TravelPulse On Board: Fathom's Adonia Review
All photos by Jason Leppert
At a Glance
By the Numbers
Take a Bow (What to Like)
Pain in the Aft (What to Dislike)
As a former P&O Cruises ship still operated by that brand but overlaid with the new Fathom brand for cultural immersion cruises to Cuba and the Dominican Republic, the Adonia is a ship with mostly fine hardware that suffers a bit from a software identity crisis. In fact, its design carries over primarily from its first incarnation as R8 with Renaissance Cruises.
What that means is the decor remains rich and ornate with dark woods and golden accents while words of Fathom wisdom are applied to vibrantly colored wall panels that don't quite match with the rest of the ship. Even though the casual atmosphere clashes with the formal aesthetic, there is lots in the layout to be quite fond of like The Crow's Nest forward-facing observation lounge for taking in beautiful views of the passing scenery.
Despite its smaller size, the ship is altogether very comfortable and features plenty of great air-conditioned lounges to kick up your feet after adventuring ashore in the sweltering heat, from the Curzon Lounge showroom and Anderson's den to the Library and adjacent Glass House wine bar. They make for great venues to share your story with fellow guests, or you can tell it via video at a dedicated booth.
READ MORE: What to Expect Onboard Fathom’s Adonia
As for private accommodations, there are few categories – just inside, outside and balcony varieties, plus one type of suite – but they are generally well outfitted for a ship of Adonia's size including adequate storage and cozy furnishings. The appearance is consistent with the rest of the ship with only a dry-erase marker board outside, displaying Fathom hallmark elements such as guest superpowers and spirit animals, as well as Fair CosmEthics toiletries speaking specific to the brand.
Balconies are always great amenities for the cabins that sport them, and really the only downside to the staterooms are the poorly configured bathrooms. Just like on every other former Renaissance Cruises vessel on the market now sailing for other lines, the size of showers therein are extremely small, and inward-angled walls and a shower dam and a drawn curtain encroach even farther, making for an original design fail that continues to disappoint.
As one would accurately expect, Fathom activities are predominantly destination-driven events with shore excursions being the main emphasis. Nonetheless, there are onboard counterparts that provide a welcome context for what to expect ashore and bring the local culture back to the ship, but they are fewer. In the case of Cuban itineraries, for example, history and orientation lectures inform participants before each of the three ports, and dance instructors teach steps to the beat of local rhythms.
Otherwise, Fathom is all about empowering people to better the world with international exchanges that can result in positive applications back home. Guests may be invited to fish for notes in a bottle from the pool that share words of encouragement from former passengers or discover their potential in interactive immersion sessions. Some are fun and others are honestly a bit hokey, but the intended message is always valuable and generally well received. A final dedicated sharing session was attended by very few while another full orientation lecture erupted into a roar of passionate conversation when guests were asked to discuss their previous port experiences.
READ MORE: Fathom Finds Havana Highlights in Cuba
For a first taste of food onboard the Adonia, the ship's singular Ocean Grill specialty restaurant sets the bar high, truly at a premium cruise line level. Chef Emil Vega from Santo Domingo, DR has crafted delicious Cuban and Dominican Republic courses that explode with freshness and flavor. Ceviche and bananas appetizers are especially tasty, and Dominican lobster and Cuban bistec entrees are both worth the additional $5 surcharge. A multitude of side dishes and sweet desserts finish off the meal nicely.
Alas the bulk of the dining onboard is very bland in comparison and lacks much in the way of variety. The complimentary main dining room and buffet offerings are considerably less inspired than the fare at the Ocean Grill, and flavor profiles are monotonous – perhaps a carryover from P&O's British cuisine. Pizza is a little better, and Cuban and Dominican burgers at least make a greater attempt at conveying local tastes. However, a missing second specialty restaurant and no room service menu besides continental breakfasts leave a whole lot to be desired as far as dining is concerned.
Similar to activities onboard, entertainment is not abundant. There are no production shows of any kind featured in the main showroom. Instead, the focus is locally-inspired and consists mostly of destination-relevant film screenings, in the theater and poolside (a fun touch), and live music performed by regional bands, which was a highlight for sustaining shoreside sounds shipwide.
Other live music was actually played courtesy of the ship's wonderful Impact Guide Lead (a.k.a. cruise director) and vocalist Katie Dow who graced us with her beautiful singing accompanied by acoustic guitar. In-cabin televisions and some at the bars occasionally screen sporting events, and some recent popular films are on complimentary rotation as well. However, many television shows continue to reflect British selections that could use an update for American tastes along with a necessary food overhaul.
Truly the standout of Fathom is the destination over the ship, but the best part of the Adonia itself is its crew. The level of attentiveness and friendliness from the officers, cultural team and staff overall is almost entirely on par with upscale lines and sets an example for the potential strides the new cruise line can surely make in other areas. (I believe in you, Fathom!) Meanwhile, the Adonia is a worthwhile way to explore Cuba and the Dominican Republic in overall comfort.
More by Jason Leppert
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