Thursday, June 4, 2015

Can Carnival's Fathom project work?

Niche, specialty and theme cruises work. Cruise companies have been selling them for decades. But can a niche market support a 710 passenger ship year-round? Carnival is about to find out as it plans to launch it Fathom brand. Fathom will target those who want to mix social work/volunteerism with travel.

Initially the ship will travel to the Dominican Republic and passengers will be to teach English, help clean water or work in local food cooperatives.

Volunteer tourism is big business. Tens of thousands Americans travel globally to help those in need. Many of those opportunities are done through church groups or global non-profits. Will there be enough people who want to do it through the world's largest cruise line? After a day helping some of the Caribbean's poorest people, will they feel guilty about returning to their floating resort?

Carnival has enough marketing power to fill one small ship for a few months, so there is very little initial risk in the venture. But long-term, Carnival will have to find and develop a new customer base to support Fathom. It is a noble venture, so we hope they succeed, but we doubt that the people who want to spend their vacation helping others also want to spend time on a "fun ship."

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