If you’ve been on the Fantastic Voyage before then you know – you better bring some suitcases. No, not one suitcase but a full Mariah Carey-diva-like suitcase set or sets because you will need a more than a few for your cruise outfits. So insider tip: save up those baggage fees in advance! One of the most important reasons to bring along those extra suitcases is for Mardi Gras Night, the big event on Day 3 of the 2019 Fantastic Voyage.
But first, let’s head down to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, where the The 2019 Fantastic Voyage made its first stop. Amber Cove is a private beach resort where the party was in full swing. From the pool to the zip-lining to the water slides, the idea was to have as much fun as possible in the Dominican Republic. Thankfully, the weather was gorgeous.
Aside from all the attractions and pool games, there is the annual City Dance competition, where cities like Miami, Houston and New Orleans and Chicago squared off for bragging rights. Let’s just say some of you know how to drop it like its hot, regardless of aging backs, knees and hips. It’s fair to say a beautiful day on a beautiful island combined with dance, drink and food were an Instagrammable highlight for many cruisers, but that was just one of the day’s highlights.
Although cruisers were looking forward to the big Pool Party, they also had the chance to enjoy panels, empowerment sessions, fitness classes and more. Or they can just relax on board. Those who chose to stay on the quiet ship found some food, a deck chair to relax in or stayed in their cabins and rested up for the night. Some probably needed extra time to prep for Mardi Gras Night given the elaborate costumes and makeup that we’d see later on in the evening.
The day included empowerment sessions, with MC Lyte and Sheila E. the main attractions at the “Women, Wealth, Relationships vs. Men, Money and Marriage” joined by financial guru Lynn Richardson, a financial guru. As you can imagine, the questions and answers were lively as the artists and the hosts discussed any and everything around those topics. Money was a topic of interest to many as the artists talked about their experiences with earning, spending, saving and investing.
Panelist Kym Whitley said that she learned a great lesson about saving while touring with the show “Beauty Shop.” She was making good money with her weekly paycheck for the show, but also had a generous per diem (an allotment of money for food and expenses.) Her mother advised her to send her paychecks to her to save and live on the per diem. Whitley did so and used the money she saved to buy her first home.
As the party wound down and once people returned to the ship, it was time for dinner. “The Celebrity Chef Takeover” featuring chefs Tiffany Derry, Ken Patrick, Chef Dyrell, Chef Tobias Dorzon, Chef Huda, Kenneth Temple, Chef Rome, Darius Williams and Litisha Ashley-Washburn featured special dishes developed by each chef. Among the specialty dishes were Chef Darius Williams’ Garlic Braised Collard Greens and Cabbage Over Cream Jalapeno Grits, Chef Tobias Dorzon’s Asian Ginger Chicken Lollipops and Chef Kenneth Temple’s Wakanda Cake, a chocolate cake with cream cheese icing and strawberry salad.
After dinner, musical choices were abundant, even while the ship prepared for Mardi Gras Night. R&B singer Jaheim was the main event in a Silent Listening Party where people listened to him sing via special headphones that his performance was piped directly into. It was a different experience for most, but turned out pretty well, even though it was weird not to hear vocals if you took the headphones off!
Kem and After 7 were back as were Midnight Star, Larry D and SOS Band. Midnight Star, who met at Kentucky State University has been together with all their original members since 1976. (You may have seen their “Unsung” in 2013).
It’s safe to say that the funk was in the building. The Aretha Franklin Tribute featuring Mary was also going on as well as the ship’s hardest working band Natural Change. And Sheila E., was back again for the 2 a.m. West Coast Soul show, which we figure she’s more than used to after playing late night aftershows with Prince.
But of course, the flagship event is the Mardi Gras Parade. Tom Joyner, Sybil, Huggy, Myra J., Roland Martin and various members of the TJMS crew always lead the parade with a unique theme. In previous years, Tom has dressed up as the Simpsons, Black Panther, the Lion King and classic candy bars like Payday, etc.
This year’s theme was ‘Respect” and Tom and crew dressed as varying versions of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, whose NFL anthem protest divided the league and its fans. Kaepernick has been hailed as a civil rights hero for his stand and Tom and the crew paid homage to that in their parade outfits.
Once again, though, the cruisers on the Fantastic Voyage showed their creativity with their choice of outfits. Salt N Pepa, Buffalo soldiers, Mardi Gras kings and queens, a particularly great group of Black women who came as the rock band Kiss – in full makeup, a man dressed as an emoji, a woman dressed as Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow from “The Wiz,” a pimp with goldfish platforms and a braids, a bunch of women and men who must have brought their second line outfits from the New Orleans Mardi Gras, a woman dressed in a jumpsuit with a money print that had a blower that dispensed cash, (which we assume was fake) and much more.
If you’re coming to the Mardi Gras, the rule is go hard or go home. And that’s what people did. If you still had the energy to attend the afterparty (and many did) or you made it to the Sheila E., show (which was on fire for a second night) we salute you. But for many of us, it was lights out so we could get ready for the next spectacular day on the Fantastic Voyage.
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