Whether you have booked a cabin on this year’s Fantastic Voyage cruise or not, there’s information in this blog that should be important to you. Even though the cruise – as it goes into its 10th year – is synonymous with big fun, it is also a major fundraiser for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and raised millions of dollars for that cause. And that’s not the only thing. This is another chance for you, as part of the TJMS family, to become “radio active” and viral (in a good way) in an effort to keep the Tom Joyner Foundation from losing its ability to help thousands of African-American students but also a chance, once again ,for us as a community to make sure we’re being treated with dignity and parity.
We live in a world where nothing is certain – or, in terms of this year’s Fantastic Voyage, ship happens. (That’s the best I can do at humor right now.) Everything was sailing along just fine until the panic of a swine flu epidemic in Mexico hit the world, and our sponsor Royal Caribbean informed us that our itinerary for the 2009 Fantastic Voyage would have to change. The decision was out of our control, and so was their Plan B. I was devastated by the news and how it would impact our passengers, who had to be told that they would not be going where they thought they’d be going. We have heard from many of you who have called, sent texts, and have posted concerns on Facebook. I wish I had an easy answer or explanation for how to satisfy everyone. But I don’t.
What I can do is remind you of what the Fantastic Voyage cruise started as and what it has become. Long before we’d formed a partnership with Royal Caribbean, I had a dream of getting a big boat and cruising with the TJMS audience. I knew there had been “black cruises,” where a large groups of African-Americans booked an event on a ship, but my dream was bigger than that. My dream was for us to have our own ship — make a deal with a major cruise line and take it over for seven days with the kinds of activities and concerts aimed at our audience. Ten years ago, that dream came true, and every year, it got bigger and better. If you’ve cruised with us before, you know about it, and if you haven’t had the opportunity yet, you’ve heard about it. We delivered what we’ve promised year after year with premium ships, premium entertainment and premium ports.
The Fantastic Voyage cruise grew to become an event and also a Black History Fact. No one had or has done what we’ve done, and not only has it had an impact on our community; it’s had an impact on mainstream America too. Beyond the looks that we get every year when we dock, and passengers on the other ships see 3,000 black people get off of the ship, companies such as Royal Caribbean began to recognize the value of the African-American consumer and even implemented departments geared specifically for reaching out to minority travelers. And of course, that’s a good thing. These companies came to grips with something we already knew: that we have money and will spend it to do things we want to do, especially if we are treated well and get our value for the money. The fact that the Fantastic Voyage is a tax write-off and helps so many kids stay in school at HBCUs is icing on the cake.
This year, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Fantastic Voyage, we face major challenges that stand to damage our relationship with repeat and first–time cruisers, the entertainment we’ve booked, corporate sponsors, including Royal Caribbean, and cause financial ruin to the Tom Joyner Foundation. If this happens, it will be the end of the Fantastic Voyage as we know it. That’s why it’s important to help you understand our side of this story and how we have been left to make the best out of a not-so-ideal situation.
Keep in mind that, while there are other vacation opportunities other cruises, other concerts geared toward the African-American community, we shouldn’t be willing to substitute what we’ve done together so easily. Nobody enjoys a good party like we do, and I’m right with you. But it isn’t about the party; it’s about the purpose. Always was. And always will be.