As many cruise lines move further into the white-gloved luxury market, Carnival Corporation has surprised the industry with a revolutionary new cruise that specialises in voluntourism.

The move has already provoked a debate, with one leading site describing the “fathom” product as “the worst holiday idea ever”. Others are concerned it could lead to criticism that the line is exploiting “poverty porn”.

In reality, however, Carnival has opened the way to tap into the huge demand from the wealthy boomer market to “give back”.

fathom, starting April next year, will take cruisers on a seven-day ‘Impact Journey’ from Miami to the Dominican Republic aboard the 710-passenger Adonia with the direct aim of assisting in a range of projects focused on education, the environment and economic development.

“fathom will cater to a growing market of consumers who want to have a positive impact on people’s lives and aren’t sure where to begin,” explains Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. “It’s a travel experience, not a cruise.”

There won’t be the usual entertainment on offer – no casinos and broadway shows, just access to a pool, a gym and a selection of Dominican-inspired meals.

Australians will be able to buy cabins, though Carnival Australia said they would be watching the take-up with interest.

“Our Australian and New Zealand guests are always eager to engage with the communities we visit and to provide assistance wherever needed,” says Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry.

Departing Miami every second Sunday for a Tuesday arrival in the Dominican Republic, the outbound travel time will be spent being given an orientation to the country, taking conversational Spanish lessons and engaging in creative workshops.

Upon arrival, activities will include:

* Cultivating cacao plants at a nursery

* Helping local women produce artisan chocolates

* Helping locals develop their English

* Participating in reforestation projects

* Building natural clay filters

fathom President Tara Russell says she expects this initiative to be of interest to three different types of passengers: older guests with a disposable income, families with children aged eight years and older who are looking for a more meaningful holiday, and adults who have been in the workforce for decades.

“We created fathom to meet the real hunger in the world for purpose,” tells Tara.

Priced from $1820 per person, it will include an outside cabin with a window, all onboard meals and three social impact activities while on shore.

So why the Dominican Republic? According to Carnival’s research, more than two million Dominicans don’t have access to piped water.

The aim of this game is to make passengers feel good in a completely different way – not with material goods, but by giving.

“We believe travel is a meaningful way to allow for personal growth while making purposeful and engaging contributions in the world,” says Arnold.

Business Insider Australia headlined their report: “Sounds like it might be the world vacation ever”.

“I am sure the people choosing this trip really want to make a difference, but it is nearly impossible to do anything meaningful in three days time,” says the site.