If you made it to the 6 a.m. session of Afro Aqua Aerobics, you are an amazing soul. For most of the rest of us, the day started much later when we finally peeled our eyes open. The rest of the morning’s activities included Socanomics CaribbeanDance Fitness, a seminar on the ins and outs of Medicare, an entrepreneurship panel, an empowerment panel on managing procrastination and a basketball tournament.
And all of that happened before 11 a.m. Interested in what music therapy could for you? There was a panel for that. Did you want to attend the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival? The festival organizers held a panel.
If you didn’t get a chance to mingle with your favorite artists, some of whom were just casually hanging out before and after their shows, you could find them at the Autograph Signing Session. Myra J., SOS Band, Chrisette Michele and more were there, meeting and greeting fans.
If that wasn’t enough to do before noon, the Greek Day Party kicked off at noon on the ever-popular Lido pool deck. If you were one of the Divine 9 or one of any of the historically black fraternities and sororities, you represented with ALL of your best gear and some impromptu stepping took place as well. Although we know this ship is a grown folks’ party, some frats and sorors still have the dynamic moves held over from their college days.
This was the first of two days at sea motoring back from St. Thomas to Miami and it was a glorious day moving through the Caribbean. This was a great time to spend some time on the deck, preferably with your adult beverage of choice. Heading around the ship, you had multiple options for fun, relaxation or information. The popular African head wrap class was going on, as was a panel on how to prepare for retirement…even if you’re way behind. And the plant-based diet class was among the most popular as people sought more information on how to improve their health via a more holistic diet.
Celebrity charades? Line dancing? It was all happening on the cruise, but one of the most popular of the day’s events was the Old School Games Happy Hour. If you remember Operation or love a good round of Connect Four, you’d have felt right at home. There were also, as you can figure whenever Black folks to be found, some spirited games of bid whist and spades.
If you were lucky enough, artist Frank Frazier was silk-screening T-shirts with a copy of one of his pieces and if you were in the line early, you got one to take home with you at no charge. That’s if you didn’t make it to the pool party on the Aft deck, which had the advantage of going on during a beautiful day along with some great music and good vibes. Imagine hosting a huge pool party where everyone brings nothing but good vibes and you have just some idea of how it went down.
As the evening went on, you had several chances to enjoy yourself before the big concerts and the night’s most highly anticipated event – 70’s Night. The Practice Team, an affinity group of cruisers who link up on each year’s cruise, some of whom who have been coming since the very first one in 1999, hosted a meet and greet while Chris Paul and Huggy Lowdown hosted a “Never Have I Ever” Happy Hour.
The Celebrity Chef Takeover continued so diners headed to the restaurant to enjoy a specially curated menu from a stellar group of celebrity chefs including TV One and The Food Network’s Chef Jernard. You were going to need to get your nutrition before you headed out, because as it was the night before the last night, what was the point of going to bed? (Unless you had a cruise boo – who was hopefully, also who you got on the ship with).
Which show to see? Well, if you had the night’s tickets for Fantasia and Chrisette Michele, that’s where you were heading. It was the second night for the sangin’ duo but you would have never known. Chrisette, who was on the ship with her parents, acknowledged the love she felt from the crowd and even as she made her way around the ship. Fantasia never makes it through a show with her shoes on (she may as well come out barefoot at this point, like Sheila E., does) so those were kicked off early. She told the crowd it was the last night on the shop so we was ‘fin to get rowdy and they better be ready to get rowdy with her.
Not your choice in music? No problem. Maxi Priest was on the Lido pool deck performing his own big hit “Close to You” as well as selections from a variety of genres including songs by The Temptations, Michael Jackson and the Black-Eyed Peas. If you wanted to relive your club days, whether you hung at New York’s Paradise Garage or any dance music club in the 80’s, you were able to do so. Strafe of “Set It Off,” James “D Train” Williams, who you know from “Keep On” and dance music stalwarts took the entire room back to all the good times and good music in the nation’s hottest clubs of the day.
Natural Change and the Ernest Walker Band kept their audiences vibing with their mix of soul, funk R&B and jazz. Our hats off to them for playing and holding it down every night of the cruise.
And if you think the “Gotta Have House” artists threw it back to the 80’s you ain’t seen nothing yet. It was 70’s Night on The Fantastic Voyage and let me tell you, people showed the hell out. Where do y’all find platforms with goldfish in the heels in 2019? We need to know. It was a true Playa’s Ball as several pimps were in all their finery but the realm of creativity was unsurpassed. How about Shaggy, Velma and Daphne from Scooby Do?
What about the Pink Ladies from “Grease?” But we have to give our greatest respect to the TJMS Crew starring Tom Joyner as Sir Nose from Parliament/Funkadelic, Sybil Wilkes as Minnie Riperton, Guy Torry as James Brown, Damon Williams as several eras of Prince, judging from the outfit, and Kym Whitley as Dolly Parton. Kudos to all for the commitment. Josie and the Pussycats, two different version of Ike and Tina Turner and Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies. Yes, people, you went there.
If you had energy to party in those platform heels, we once again have to salute you. And if you made it to the War show at 2 a.m. well, you have our admiration. We hear it was groovy, a stone cold blast from the past. But we had to put our heads on our pillow so we could recharge for the last (tears!) night of the Fantastic Voyage.
PHOTOS: Rance Elgin, Tonya Pendleton
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