When the very first “Fantastic Voyage” set sail almost 12 years ago, the world was a whole lot different.

In 1999, there had been no September 11th disaster and no TSA, so air travel was a lot less stressful, and you could bring everything on board the plane – from your grandmama’s fried chicken to a 128-ounce bottle of lotion – no questions asked. Back then, you said goodbye to the loved ones you were leaving behind like you were going into orbit for seven days because you knew that communications would virtually cease. Sure, you could call from your cell phone – if you had one in 1999, but it would cost you way more than you wanted to pay.

So, parents with small children worried, and players rejoiced when it became clear that life on a cruise ship meant you were entering a private sanctum in which whatever happened happened – unless you chose to share – would be between you and about 2,000 other guests. It didn’t take long for people to enjoy their new-found freedom on the sea, and when we saw some things that I wouldn’t dare publish in a blog, we came up with the phrase, “What happens on the ship stays on the ship.”

Our first cruise year was actually the first year that camera cell phones were introduced, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that they were used for good and evil on the ship. A few years later, cruisers began to expect Internet access, but it was limited mostly to members of the media. But now, thanks to smart phones and wireless everything, anything you say or do could wind up on YouTube, someone’s Facebook page, on Twitter – and who knows where else. Our smart phones have outsmarted us, and there’s no turning back now.

It’s amazing that the many high profile singers, comedians, politicians and even church officials who have cruised with us over the years have not been able to point to the cruise as the source of their demise. The ones who have taken a fall were busted – allegedly – on land, far away from the beach parties, the hot tubs and the cozy corners of the bars where, let’s just say, a lot has happened over the years.

So, a few years ago, when it was clear that keeping things under wraps on the cruise was no longer possible, we joined in by including daily coverage – and yes, photos – on BlackAmericaWeb.com. It’s hard out there for a player, but they went down fighting, declaring a couple of years ago, “What happened on the ship never happened.” It was catchy, but pictures, unless they’ve been Photoshopped, don’t lie. Denial works on the ship for about as long as it works back at the house. Eventually, the truth will come out. It always does.

So, my point is not to encourage people to do anything other than have the best time on the cruise (and off) that you possibly can.

We have for the first time this year implemented the “Pep Rule,” honoring the request of Pepa from Salt N Pepa that no photos or videos be taken from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. so guests and performers can really party like they just don’t care. We’ll do our best – but you know how that goes. In reality, whether there are cameras or not, we’re all accountable for what we do and who we do it with.

A TJMS staff member’s teenage daughter recently got a Facebook page and was reluctant to “friend” family members because she wondered how they would judge her. Her mama told her right. Whether you’re on Facebook or at the mall, you should always act like someone who loves you is watching.

We’re all grown and sexy on the “Fantastic Voyage,” but that’s not bad advice for us either!

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