Taking up residence by the pool, watching the sunset from the top deck, getting your fill at the midnight buffet—some experiences are common to just about every cruise. But some trips also offer something different. And that’s certainly the case with a trip on the Adonia cruise ship, the first ship of Carnival Corporation’s new division, Fathom. Before my Fathom cruise, all of my experiences on ships had been typical holiday cruises, hopping among islands and Central American countries. An experience on Adonia is anything but typical. Here’s a look at what to expect from the ship itself and what sets Adonia and Fathom apart from a regular cruise.
Fathom Itinerary/Ports of Call
Adonia sails two unique itineraries on alternating weeks, one to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and the other to three stops in Cuba. In fact, in May 2016, it became the first American ship to dock in Cuba in almost 50 years.
In Puerto Plata, the ship docks at Amber Cove for three nights while passengers volunteer, participate in traditional shore excursions, and explore the island.
The focus of the Dominican Republic cruise is what Fathom calls impact activities. Essentially, these are a variety of activities done in partnership with local community development organizations that are designed to help locals on an island where 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Opportunities include working at a women’s collective that makes recycled paper and crafts to generate income, helping children and adults with English conversation skills, pouring concrete floors in homes, working with a group that makes organic, artisanal chocolate, and several other options. We participated in three of the impact activities over our 3.5 days in the Dominican Republic.
The Cuba trip has three ports of call—Havana, Cienfeugos, and Santiago de Cuba. In each city, Fathom’s guests participate in eight hours of cultural exchange programming per port to satisfy government requirements.
The Fathom experience onboard is consistent with the feeling of what travelers experience in port. On the Adonia cruise ship, there are workshops focusing on storytelling, designing your life, and ways to be more productive. There are introductory Spanish classes and workshops about creating balance in your life. You can even join the book club or attend guided meditation. All the activities are done with an eye toward thinking deeply about your experiences and forging stronger connections with your fellow passengers and with others once you return home.
Of course, there’s plenty of room for fun, too. The Wine and Paint class (exactly like it sounds) was probably one of the most popular activities on the ship. We indulged in the cocktail class and learned how to make proper mojitos and daiquiris. There were also photography workshops, opportunities for playing dominoes like the locals, and dance classes, among many other things. Merengue, anyone?
The Adonia Ship
Built in 2001 for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, the ship was christened as Adonia in 2011 by P&O Cruises. If you didn’t already know, it would be very hard to guess the ship’s age since it has been so well-maintained. The Adonia cruise ship has been given several makeovers in her history, the most recent sprucing up coming when Fathom took possession of the ship in the spring of 2016.
By the standard of ships that typically sail the Caribbean, the Adonia is tiny. With a capacity of just 704 guests and about 200 crew, it is dwarfed by ships like the Celebrity Summit, Holland America’s Eurodam, and others that regularly carry three times the number of passengers. And, frankly, that’s one of the things we loved about Adonia.
Adonia’s layout is very similar to that of other ships, despite its small size. There are nine decks accessible to guests. The lowest deck (3) is the gangway, and deck 4 is home to reception and the medical center. Much of the activity happens on deck 5 where guests can find the main restaurant (The Pacific Restaurant), a combined coffee shop and bar (Raffles), and a meeting point and entertainment venue known as the Curzon Lounge.
Several features on deck 5 are new since the Adonia came under Fathom’s ownership. There is a storytelling booth alongside a handful of shops which primarily sell products that “give back” in some way. There is also a swanky bar called Anderson’s that replaced the previous casino. Deck 9 features the buffet restaurant (The Conservatory) and the pool and associated bar, plus the gym, salon, and spa. Deck 10 has the Ocean Grill, the ship’s premium restaurant, as well as a wine bar (Glass House), the library, a jogging track, and the Crow’s Nest bar and entertainment space.
Both check-in and disembarkation were smooth. From the moment we arrived at the cruise terminal in Miami, it took about two minutes to drop off our bags and make our way into the terminal. After filling out the obligatory health form and getting our keys, we were on the Adonia ship in less than 10 minutes. At the end of the journey, passengers were asked to leave their luggage outside their cabins in the evening, although it seemed that many chose to carry off their bags themselves.
We had a quick breakfast in The Conservatory before leaving the ship about 9:00am. The process was organized and there were almost no lines. It is worth noting that even passengers with Global Entry should fill out the customs form, as there are no kiosks at the cruise terminal.
We were in room D048 – a oceanview stateroom on deck 4, meaning we had a good sized porthole to watch the ocean race by. Our stateroom had two twin beds and two end tables with lamps permanently affixed to them (I guess you never know what will happen on a boat). There was also a loveseat, desk, and flat screen television. There was ample storage room, including a closet, a second section with drawers and an additional hanging rod, plus a separate area for a safe. The bathroom, which was identical to every other cruise we’ve been on was smallish, with a shower, sink, and toilet. In short, the room was comfortable and very typical.
Most of the rooms on the Adonia have balconies, but the rest of the amenities are similar to the oceanview staterooms. Of course, there is also a small handful of opulent suites.
Dining on Adonia
There are four restaurant options on the Adonia. Although that’s a bit less than some of the massive cruise ships, it’s still more than enough for this number of passengers. Plus, fewer venues means that Chef Emil Vega and his team can focus on keeping the quality high throughout.
Every morning, we had breakfast in The Conservatory, a buffet with hot and cold options plus cooked-to-order omelets. Although we didn’t make it to the Pacific Restaurant for a plated breakfast, several of our friends raved about it—particularly the hollandaise. We also had lunch either in The Conservatory or at the Lido Café by the pool. The Lido Café features Cuban and Dominican flavors like Cubanos, spicy chicken, and burgers with a Dominican chimichurri sauce.
Dinner every night was in the Pacific Restaurant. Unlike many cruise lines, Fathom does not have set seating times, and reservations were not necessary, which allowed us to enjoy the activities on and off the ship without having to worry about getting to dinner at a certain time. The food in the Pacific Restaurant (and on the Adonia as a whole) was some of the best food we’ve ever had on a cruise. From the lobster to the fried chicken to the delicious coffee and chocolate dessert, it was all pretty amazing.
Also worth noting for dinner and the ship as a whole—the dress code every day is informal, so there’s no need to worry about dressing up much. Of course there are basic requests like no bathing suits in the restaurants, and the premium restaurant, Ocean Grill, is “smart casual.” But it’s all very relaxed.
The entertainment on the Adonia cruise ship for both the Dominican Republic and Cuba itineraries is focused on music. The Craze Band, the ship’s musical group, seems to have an endless repertoire of different musical styles and is almost always playing somewhere on the ship. In addition, local bands come aboard at different times playing local styles of music. There are also movie nights on the Lido deck, dancing lessons, games, and numerous parties. Even without a formal theater, there’s plenty to do and see.
The Overall Experience
Since we participated in the inaugural Fathom cruise on the Adonia ship, it was hard to know exactly what to expect. No one had had the experience before. Sometimes not having expectations can be a great thing. It left the opportunity for us to be blown away.
The ship itself is sophisticated and polished without being stuffy. There are places to play or relax, dance or read a book. You can have a cocktail or coffee, grab a burger or opt for the lobster. You can learn how to engage deeply, tell stories, and make new friends. But if hanging out by the pool is more your speed, that’s ok, too. The programming and the staff have created an environment where you can tailor the trip to exactly what you need to recharge in ways you never expected.
Note: This article was originally published in May 2016. In 2018, the Adonia was sold to Azamara Club Cruises and was renamed the Azamara Pursuit. Fathom activities are now run through Princess Cruises.
I was a guest of Fathom cruise line. All opinions of the relaxing and rewarding are my own.