayanara Diaz. Born in the Dominican Republic, Polanco always aspired to be an actress but was unsure of auditioning for acting jobs because of her weight. She was overjoyed when she was chosen to be part of this virtually all female cast. Ms. Polanco plays a woman who falls in love with a prison guard and becomes pregnant while imprisoned.




Jackie Cruz plays Flaca Gonzales. Cruz is a Dominican American singer, songwriter and actress who has entertained audiences her whole life. Her character makes audiences laugh as she attempts to man the kitchen at the prison. Flaca is a different sort of character because of her taste in music, which makes her stand out, along with her deep, black eyeliner, and tattoos of teardrops between her eyes.




Brooklyn born Jessica Pimental is Maria Ruiz whose character plays a pregnant inmate. Pimental, whose parents immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic, graduated from the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City. Pimental is Latina with Taíno heritage. She’s also a musician and singer in two metal bands.




Born in the Bronx, NY and raised by Dominican and Cuban parents, Selenis Leyva is inmate Gloria Mendoza whose character has the best one-liners of anybody in the show. Mendoza is both sassy and intelligent in this role and runs the kitchen as the head Latina in charge. Ms. Leyva isn’t new to acting, having starred in many series in her career, however she has definitely made her mark on “Orange is the New Black”.




Laura Gómez was born in New Jersey and raised in Santo Domingo. Ms. Gómez plays Blanca Flores in OITNB, a character who is considered insane by her fellow inmates due to her constant “self talking” and disheveled appearance. As the series unfolds, it is revealed that Blanca’s “self talking” is actually her talking on a concealed cell pone. Ms. Gómez credits her journey in the acting field to her years growing up in Santo Domingo, a place that she calls her roots.

It is exciting to watch these women as they make great strides in their careers. Inside Puerto Plata loves the work of these Dominicanas who are great actresses in “Orange is the New Black”! Their work is challenging and amazing and rightfully recognized through the SAG Awards, which honors the best achievements in film and television performances.