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Sheila E. was the highlight of a night filled with music aboard the Fantastic Voyage, which enjoyed a day at sea on its way  down to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. The night’s theme ball was the Sneaker Ball, which featured every creative take on formal wear and custom sneakers from sequins to multicolored wedges that you could imagine.

But before we get to music, there was plenty going on around the ship. During the day, activities included empowerment sessions including one by Sheri Riley, author of “Exponential Living: How to Stop Spending 100% of Your Time on 10% Of Who You Are” shared her own experiences with the challenges of goal-setting and time management and how to manage both to improve your life.

Meanwhile, the HBCU Day Party was going on and people represented their HBCUs from all over the country as well as their fraternities and sororities. A game of Twister was in full swing with Koolout as the host, to find out who was the going to be the King and Queen of Twister. Kudos to the grown folks who twisted themselves into the pretzel shapes necessary to make the game happen. Whether you won or not, the effort was admirable.

TV One executives hosted a “Create, Develop, Pitch” event that helped budding TV writers, producers and showrunners among other daytime seminars but one of the day’s highlights – or the highlight if you’re a regular cruiser is the The Wolf Pack’s annual takeover of the Aft Pool Deck. If you want to party, that’s the place to be each year. Music, food, fun and frolicking is what you can expect and it was no different this year.

On to the evening and The Sneaker Ball – the second themed night of the cruise. There were every variety of sneaker imaginable along with some fabulous formal wear. Every year, its fascinating to see what lengths people will go to to customize or match their sneakers to their outfits. Sparkly converse, multicolor-soled wedges, every sneaker look imaginable was represented.

But the night’s highlights were music – Sheila E. headlined the 2 a.m. show, but the ship was busy with music all day and night as DJ’s Cut Creator and Touchtone kept the beat through the Sneaker Ball. The concerts were for fans of all kinds of music – well at least if you were fans of almost every Black music genre from jazz to R&B to soul.

Jazz fusion band Natural Change is a perennial favorite and this year, they brought along Dallas artists N’Dambi, who you may remember as one of Erykah Badu’s background singers back in the day. N’Dambi, who had her own solo career used to rock a towering Afro before that was even a thing. She was a welcome addition to the Natural Change band.

Speaking of bands, the S.O.S. Band, best known for their hits “Tell Me” and “Just Be Good To Me” were a crowd favorite on Lido Deck 10 as was Midnight Star who ended their big hit  “No Parking On The Dance Floor.”

If that wasn’t enough, Kem and After 7 combined for a dynamic show in the Showtime Theater and well, we can say that they both rocked.  The trio After 7, who said they have been around for 30 plus years, not only did their hits like “Nights Like This” and “Ready or Not” they also did a medley of songs from the Weeknd and Bruno Mars.

If you’re a Kem fan already, you knew to expect a top-shelf production as well as the smooth romantic vocal stylings that have made the Detroit native a hitmaker with songs like “Love Calls.”

But the night’s most exciting musical performance came courtesy of Sheila E., who was one of the most anticipated acts of the night if the lines heading to the Showtime Theater at 1 a.m. were any indication. Though the show started at 2 a.m., no one and we mean, no one wanted to miss it. Their anticipation paid off – because Sheila turned it out.

Even Kirk Franklin came out to see her and danced with her onstage. She then invited members of the audience to join onstage dancing, and played through her catalogue including her own hit “The Glamorous Life,” as well as her hits with Prince – “Erotic City” and “Love Bizarre.” Tom Joyner, who attended the show, ultimately got on state to grant her deserved status as the new James Brown, including “caping” her as they once did with Brown, with his own jacket.

Just another night of big fun on the high seas. Check back to this space for more of our daily recap of the 2019 Fantastic Voyage!

PHOTOS: Rance Elgin, Tonya Pendleton (twins)


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