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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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.