Monday, November 7, 2016

Imact Travel: Your Chance to do more than Just sightsee!

Ever wish you could combine your vacation with the opportunity to make an investment in the lives of others.  WELL, HERE IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY . . . IT IS CALLED FATHOM IMPACT CRUISES.

Pioneered by Fathom Cruises, Impact Travel is a whole new category of travel: . . . it’s travel with purpose. Now I know that every cruise has purpose but that purpose is usually very ego-centric, that is, to have a good time.

Impact Travel is travel that transforms lives. Sometimes including your own. Impact travel with Fathom provides the opportunity to build community with like-minded travelers, become immersed in another culture, and work alongside its people to create enduring social impact.

Every Fathom™ journey is based on the sincere belief that person-to-person connection is among the strongest catalysts for transformation. What sets Fathom apart is the long-term, systematic partnership approach with its partner countries paired with the unique business model that allows for sustained impact and lasting development. Fathom’s scale and global vision reach beyond what the world has ever seen.

This adventure began in Spring 2016 with separate round-trip voyages from Miami to two of the Caribbean’s most desired destinations: the Dominican Republic and Cuba. In the Dominican Republic. Each of these provide the opportunity to work side by side with local residents in an existing programs that focus on improving the lives of children, families and communities.

In Cuba, you participate in an ongoing cultural exchange program that gives you the opportunity to interact with the Cuban people, one on one.

And you’ll come home seven days later knowing that, for the people whose lives you’ve just touched, the world has become a little brighter because of you.

Impact Travel has three components with at least two projects for each component:

Educational . . .

1. Community English: With the increased demand for bilingual speakers in the growing tourism industry in the Dominican Republic, there’s also a great need for programs that support adult English learning. Fathom travelers will be able to participate in Community English Conversation & Learning activities that help bolster employment opportunities for lower income adults. These small group programs take place within community centers and local homes, and include one-on-one conversation, and English instruction. Participating in these Community English Conversation & Learning programs will enable you to experience the powerful impact of your contributions. No teaching or Spanish language skills needed

2. Student English: As a Fathom traveler, you’ll have the opportunity to work with both teachers
and students in activities designed to create interest and excitement in the English learning process and to aid in language retention—no teaching or Spanish-language experience required. You’ll engage in games, simple vocabulary lessons, and small-group conversations that provide much-needed confidence. And you’ll find that this kind of positive impact on the life of a child is one of the most gratifying experiences a traveler can have. 

Environmental . . .

1. Reforestation: You will be involved in local reforestation efforts designed to improve
the livelihoods of Dominican families, restore degraded land, and contribute to forest and wildlife conservation throughout the region. On Tuesdays and Fridays you can participate in different activities at the Nursery that range from the simple potting of seedlings and/or seeds, to transporting plants, to more physically demanding efforts like mixing the potting soil. On Wednesdays and Thursday you can participate in more strenuous activities at the reforestation site, under the sun or the rain, from digging holes, to transporting seedlings, to planting.

2. Concrete Floors in Homes: As a Fathom traveler, you’ll have the opportunity to help improve the lives and health of the Dominican people from the ground up. Literally. In the homes of poorer communities, the common basic dirt floors are a genuine health risk. They pick up dust during the dry season and retain dampness and puddles in the rainy season. And they’re impossible to clean, which means that anything spilled on the floor or tracked into the house, however unhygienic, tends to stay put. Every month, homes in a different small area of a community will be chosen to be upgraded with new concrete floors. This impact activity has a surcharge of $20 per person

3. Water Filtration Project: The water crisis is a reality that plagues the entire world. In the 
Dominican Republic alone, more than three million people have no access to piped water. One solution already being implemented is the production of clay water filters, which mean far fewer children and adults will miss school or work due to waterborne illnesses. As a Fathom traveler, you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside established organizations and local artisans in the entire filter-making process: gathering and mixing the raw materials, working the clay, shaping and firing the filters, and testing the quality of the finished product. In this family-friendly activity, even smaller children will find ways to do their part. Surcharge of $20 per person.

Economic . . .

1. Cacao & Women’s Chocolate Cooperative: The poorest half of the Dominican Republic’s
population receives less than one-fifth of the country’s annual GDP. One local women’s cooperative is actively involved in the cultivation of organic chocolate (cacao) plants, an important source of income for the Puerto Plata region. As a Fathom traveler, you can participate in the complete production cycle: from planting and cultivating the organic cacao trees (Nursery activity on Wednesday & Thursday only), to preparing the raw materials, to producing and packaging the final product for sale. By helping to improve production and increase sales, you’ll also be helping the organization to thrive so it can hire more local women, providing critical income in a region with limited employment opportunities.

2. Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship: A group of enterprising Dominican women have
come together as Repaper — a co-op in a low-income community of Puerto Plata dedicated to reducing solid waste in the province, while being an opportunity for self-employment. By participating in this activity you will not only have the chance to work and meet the RePapel Women, but you will also support local artisans committed to working with natural and recycled products. As a Fathom traveler, you can have a positive, hands-on impact on both programs, not only by helping the women benefit from steady sources of income but also by contributing to increased English skills that can help them sell their products more effectively.

Impact Travel Activities on the Ground

The highlight of any Fathom trip is the opportunity it gives you to collaborate with local volunteers on important projects that contribute to the sustainable economic, educational, and environmental health of local communities. Most impact activities are included in the price of your trip, and a few require and additional fee to cover supply costs.

At-sea transport

Your trip includes round-trip travel by ship between Miami and the port of Amber Cove in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Transportation between your home and the Port of Miami is not included.
Ground Transport

Fathom will ground transportation to and from all of your impact activities in the Dominican

Republic. Transport for leisure activities throughout Puerto Plata will be at your own expense.

On-Board Events
Aboard the ship, you’ll have the chance to participate in unique tailored programs and workshops to better prepare you for the impact you’ll make once you’re ashore. Payment for most onboard programming and events is covered in the price of your trip, while a small number of events require an additional fee.

Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner aboard the ship are included, and you’ll be treated to snacks
and water during your impact activities. If you’re feeling adventurous, additional curated dining experiences will be available on board at an additional cost.

This is your opportunity to both have a great cruise vacation and at the same time give back to the world through personal service.

On Tuesday, around mid-day, the Adonia will dock at the port of Amber Cove, near the city of Puerto Plata. Here, in the nearby villages, is where you’ll put your skills, your passions, and your shipboard orientation and training to good use. Over four days you’ll immerse yourself in the culture by joining the locals in impact activities that support the environmental, educational and economic health of their communities. Ready to have fun? Explore the landscape, relax in the Cove, and chart your own adventure.


GIVE: Work directly alongside the Dominican communities as you focus on economic, environmental and educational projects that make a lasting difference.

PLAY: After impact activities in the morning you’ll have time to relax by the pool, snorkel, deep sea fish or enjoy the entertainment and programs aboard the ship.

GROW: It is our sincere belief that personal connection is among the strongest catalysts for transformation. Share these experiences with your family and loved ones.


IMPACT ACTIVITIES: Fathom impact activities in the Dominican Republic include a wide range of projects focused on economic development, education and the environment. During your three days on the island, depending on your individual passions and skills, you’ll have the opportunity to get involved in the projects you feel the most strongly about. You’ll work directly alongside community members and our partner organizations, doing what they do, helping where they need you. And almost certainly making some new friends along the way.

You’ll also discover that impact travel is far more than a seven-day experience. On the return trip, we’ll help you look at ways you can stay involved by bringing your knowledge, inspiration, and insight back to your own community. And to keep your impact travel experience alive, long after your seven-day journey is over.

Participation in all activities is voluntary.


You may join an Impact Cruise any week of the year but

Texas Cruise and Travel Offers You the Opportunity to join us and Fathom in May 7, 2017 for a Fathom Impact Cruise.

COST: (The pricing is for TWO people. If you want individual cost divide by 2). All cabins require a $300 deposit for 2 people; individual deposits $150)

Inside Cabin - $865.36
Outside Cabin - $865.36
Balcony Cabin - $1,465.26
Suite Cabin - $2265.26

Gratuities are $81 per person.

Round Trip Airfare to Miami, Florida is on your own. We recommend Southwest Airlines into Fort Lauderdale and the shuttle to Port of Miami. You can also fly directly into Miami. Check both for the best price.

Contact us
(713) 677-4479
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Travel Documents: Get it Right

Travel Documents . . . .  Get it wrong and you can't imagine the hassle to which you are opening yourself.  Don't be like the Chicago Couple that got to Mexico and were sent right back to Chicago because one had a passport (and could have stayed) and the other had a "Passport Card" and could not use it to enter the country.

"But," you say, "there are so many of them. There is my Driver's License or state issued official ID; there is by Birth Certificate; there is a passport and a passport card; and, who knows what else. (Hint: your travel agent knows what else).

Your travel Agent knows the documentation you need for whatever your travel plans may be. So my very first piece of advice is to work with your travel agent as you plan your travel. Travel agents generally are knowledgeable about the government requirements for travel and who may travel and where they my travel. 

Let me begin by suggesting you start with the basics. The basic travel document for a U.S. citizen traveling abroad and more and more here at home is a U.S. Passport. Consequently, we here at Texas Cruise and Travel recommend that all our clients obtain a U.S. Passport.  

This document is acceptable identification for all kinds of travel both inside and outside of the United States. This is Americas basic travel documentation for its citizens and is recognized as such internationally.  A U.S. Passport is good for ten (10) years from date of issue and should be renewed at least 6 months prior to its expiration date. Passports are available through the U.S. State Department and certain Consulates and the process can be initiated online and completed via the United Sates Postal Service.  The cost is $110 per passport and requires a government defined photo as well as the appropriate paperwork.  Most people will also be required to submit an original certified copy of their birth certificate. Check the United States Department of State website for latest information on obtaining and maintaining a U.S.A. Passport. 

If you have a trip planned you might try using a Passport/Visa expediting service. This is a company that takes your documents and literally walks them through the process. This is not a free service and can be pricey depending on many factors. It is, however, an option for those who need their passport now and can't walk it through themselves.  

For persons who are only going to use their federally issued ID for cruises or travel to certain preapproved regions or countries and who are not going to be traveling by air the Passport Card is a less expensive option. The United States State Department warns that:

"The U.S. Passport Card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book. The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air." 

So, if you plan to travel to Mexico or Canada by land (non-air) transportation (walking, car, bus, train etc) or to the Caribbean or Bermuda by ship this may be your choice for a Federal identification document. It is intended primarily for people who go back and forth from the United States and either Mexico and Canada on a regular basis by land and for people cruising the Caribbean but returning to their port of embarkation. It has other specialized uses.  

You should note that if you travel by land to any of the authorized destination  on a Passport Card ID and have an emergency that requires flying home you may need to visit the U.S. Consulate or Embassy and you will face a long delay returning home.  We do not recommend this form of documentation because of it's limited use. Unless you have family in Canada or Mexico and you travel only by land we recommend paying a few dollars more and get a passport. 

You should also keep in mind that many countries require you to obtain a Visa to enter the country. That is why I suggest you work with your Travel Agent when making travel plans that include leaving United States territorial jurisdiction.

By the way, if you travel frequently we also suggest that you speak with your travel agent about obtaining a TSA Pre® status or obtaining a Global Entry Card.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Vacation Insurance: Don't Leave Home Without It!

I don't know what there is about travelers that seems to keep them from investing in Travel Insurance to secure their vacation dollars from loss. Seems that all they can see is a little more cost added to their vacation expense. 

To be sure, they know that stuff happens. Weather can cause you to miss a flight or cruise departure; people get sick; close relatives die; and accidents happen all the time that cause prople to cancel their vacation just a few days prior to leaving. In addition these same things happen while on vacation and can add a cost greater than the vacation to your vacation cost.  

Yep, they know it happens but it only happens to other people. I suppose that is what the Armstrong's thought when they booked their Disney vacation. See their story in USA Today.  I'm not sure what your thought process is but when your Travel Agent suggests travel insurance you should take that advise seriously. Certainly we hope you will never need to actually file a claim but when you do it can save you thousands of dollars.  

Several years ago American Express had a tag line that said, "Don't Leave Home Without It." That was good advise then and it is really good advise regarding insuring your vacation investment.  Your vacation planning is not finished until your trip is insured.  

Travel insurance is a necessity if you're purchasing a complete vacation package and/or a cruise vacation.  These vacation suppliers are  notoriously inflexible with regards to their cancellation policies.  At best they will offer to rebook you at a later date and even then will often charge you a fee to do so. Most will partially refund your money if you cancel far enough out.  However,  . Last-minute cancellations typically incur a 100% penalty, with no exceptions, no matter how valid, serious or heartrending the reason behind the change in plans. 

Most cruise lines have stipulated cutoff dates for cancellations. These are usually staggered so that depending on the how far out from your travel date you cancel only a percentage of your payment is refunded. In most cases inside 30 days the entire amount paid is forfeited.  Cancellations made within this period of time offers little or no hope for recovering your money.  You also have little chance of getting any credits toward a future cruise as well. No one wants to loose a multi-thousand dollar vacation investment because of a flat tire or blocked highway. 

Travel insurance is about the only hope you have for recovering your investment. Not only that, travel insurance offers a number of benefits while your actually on your trip.  But alas, most traveler think that the unthinkable only happens to other people, like the folks in the USA Today article and will not happen to them. 

It is absolutely true that trip insurance will add to the cost of your vacation but it will only be a very small part of your total vacation expense. However, travel insurance is among the most affordable kinds of insurance you can purchase. So what should you do? The answer is simple and inexpensive, "Buy travel insurance!"  

There are several fine and dependable companies that offer travel insurance. We recommend TravelSafe but there are other companies that offer good policies as well.  Do your research or take the advise of your Travel Agent but don't leave home without it.   

Among the things you want to look at in a travel insurance policy is:

  • Cost: How much will the insurance cost you.
  • What does it cover? Does it cover pre-existing medical conditions; Does it have a cancel for any reason clause; What about luggage, late flights, etc.
Travel insurance may well be the smartest decision you can make about your vacation. Should tragedy strike, you or your Travel Agent can either plead your case with the travel supplier and hope they will bend their rules for you.  

If you choose this route make sure you document everything and supply your Travel Agents and the travel supplier with complete details of your situation. The make it clear what you want from the supplier. Do you want your money back; do you want future trip credits;  or do you simply want to rebook for another date.  

Or you can purchase travel insurance and file a claim for a refund of your money. Keep in mind this refund will not be in addition to what the supplier provides but makes up the difference for what they refund and what you spent.