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Fathom's volunteer cruises to the Dominican Republic give you more ways to give back

Not all cruises are about the buffet spread or the tony spa. Carnival Corp. launched its Fathom brand last year for those more interested in giving something back to the countries they visit.

The idea redefines cruise vacations by emphasizing social-impact activities -- such as building water filters in needy areas of the Dominican Republic -- over onboard luxury.

Now Fathom is offering more ways for travelers to connect with some of the Caribbean nation's poorest citizens and understand their day-to-day lives.

More than a third of the 10.5 million people in the Dominican Republic live in poverty, according to the Rural Poverty Portal. About half the people living in rural areas are poor.

On cruises that begin in April, passengers can choose to help by fixing up homes (from pouring concrete to fixing broken furniture to planting fruit trees), working with disabled residents at a therapy center, and helping a women's arts and crafts co-op create a business plan.

They'll also get to spend a day with a local family to hear firsthand what their needs are and what their day-to-day life is like.

Sailings leave from Miami.

Prices start at $974 per person for weeklong trips aboard the 704-passenger MV Adonia. The price includes onboard training, on-shore volunteer projects and all meals. (You can save up to $100 per person on that fare if you book before Feb. 29).

Fathom also offers cultural immersion cruises to Cuba starting in May, with seven-day sailings starting at $1,800 per person.

The cruise line provides refundable deposits of $300 for the Dominican Republic trip and $600 for the Cuba cruise; full payment is due 90 days before you leave.

Info: Fathom, (855) 932-8466

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