Afrocentric Voyages

Cruises set sail for partying or more serious-minded pursuits

Travel

October 02, 2005|By EMERI B. O'BRIEN | EMERI B. O'BRIEN,SUN REPORTER

This fall, imagine yourself on a cruise with a bit of soul.

From voyages catering to book-lovers to trips for those seeking a party with a purpose to journeys for folks wanting to get in touch with their Afrocentric sides, there are cruises tailored to suit the needs of any traveler.

And you don't have to break the bank to have a good time.

An average cruise can cost as little as $800 per person or as much as $2,000, says Elsie Blount, president of UNIGLOBE Travel Designers Inc., a travel agency that specializes in African-American cruises and other travel.

The trip is worth every penny, says Blount, whose office is based in Ohio.

Blount helped get the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities Alumni Cruise up and running. The cruise sails Oct. 23-30 aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines mega ship and will make stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Paradise Island, Bahamas; and St. Maarten.

"It's like a floating city," Blount says. "There's so much to do everyday. There's one club that's karaoke and another one where they would be bumping it out to Motown or '70 hits. It's just something that you have to experience."

Raynard Alexander, 36, of Baltimore booked his cabin early.

When he was looking for a getaway with his buddies, Alexander thought the cruise was perfect.

A graduate of Morgan State University's engineering program, Alexander says he has been on other cruises, but he was looking for something with a bit more "flavor."

"My girlfriend and I went on a Carnival cruise," he says. "We found it to be more family-oriented. It just didn't seem to fit the party atmosphere."

According to Cruise Line International Association, which is the official trade organization of the cruise industry, more African-Americans are getting on board with the idea of cruises with them in mind.

Brian Major, director of public relations for Cruise Line, says he has seen a "blossoming" of cruises tailored to African-Americans over the past 10 years. These types of voyages are usually set up by travel agencies or radio stations. Then, they work with the cruise lines, Major says.

"There are more than ever before," he says. "Today's cruises are suited for everyone from every walk of life. ''

The HBCU Alumni Cruise's activities and facilities are geared specifically toward young, professional African-Americans. They include a full-size skating rink, rock-climbing, a basketball court, and spades and bid-whisk tournaments. Singles looking for love may find it with a session of speed-dating and can get their groove on on the dance floor at an optional pajama party.

If you have put your college-partying days behind and would prefer snuggling up with a good book, Summit at Sea is for you. Throw in a scenic route to Mexico and seminars led by some of the hottest African-Americans authors and you've got one hip, mega-book-club meeting.

The fourth annual Summit at Sea is a cruise for intellectuals, says literary events chair Pam Walker-Williams. She said the Summit started as a smalltime book-club meeting for those in the Houston area. Word spread and it became a national event.

The seven-day Summit at Sea cruise aboard Carnival's Pride sets sail Oct. 16 from Los Angeles and will make stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Every year, a book is chosen for discussion aboard the ship. This year's choice is In Sheep's Clothings, by Mary Monroe.

"If you are an avid reader, you get to mingle with some of your favorite authors," Walker-Williams says. "We have a wonderful track record. People who have come as self-publishing people and have gotten publishing deals."

But it's not all just books at the Summit at Sea. There will be plenty of parties and karaoke to keep the mood light.

For those looking to delve into a bit of African-American history, take a voyage back to your African roots on a Harambe cruise, which sets sail from Miami on Oct. 21 and returns Oct. 28.

While the cruise doesn't go to the motherland, the atmosphere aboard beckons you there. Enjoy seven days aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise liner Navigator of the Seas and explore San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau, Bahamas.

The Harambe trip is expected to have 600 passengers this year. There's an Afro-centric dress night, a book-club meeting, a gospel hour and a talent show.

"This is a more settled crowd. It's open to anyone. We have lots of people from all over and different age groups," Blount says.

Even in the planning, it's all about togetherness on Harambe, she says. "It's five black women, and we've never had an argument.

emeri.obrien@baltsun.com

GETTING ON BOARD

For more information about the HBCU and Harambe cruises for 2006 visit uniglobe traveldesigners.com or call 800-966-6512

For more information about Summit at Sea, visit summitatsea.com or call 866-875-1044.

Go to soulof american.com for information on other Afrocentric cruises.

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