In this issue: A fresh perspective on the history, culture and scenery of South Africa’s KwalaZulu-Natal
Scientists have been debating for years just why it is that helping those less fortunate than ourselves makes us feel good.
Whether it’s the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a difference, or being reminded of what you should be grateful for, or the pleasure of meeting new people from different backgrounds - the so-called “helper’s high” is hard to beat.
Carnival Corporation hopes to make that helpers’ high a little easier for passengers to experience, following the launch of a new brand, Fathom, offering “social impact travel” on a week-long cruise to the Dominican Republic.
Carnival has worked with two local partners - who understand where the need and the opportunities to make a meaningful difference are greatest - to devise ways in which cruise passengers can have a positive social impact, such as assisting a women’s co-operative in making chocolate and teaching English.
After some confusion on launch, Carnival has confirmed the Fathom trips will indeed be on sale through the UK trade from next week, so UK agents will be able to offer this unusual product to their clients.
Carnival should be applauded for its commitment to trying to make a difference. And yet implementing a “voluntourism” scheme can be incredibly complex. Such brief trips, where volunteers are often not qualified in the work they will be doing, don’t always benefit local communities that much - and can have a negative effect.
When I left university I spent a month on a marine conservation project, learning three things: it’s hard to earn the backing of local people; it’s difficult to do any meaningful science in a month; and a group of non-qualified 20-somethings can be easily distracted.
That two cruisers have commented on the American Cruise Critic site to ponder if they could book a Fathom cruise as a “charitable donation” - so they can reduce their tax bill - hints at the possible flaws of this approach.
Carnival has invested a huge amount of focus in developing this brand: I hope it does as much good for the locals as it might do its well-intentioned passengers.