Inside Festival At Sea 2019: The Black-Owned Cruise Experience You Need
By DeAnna Taylor
When you mix nearly 3000 Black people, celebrity entertainment, and culturally relevant programs all while sailing on the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, you get the experience of a lifetime.
Travel Noire had the opportunity to be apart of the first Black-owned cruise. Now in its 28th year, Festival at Sea was definitely the move.
The week started off with cruisers boarding the Celebrity Equinox ship for a week of ‘Cruising with an African American twist.’ Many attendees come on the cruise almost every year, so they knew exactly what to expect.
This year Festival at Sea was headed to St. Thomas, Tortola, Punta Cana, and Key West.
At any given moment, you would hear music playing around the ship. Whether you were on an elevator headed to eat at the buffet, line-dancing on the pool deck, or even in the casino there was always hip hop, R&B, and jazz playing through the speakers.
The week was filled with programs and shows that only we can appreciate. The first night, we were welcomed with a silent disco party in the grand foyer of the ship. Three DJs, from across the country, dropped our favorite hits at the same damn time, while partygoers listened through headphones. We were able to change the channel to listen to whichever DJ was playing our favorite song at the time.
A big highlight for this annual event is their UNCF bachelor auction. Festival organizers select the finest bachelors that are onboard (and single) and ask them to enter the show. This year, one bachelor went for a record $6,500. Yea, he was fine fine. The fundraising goal was $20,000 and Festival at Sea raised well over that target. The money raised goes to help minority students receive scholarships for college through the United Negro College Fund.
That Tuesday night, we all dressed to impress for a white party on the pool deck. Special guest DJ Coco Chanelle along with DJ Taz, Mind Motion, DJ H Holla, and Tay Rock kept us rocking well into the early morning. It was so dope to see that much melanin dressed in white, united through our common bond of music.
The next night brought one of the most culturally appealing nights of the week, African attire night. Seeing us dressed in various forms of traditional garb was truly like stepping into Wakanda for a night. Fashion Show Coordinator, Marilyn Walker, hosted her annual Fashion show where guests modeled her custom African garments sold in her shop onboard. Then, DJ Level & DJ Taela took us into the night with the sounds of Afro Beats in the Grand Foyer.
On Thursday, Festival at Sea hosted their annual theme night celebration. Each year guests decide on a costume theme and this year it was “Under the Big Top”. At night the entire deck was transformed into a carnival complete with games, small bites and people dressed in circus costumes.
We ended the week with a DJ battle showdown that had everyone on their feet.
The Festival at Sea entertainment included King of Comedy Star, Cedric the Entertainment, legendary group Salt-N-Pepa, and R&B soul singer Raheem DeVaughn. While all of the shows were amazing, the best part was that they all actually walked around the boat and interacted with guests.
It was truly like one big family reunion. There were spades games happening all day and night, a Greek step show, swag surfing in the pool, and I haven’t even begun to talk about the food. Just know we ate well all week!
The dates and ports for next year’s sailing were just announced. Festival at Sea will hit Aruba, Curacao, Labadee, Haiti, and La Romana, Dominican Republic on board the Celebrity Equinox from July 18-26.
You want to hop on reserving your spot sooner than later because this event sells out every year.
They will be making a sales announcement next week. Be the first to get the 411 on Festival at Sea by clicking here.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.