Last updated: 05:54 PM ET, Thu April 21 2016

TravelPulse Onboard: Fathom Adonia's First-Ever Cruise

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Barry Kaufman | April 21, 2016

TravelPulse Onboard: Fathom Adonia's First-Ever Cruise

At first it’s hard to know what to make of the MV Adonia, the first ship in the Fathom fleet. As the de facto flagship of this brave new experiment in cruising, it serves as the standard bearer for a line defined by youthful energy, a socially conscious ethos and a fresh perspective on cruising.

Then you step inside, and you are met by what very much appears to be the classical old-school luxury cruise ship. The wood-paneled walls. The brass fixtures. The grand staircase in front of reception. The low-pile carpeting.

It’s not that it doesn’t impress. It does. It’s just initially somewhat … stodgy.

Then you glance up to the top of that staircase, and see the wall of postcards, designed for sending notes to your future self. You notice a video booth for recording your thoughts on travel, the world and life in general. Then you hear rumors of curiosity boxes, tucked away throughout the ship. You find a dry-erase placard by your stateroom door with spots to write your name, your superpower, your spirit animal and your “someday.”

Then you realize, like the authoritarian school bus that became the psychedelic icon of the Furthur movement, the Adonia is a cultural remix of the old school.

Kickin’ It Old School

With its emergence as Fathom’s new home, the Adonia has been given a new lease on life. But that’s not to say its old life isn’t still quite in evidence. Before a refit in 2011, the Adonia had passed through the hands of Renaissance Cruises, French creditors who seized it following that line’s bankruptcy, then Swan Hellenic, and Princess Cruises before being transferred to P&O Cruises in 2009.

And while it’s now Fathom’s ship, the British pedigree from P&O is still everywhere, from the ketchup packets with European measurements to the British-manufactured sugar to the onboard video announcement telling you to dial 999 in an emergency “like you do at home.”

“I’ma take your grandpa’s style. No for real, can I have his hand me downs?” – Macklemore

But that stiff-upper-lip aristocracy still so ingrained in the ship’s DNA is actually a big part of why Adonia is so perfect for Fathom.

The rich oaken paneling in Anderson’s, the lounge on deck five, is nearly hidden by a dizzying array of town crests from various British towns and plaques commemorating years of inaugural port calls from around the world. Between the plaques, the grand piano, and the wide oak bar, the room looks like it could serve as the captain’s quarters on the HMS Britannia.

But look along one wall and you’ll see what is almost certainly a new edition since the P&O days – a large charcoal drawing of a young man, baseball hat askew, his wrist wrapped in a Wilson baseball sweatband. The presence of this incongruous piece of art hints at a greater act of appropriation at work all over the ship.

It’s not disrespect to what’s come before by any means. Instead, it’s a promise that greater, far different, things lie ahead.

Dining and Dancing

The punk rock energy behind Adonia’s semi-transformation from an old-world luxury craft into the vessel for the world’s first impact travel cruise line did not, however, mean completely abandoning the amenities that made the ship such a magnificent part of the P&O fleet.

The opulent library, overlooking the lido deck pool and twin spas, still revels in regal elegance, but among the shelves of books on Cuba and the Dominican Republic, you’ll find a trove of books on free thinking, inner discovery and personal transformation. A tip of the hat to the ship’s librarian for amassing such a huge collection of books so in line with Fathom’s philosophy (and while copies of Aaron Hurst’s excellent book “The Purpose Economy” were provided on our sailing, you might find one in the library. If not, go buy it right now).

And the dining, at both deck 10’s Ocean Grill and deck five’s Pacific Restaurant, is outstanding. Chef Emil Vega has drawn inspiration from the line’s dual destinations, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, to create a sensational menu bridging both cultures’ cuisines. From the mojito vinaigrette on the seafood salpicon to the succulent yucca fritters, every dish benefits from the Dominican-born Vega’s extensive culinary acumen.

But Fathom’s deep schedule of impact activities doesn’t always leave time for a full four courses, so fortunately there is the Conservatory and the Lido Café, adjacent to one another on deck nine, with a buffet-style selection ranging from the pedestrian burgers and hot dogs (albeit burgers and hot dogs served with Cuban-inspired sauces and vegetables) to carved turkey and a rotating series of Caribbean and world cuisine.

At night, the drinks and conversation flow into the wee hours at a few different lounges situated throughout the ship. For a quiet cocktail, there’s the aforementioned bar at Anderson’s along with the deep seats at Raffles (also the best place to grab a cup of real Dominican coffee onboard). The glass house, on deck 10, pairs an emphasis on wine with a more updated and modern ambience, while across the jogging track you’ll find The Crow’s Nest, whose stage hosts live tunes from local musicians. Head down to the Curzon Lounge, deck five, if you want to imbibe a little liquid courage before trying out your dance moves (depending on the schedule, there may even be an instructor to straighten out your salsa).

And we would be remiss if we didn’t include in the ship’s many luxury-oriented amenities the Embody Spa, with a mind-blowing menu of manis, pedis, facials, waxing and massage. Among the many massage options, such as hot stone and bamboo, we recommend the Thai herbal poultice, which combines aromatherapy with soothing massage (and leaves a pretty refreshing tingling sensation).

But then, every ship has a quiet lounge, a stage, a buffet and a restaurant. That energy and enthusiasm the Fathom line espouses can usually be found on its most ready display on the wide stage at the lido deck. Here, again depending on the schedule, you’ll find off-the-wall activities like giant board game night, with a Jenga game comprised of a towering stack of 2x2s, complete with minigames, or a checkers set that stretches across a good chunk of the pool deck. Or, you’ll find yourself at a superpower party, complete with costumes, green-screen photography, a (fully clothed) pole-dancing exhibition and a karaoke party.

And while every ship has a gym, the Fathom perspective of personal growth extends to the fitness experience, where onboard personal trainer Kiara leads a slew of classes from 6:30 a.m. sunrise meditation to yoga to seminars on posture, metabolism and overall health and weight loss.

Beyond the Basics

So it’s a decidedly old-school setup, with the amenities cruisers have come to expect. What’s so different?

It’s actually a combination of things. The curiosity boxes, placed throughout the ship, aren’t just a fun activity. They are a subtle way to get you outside your comfort zone, exploring a ship and heading into places you weren’t planning on going.

The bright magnetic wall along one side of the Conservatory posing a question of the day and inviting you to stick your answer up there isn’t just a bulletin board, it’s a way to get you to consider other people’s viewpoints and strike up conversations you might not otherwise. The nightly scavenger hunts aren’t just some planned activity – you get points for inviting strangers to join your team or ask deeply personal questions of your teammates.

With a few deft touches, Fathom has created a sort of free-thinking playground on board a ship still draped in the finery of the vessel it was in a much different life. By not stripping it out and refitting it so its stately interiors were more in line with the fresh, vibrant optics of the line, they’ve turned Adonia into a massive expression of the line’s dedication to finding new uses for older things, and fresh perspectives on long-standing challenges.

By leaving much of the creation up to the guest, Fathom has created something truly special in Adonia.


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