The ship stood proud and beautiful but guests were never allowed near. Their cruise holidays were about to be cancelled. I was cleared for boarding when the first delay was announced. I knew it was a first trip when I signed on and the delay had me thinking, “No problem, things happen.” I kept my eye on the opportunity to travel for good and participate in volunteer projects at our destination in the Dominican Republic, as well as to savor the culture.
The crowd of nearly 400 passengers was composed of other savvy travelers – mostly travel media and agents. We experienced wanderers pivot relatively easily, especially when Fathom quickly offered local tours of the Everglades and Miami sites during our wait. The service was comforting. No one gave the delay much thought.
It wasn’t until we returned that the tone shifted. Another delay was announced. Fathom and it’s ample, professional staff helped guests into hotels, offered dinner and drinks while we waited for news. Regular updates came in the following morning at 9, at 11 and finally at 1 pm. We were ultimately told that the ship was not allowed to leave port and accommodations would be made to cover our expenses to return home. While disappointment ran high, no one was more concerned than the Fathom leadership who stayed accessible and worked hard to allay fears diplomatically. I’ve never seen executives so concerned and close to tears.
The plans started years ago, when Celebrity Cruise Line developed a series of volunteerism trips for the Dominican Republic and Cuba. A smaller ship (capacity about 700) was sourced from P&O Cruises in Europe. The Adonia sailed across the Atlantic from the UK after fifteen years of experience in European waters. It was sent to dry dock for retrofitting before the inaugural Fathom cruise to the Dominican Republic.
Setting up volunteer projects with local impact for good takes time. In the Dominican Republic relationships were built with local groups. Infrastructure was built to accommodate guests and ground transport; dining and recreational plans were made. All was in ready for the launch – or so it seemed.
What happened to our cruise holidays?
The US is different than Europe in it’s sailing regulations. While the Adonia is a proven, sea-worthy ship, Coast Guard inspections found several failures. Worst discovered during routine inspections was a “problem with numerous sliding fire screen doors that are inoperable,” according to the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami. It grounded the cruise.
Quickly passengers dispersed to alternative travels. More than one agent hopped on another cruise. I met a couple who decided it was a perfect time for a road trip to Savannah. A group of bloggers pivoted to South American to find stories in Columbia. Several bloggers were invited to an alternative volunteer travel project with a different company. It was too little, too late and never materialized.
I scrambled to reschedule flights and luckily continued on to cover a different story on the west coast. Weeks of preparation, packing, research and anticipation were scrapped. Disappointing? Big time, but I believe that while ultimate responsibility lies with Fathom, they worked to do the right thing and stepped up repeatedly to make sure people were taken care of. Fathom’s canceled cruise left me exhausted but it’s not the first time that my travel plans haven’t worked out. When plans have to change they sometimes change for the better. I ended up with my family and with new stories.
Luckily I was traveling solo. Other passengers had to endure deeper hardships, re-scheduling family outings, school breaks, and did as well as possible on short notice. We were experienced travelers. Fathom kept us in the loop. They held fast to the planned departure and only shifted when it was impossible to continue. It was a hardship all around.
Repairs are underway to quickly meet inspection requirements. I imagine that when the Adonia launches it will be the safest, most up-to-date ship in the Caribbean. It will just launch later than expected. The beautiful Adonia will sail soon with another boatload of passengers even more excited about their cruise holiday, to step aboard and travel deep for good.
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What a total pain, and very disappointing too, your write so calmly about the situation, many wouldn’t, but I guess the cruise line also handled it as best they could too, impressive to see that the customer service didn’t break down too, usually in high stress situations like this, that would be when it was gonna happen.
There were experienced hospitality professionals on the project who went far and beyond what was required. One woman helped me with rescheduling before taking care of herself and her son who had come along for the spring break trip!
Really sorry you had to experience this, Elaine! But I am glad you are able to make a positive note from this experience. Thanks for the honest account! Xx
You’re welcome, Trisha and thanks for the comment. I hear the next scheduled cruise is going well.
How disappointing, sorry to hear that there were issues with the cruise. It does sound like Fathom handled it as best they could under the circumstances though, so that’s a pretty outstanding thing on their part. Usually it’s under these types of situations that a company customer service will really make or break.
You’re so right about customer service. Fathom came through with stars. I was very happy at the help offered once the cancellation was announced.
Sorry for your experience. Like Forrest Gump said, shit happens. I am also glad to hear that soon this will be solved.
Solved and all in the past. The next cruise left the dock on time.
Such a bummer! I ended up in Colombia for the first time though, so it’s not all bad. Are you planning on rebooking on a future cruise? I’m going to, but I’m mostly disappointed at not getting to be on a boat full of travel industry folk.
Hi Mags, I’m glad you got to Columbia and will be re-booking. I’ve got so much planned for the coming months that it’s going to be hard to do that. Yes, too, being with our travel peeps made it all the more fun. C’est la vie.
Although the trip was cancelled, I’ve heard from more than one person how impressed they were with the way Fathom handled the situation. I’m glad everyone was able to make the most of the situation. Like you said, there were so many experienced travelers. Being able to adapt definitely came in handy.
It’s true that you discover the benefits of being flexible once you’ve traveled a bit. Otherwise time and energy get wasted when solutions, and perhaps, even better, unanticipated outcomes could be discovered.
Shucks, I’m sorry that happened. I agree that its much easier on solo travellers, though its great to hear that many were able to adapt. Love the shirt in the last photo!
Thanks, Mar. I loved that shirt as well. He was one of the agents in the room and irrepressible.
How disappointing! It sounds like it would have been such an enjoyable cruise too, especially with the volunteer opportunities.
Things happen and I’ve heard the next trip took off on time.
Oh dear…sorry to hear that! That’s not exactly what you hope for. It sounds like you guys tried to make the best out of the situation – at the end of the day, it is out of your hands – and not much can be done about it! Good that the management was there to answer some questions.
Thanks, Tess, yes, it seemed like Fathom was doing it’s best with what was gong on.
Oh no, I am so sorry that happened to you Elaine. I am booked as a Press Blogger for the May 8th cruise with Fathom to the Dominican Republic and I am already super stoked about the trip. I would be so disappointed too, if they had cancelled my cruise. I instantly fell in love with the idea of combining vacation and volunteering and I am bummed to hear that Fathom got off to a rocky start with their innovative cruise offer.
I hope that you have a smooth and happy sailing and volunteer experience.
Oh man, I’m sorry about your cruise being cancelled! It really stinks when you have your heart and mind set on something and it doesn’t pan out. I just had this happen with a trip to Cuba. I was so upset and even though I made the best of it, I still can’t believe the trip didn’t happen. I’m still trying to convince my mind of the reality. Sorry again about your cruise! Glad you could pivot quickly to the west coast and make the most of it, too!
I would be extremely upset if it had been a cruise to Cuba too.
That’s such a shame that the trip was cancelled but I guess it’s good that the company acted swiftly and also kept safety first. I guess these things just happen! I’m glad you were able to make alternative plans and still have a blast!
Thanks, Sophie. I was fortunate although it took some time to shift gears and relax again.
Oh gosh what a disappointment. I’m not sure I would have been so palm as yourself but it’s like you say, you count yourself lucky when you’re not having to reorganise a break for your whole family, it’s just you. I’ve never been on a cruise ship trip so I’ve never experienced anything like this but I suppose it’s one of those things that sadly happen.
It was to be my virgin cruising adventure too and I learned a lot while never setting foot on the ship! Travel insurance to the rescue.
It’s always good to read a post about when travel doesn’t work out. Sometimes things go wrong, different than planned or not go through altogether. Which is too bad, but just as much part of travel as all the positive and happy stories.
Thank you, Lotte. I wasn’t sure how wise it was to publish but felt too that it’s honest to tell the mixed bag travel can be. The next time someone points out to how glamorous my travel writing career is, I’ll point them to this post!! We can’t keep cropping out crowds (a pet peeve of mine) and glossing over the challenges when we’re working to help people travel.
Ahh I’ve read about this on Facebook. Until recently I had never heard of Fathom and I feel bad that they had to cancel, however I also believe that if they are not allowed to sail, it’s in everybody’s best interest, no matter how disappointing that may be…
Yes, it was ultimately in everyone’s best interest that things were cancelled. I’m sure that Fathom’s taken care of everything, completely, with no doubts by now!
This is so sad, but if anything, it seems like those responsible tried their best to appease everyone. It could have gone worse but well at least you had time to spend with your family and true, stories to share.
Thanks, Karla. It was sad but we were all in it together and bonded, if you can believe, over the roller coaster. I came away with some new friends too!
That must have been so disappointing!! I’m glad they management stepped up and made themselves available to explain to passengers. I’ve had flights cancelled on me without a word of explanation from any staff. What did you end up doing in lieu of the cruise?
I headed out to Northern California and a trip I’d declined earlier. So it turned out OK with a bit of lost time and lessons learned.
I’ve been hearing a lot about this. I guess that’s what happens when you invite a bunch of media folks to take your cruise and then it’s cancelled. It’s great that everyone was able to adapt so well and go on to other plans. I hope the Fathom eventually gets sea-worthy.
I’m sure that Fathom will or already has taken care of the required adjustments and wish them well.
So sorry you experienced this disappointment. Glad you made lemonade out of lemons!
We have to rise to the occasion sometimes!
Ah yes. I remember it well. I was on that ill fated journey as well. Fathom Travel tool good care of us passengers and I am excited to see inside those portholes soon.
Glad that you’re going on the cruise after all.