A Cruise With a Cause

VICE Magazine
Photo/Amy Lombard

Photo/Amy Lombard

Meet Fathom, the world’s first-ever cruise line for vacationers who don’t just want to do beaches, spas, and shopping, but to do good. Fathom exists to make money, but it also exists to fill a growing demand in the global-tourism industry: “voluntourism,” calling its program “impact+travel.”

It’s a bold claim.

Read: November 2016 issue of VICE Magazine

Listen: Tiny Spark

The Voluntourist’s Dilemma

New York Times Magazine

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for Artists For Peace And Justice

Several years ago, when I was working as a reporter based in Haiti, I came upon a group of older Christian missionaries in the mountains above Port-au-Prince, struggling with heavy shovels to stir a pile of cement and sand. They were there to build a school alongside a Methodist church. Muscular Haitian masons stood by watching, perplexed and a bit amused at the sight of men and women who had come all the way from the United States to do a mundane construction job.

Such people were a familiar sight: They were voluntourists. They would come for a week or two for a “project” — a temporary medical clinic, an orphanage visit or a school construction. A 2008 study surveyed 300 organizations that market to would-be voluntourists and estimated that 1.6 million people volunteer on vacation, spending around $2 billion annually.

Read the full essay at the New York Times Magazine