If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably tired! But you’re also creating memories that you’ll be talking about for years to come. The Fantastic Voyage docked in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Tom Joyner Day was declared.
The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Albert Bryan, said that Joyner not only convinced Black people to get on a cruise ship, he convinced them to sail in the other direction. Think about it, he has a point.
Bryan talked about how committed Joyner has been to Black people and education and also acknowledged his support for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Day 5 had a lot of different options for cruisers.
One of the most anticipated of the day 5 events was the “Sybil’s Book Club Presents: A Conversation With Andrew Gillum.” Gillum is, of course, the Tallahassee mayor who ran a close race for governor of Florida. In his conversation with Sybil, Gillum emphasized the importance of local politics how those local efforts can help turn typically red state Florida into a blue state. Gillum hopes to register 1 million new voters in Florida.
“Florida is not just a red state, it’s not just a blue state, it’s an unorganized state,” Gillum told the audience.
R. Jai Gillum, Gillum’s wife, who’s been married to him for ten years, was also there and shared some personal details about their relationship. She says she still has the paper (what, no phone?) that Andrew wrote all his numbers on when they first met. She also talked about the challenges of being a political wife, especially as it relates to their family.
“I was very clear about making sure that me, along with the kids, weren’t props,” she said. “‘Cause we got cute kids.”
While Sybil talked to Gillum in the full capacity Showtime Theater, others headed out to St. Thomas’ Magens Bay Beach for comedian Damon Williams’ Beach Party. The scenic ride to the beach took attendees through a few neighborhoods on the gorgeous island, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Cruisers enjoyed the smooth blue waters and a deejay while hanging out, relaxing and of course, taking photos for social media and live streaming back to those back home, who had to be experiencing a serious case of FOMO.
We may not emphasize the options available during the day on the cruise enough, as the nights are always so, well, fantastic. But did you know there is a daily morning church service that folks like Smokie Norful stop by to lend a word?
Not to mention the Tom Joyner Foundation art gallery, displaying art available for sale from world-renowned artists like Charles Bibbs, Frank Frazier, Ted Ellis and more. Money raised from the sale of artwork goes to benefit HBCU’s in addition to money already raised from the cruise itself. There are daily exercise classes as well, including Kemetic Yoga and ABC2 (Abs, Buns, Cardio Core) for those still working on their fitness despite nonstop party options.
Back on ship, after a little shopping at the port stores, it was time to relax, regroup and get ready for the night’s concerts. Charlie Wilson was on deck first, literally, as he was performing on the Lido Deck, the upper deck that is the home for outdoor concerts and at its other end, a site for parties because it has a pool and hot tub. Wilson, the former lead singer of the Gap Band, is justifiably known for his high-energy shows and he did not disappoint.
From his Gap Band hits like “You Dropped The Bomb On Me” to his own hits like “There Goes My Baby” Uncle Charlie danced, sang, gyrated, and moved the appreciative crowd, who sang along with every word.
Even if you’d seen him before, something about the shows on the Fantastic Voyage seemed a little more special than those you’d normally go to at a theater. If you’ve been to a Charlie Wilson show, you already know about the glowing suits and the angels – and if you don’t, well, we won’t ruin it for you, just know that if Uncle Charlie comes to your town, make sure you buy a ticket.
If you timed it right, you could make both of the night’s big shows.
Chrisette Michele was personally invited onto the cruise by Tom Joyner, despite the still controversial decision she made to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Regardless of what people may think of that choice, Michele can still sing and the crowd seemed to be appreciative of her talent, if not her past. At the conclusion of her performance, Tom came out (in a yellow zoot suit with a huge hat) and said he invited her personally because it was time to forgive her and many (though maybe not everyone) applauded them.
But it was Fantasia that everyone was waiting for. Like Charlie Wilson, Fantasia is old school at least in her performance mindset. The former “American Idol” winner is continuing in the stilettos of her predecessors like the legendary Aretha Franklin and Patti Labelle. Not only does she kick her shoes off, she doesn’t mind getting sweaty.
Fantasia also incorporates the audience in her show, high-fiving fans, going into the audience to perform and even dance with her. From hits like “ Lose To Win,” and “Truth Is” to “Summertime” the song from “Porgy and Bess” that helped her win “Idol,” Fantasia was phenomenal. By the show’s end, where she requested that folks put down their phones and full participate in a gospel finale, she basically had the crowd eating out of her hand.
Since it was Harlem/Roaring 20’s Night, you couldn’t be faulted if you thought that you’d fallen into a throwback time with all the zoot suits and flappers running around the ship. We almost wished that we were able to go back in time because some of the outfits were just that fabulous.
By this time, if you were still upright, you had a number of musical choices. War was the 2 a.m. show but the two hardest working bands on the ship, Natural Change was playing their nightly set, and so was the Ernest Walker Band. But most people were waiting for War. However, one of the best reviewed shows according to cruisers was the “Gotta Have House” show, which featured Strafe, Rob Morgan, In Touch, and James “D Train” Williams, who hasn’t aged a bit since his “Keep On” days. If you were in the clubs anytime in the 80’s, then you were really feeling this show of dance classics.
If you weren’t at Vibe Nightclub or The Atrium where DJ Touchstone, the world’s greatest blind deejay controlled the turntables, then you were waiting for War’s late light show. And they delivered their hits: “Cisco Kid,” “Why Can’t Be Friends” “Deliver the Word” and “Slipping Into Darkness” to an enthusiastic crowd despite the late, late hour.
OK, time to try and get a few hours sleep, because guess what we’re not done with the 2019 Fantastic Voyage!
PHOTOS: Rance Elgin, Tonya Pendleton (beach)
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