Carnival Corporation’s new ‘social impact’ cruise line may well be a game-changer, argues Andy Harmer of Clia UK & Ireland

The newest cruise brand has just gone on sale in the UK – indeed, someone reading this may well have been the first agent to make a British booking for Carnival Corporation’s new Fathom.

Over the past few years the cruise industry has surprised and delighted with its onboard innovations and destination experiences. This year alone we have seen plenty such examples.

They include Royal Caribbean’s ‘smart’ ship Anthem of the Seas, which features a bionic bartender; Norwegian Cruise Line’s soon-to-launch Norwegian Escape will feature Sky Rails in its Rope Course; while P&O Cruises has brought its Food Heroes on board Britannia. Concepts such as these were unthought of on a ship not so many years ago.

Social-impact travel

Even so, Carnival’s announcement of Fathom surprised many, myself included. We are witnessing the birth of a new brand and a new travel experience: ‘social-impact travel’. Fathom is targeted at a cross-section of people wanting to have a positive impact on people’s lives, with guests spending some of their time on voluntourism projects, – giving back to those local communities where the ship visits.

While this concept isn’t totally new – other lines have offered similar projects, including Crystal Cruises with its ‘You Care. We Care’ programme – the Fathom idea is groundbreaking in that we are seeing the introduction of a new type of cruise holiday experience with a dedicated ship.

Carnival believes that Fathom will attract a significant number of new-to-cruise guests. It will appeal to the large number of people who see a holiday as a chance to ‘sight do’ rather than just ‘sightsee’, to interact with local cultures and to help to make a difference with their everyday lives. Fathom will also be attractive to the more than two million people who already take volunteering holidays.

Cruising’s diversity

We all know there are vastly different cruise experiences to be enjoyed with the many different ships and itineraries. Indeed, that’s one of our challenges – to convince consumers yet to cruise that there is a cruise holiday that would suit them.

In Fathom we have yet another differentiated product to offer holidaymakers. This is an opportunity to switch a customer to a cruise.

It’s another great example not just of innovation but of the travel industry once again taking the lead on an important issue for the sector as a whole: giving something back.

Anthem of the Seas, Britannia, Norwegian Escape and now Fathom are all big moments for those working within cruise and they all have something in common: they help us show how cruise is an innovative and exciting holiday choice with the diversity to engage everyone.