Today was the second day of the Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic. It was an “at sea” day that on a traditional cruise would be spent entirely at rest. Not on a Fathom cruise. An at sea day is just time to prepare for the service we’ll be doing later in the week.
First, each passenger was provided with a cohort and invited to attend an orientation with the cohort. This isn’t a “how to find your life preserver” sort of training, rather it is a session on developing empathy—not sympathy—for the people we serve, helping us to see them as human beings with the same passions we have.
Following the orientation, we got training in providing instruction in English as a second language. While my wife has a teaching degree with a certificate in teaching English as a second language, the rest of us did not and were quite pleased to get some preparation. We were, among other things, assured that we speak English well enough to be of help to students who speak virtually none. That was encouraging!
In the afternoon, we had optional advanced training based on Ashoka’s training built around the “Humans of New York” blog, again teaching us how to feel empathy for other people. The exercise involved getting us to listen deeply and thoughtfully to strangers—other passengers—so that we could really get to know them quickly.
These trainings were great reminders of things I’ve been taught effectively by the guests on my show over the past three years. We all fall into the trap of seeing a person not so much as a human being but as a caricature of the person they are. We look at outside manifestations of people, their hair color and style, the clothes they wear, their age, and we make decisions and judgments. We stop seeing individuals and drop people neatly into the categories we have in our minds for them: old, young, uneducated, elitist, religious, intellectual, etc. All nonsense.
Today, members of the media on the cruise were invited to a briefing with Fathom President Tara Russell and Carnival CEO and President Arnold Donald (Carnival owns Fathom). They are an impressive pair of leaders. They handled the press well, fielding questions from across the spectrum of interests from seasoned travel writers to impact folks like me.
This evening, we had dinner in the elite sea food specialty restaurant on board. Again, we got to spend time with Tara and Arnold. It is great to see them come together on this project. Tara doesn’t have a long history with cruising; her career has been in the impact space. Arnold, on the other hand, is the CEO of the world’s largest cruise line and he’s handed over a ship to someone in whom he has obvious confidence and with whom he shares a sense of purpose and passion.
At dinner, one of the other journalists on the trip commented that the day had been “stressful.” I asked why and he reminded me of the workshops we’d attended (separately). His point was that the sessions had taken him outside of his comfort zone. It was great evidence that this cruise is not like any other cruise you or I have ever been on. While no one mistakes this cruise with a day at the office, the mood aboard the ship is one of preparation, not relaxation.