Recently I sailed on Fathom Adonia between Miami and Dominican Republic. Fathom is a new cruise line concept, promoting impact travel and traveling with a purpose—giving back to the local destination that you visit while on vacation. In this article I share some Fathom Cruise secrets.
Plenty of articles cover the basics of Fathom—destinations (Dominican Republic and Cuba, for now), ship and stateroom layout, impact activities, onboard food.
Instead of repeating that information, I hope to provide a deeper dive and useful information, so you can fully experience some Fathom Cruise secrets and travel hacks for your entire Fathom cruise journey.
8 Great Fathom Cruise Secrets
Drink. Actually, drink prices onboard Fathom Adonia are not too bad. Still, if you want to reduce expenses and have healthier drinks (drink more healthily?), I have a couple of hacks.
- Water kettle. Going on a cruise is not the time to give up caffeine or go on any kind of diet. So, I was not going to give up on my precious iced tea, even if it was, shivers, from a soda dispenser. “My name is Charles McCool and I am addicted to iced tea.” For half a day, I drank the crap from the machine but on the second day a guy told me he brewed his own tea. I said, “What? You brought a sun tea jar? Brilliant. I was thinking of that.” He said, “No. I use the water kettle in the room to brew my own tea.” Superb. From that point, I ran my in-room water kettle practically nonstop. I even made exotic iced tea blends, like Earl Grey/Green Tea and Breakfast/Peppermint. I also used the kettle to boil water so that I did not have to buy bottled water. You know how I abhor beverages from plastic bottles.
- Bring one bottle of wine or champagne per adult. Not per cabin. PER ADULT. If you know other adults on your sailing not using their privilege, kindly ask them to bring a bottle for you.
- Crew Store. In Amber Cove, the Dominican Republic port, bottles of Presidente beer are $2 in the Crew Store versus $5 each (well, when you buy 5) at the nearby Coco Bar. The Crew Store is past the pool and kiddie area in Amber Cover. It is well worth finding for other reasons (read on).
- Rum. Some cruise lines retain rum (and other alcohol) purchased in ports for passengers until they disembark back in USA. Fathom allowed passengers to bring such purchases back to their rooms. I bought less than 2 liters (the maximum allowed) at the Duty Free shop, cleared it through the security check, and carried it with me. As long as it is enjoyed for personal use and not in public space (shhh, I will not tell!), you should be fine to consume onboard. Policy might change, of course.
- Other crazy hacks. I have read about people sneaking liquor aboard in things like water bottles, shampoo or other bathroom containers. I have not. Really.
Food. Yes, food is an important feature on Fathom, as it is on all cruises. Throughout the day there are food and snacks in several areas. Ah, but everyone knows these things. On to the hacks.
- Second dinner. Some of us quickly realized that basically the same food was served in the Pacific restaurant (table service) and Conservatory (buffet, serve yourself). We made it a nightly ritual to meet a couple of hours after First Dinner (usually in Pacific) for Second Dinner. Second Dinner, truth be told, was usually just desserts. The real secret, if you will, is to not feel stressed about dessert in Pacific (you do realize desserts spelled reverse is stressed?) because you can try them all later. Same was true with the entrees and appetizers.
- Ask and receive. There is a process for dinner in Pacific; order your appetizer and entree at the same time. While it seemed unusual to request two appetizers or entrees on my recent Viking river cruise, here it became almost unusual if you did not. Well, that might have been only with my circle of friends! Even in Ocean Grill, the “fancy” restaurant ($25 surcharge per person), most of us ordered two appetizers and/or entrees; and we definitely doubled up on desserts.
- Steak > Seafood. No matter how many cruises I go on, I expect the seafood to be amazing. Usually it is. I continue to be pleasantly surprised, though, by how good steak is on cruises. Fathom was no exception. In fact, I ordered steak for dinner the first three nights, including a remarkable Cuban churrasco steak in Ocean Grill and did not even miss seafood. Well, most of the time, I ALSO had seafood.
Balcony Upgrade. Upgrading from Outside Cabin (oceanview window) to Balcony Cabin only costs $100. To me, it is well worth $100 to have a balcony, especially for an entire week. No great hack here. Just buck up and pay the $100 to make sure you are not shut out of a cabin with a balcony. Alternatively, you can book a lower category cabin and risk trying to upgrade (for free) when you checkin.
Wi-Fi. Since I went on this cruise with a few dozen travel bloggers, writers, and media types, there were grumblings about the substandard wi-fi. To paraphrase Louis C.K., “how dare you, bitching about wi-fi.” Instead of grumbling, I found places where the wi-fi did scream and, even though I reported the exact locations of the screaming wi-fi, I had those places almost to myself while grumbles continued (haters gonna hate, hate, hate).
- Onboard, the wi-fi connectivity was definitely hit or miss. Sometimes I had a great connection during the middle of the day and sometimes late at night—when I figured no one was online—I could get nothing to update. Before Happy Hour in Crow’s Nest seemed to work well.
- In Amber Cove, I had amazing results (screaming wi-fi) at different times sitting in the farthest chairs from the entrance and in the hammocks near the bungalow entrance. The Turquesa shop’s free wi-fi worked very well from outside the store.
- A great travel tip someone shared with me was to hire a taxi cab with its own wi-fi hot spot. While that detracts from the sightseeing of the Dominican Republic countryside, it is a brilliant hack. In fact, let us discuss negotiating a lower taxi cab rate.
- Negotiate taxi rates. The standard listed rate for a taxi cab is $70 to Puerto Plata—but essentially you are forced to hire the cab for 5 hours and visit many Dominican Republic attractions and sights. One group negotiated the rate down to $25 by having the driver skip a couple of the major highlights, which they decided they did not care to see. Instead, they had the driver take them to a local seafood place (his choice) and a rum factory. Someone else went on two scuba excursions and she bargained a cabbie to $130 for 2 round trips (should have been $240).
- Public bus. Rumor (from a crew member) is that a public bus into Puerto Plata can be hailed outside the gate for less than $1.
- Walk and explore. One day I walked to the beach to the right of Amber Cove. It was about an hour each way (9 miles/15 km round trip) but I had a glorious beach to myself for over an hour. The next day I walked to the left of Amber Cove to explore the white open-aired house on the peninsula. Both adventures went through Dominican neighborhoods, with several locals offering various products and services. That was part of the charm, or experience.
Shopping. Me? Shopping tips? Good one, right? Remember that Crew Store. In addition to $2 Presidente beers, I bought $1 decks of playing cards (many), $3 baseballs, and a $6 domino set. In the nearby shops, cards were $5-8, baseballs were $8-10, and dominoes were $18. Rum, on the other hand, seemed to be more expensive than in the Duty Free shop. Cold water bottles are $2.50 in the duty free shop. In the pharmacy they are $2 and only $1 at the next door shop. People told me the laundry detergent was less expensive in the Crew Store. I brought 2 Tide pods in a baggie (which is another travel hack). Merchandise in the onboard shops is usually pretty expensive but I secured the last two packages of butter cookies; usually $7, for $1.60.
Public Restroom. As on my recent Viking River cruise, the Fathom Adonia public restrooms, including the ones outside the dining room entrances and in the spa, were super clean, rarely occupied, and more spacious and luxurious than the stateroom restroom.
Better Shower. More than one person commiserated with me about the stateroom showers being tiny and that dropping the soap meant a head bang on the wall or fixture. As on the Viking Star ocean cruise, I discovered that the spa shower had much more space and water pressure than my stateroom shower. The spa also had a fog shower and a steam room; in case the Caribbean in the summer is not steamy enough. While there are many spa services with a fee, like massages and the outside whirlpool, the spa restroom (steam room and showers) and fitness center are complimentary. While I do not have photos of the cabin shower and restroom, believe me, the spa and public ones are much, much nicer.
BONUS secret: The comfiest lounge chairs are in the spa area. I may or may not have fallen asleep out here.
BONUS secret 2: Laundry is FREE. I did one load after the first impact activity, Tuesday afternoon/evening. No one else was doing laundry and it was a very pleasant experience. Well, as much as doing laundry can be. I decided to do another load the final day. Seems that everyone else on the ship had the same idea and it was a hectic, tense experience. As I mentioned earlier, bring a few detergent pods in a baggie so that you do not have to find detergent later.
What Fathom Cruise secrets have you discovered?