SA Cruise News

Regent Seven Seas Voyager’s 2020 South Africa cruise set to break cultural barriers

In an industry often (perhaps rightly) accused of being dominated by Caucasian passengers, especially in the upper echelons of luxury where Regent Seven Seas operates, Seven Seas Voyager’s cruise from Cape Town in 2020 is going to stand out among all other luxury cruises to our coasts.

The ship will have on-board a group of 70 passengers, cruising with Regent Seven Seas as part of Festival at Sea, a tour organiser that is aimed specifically at African cruise passengers who want to experience a cruise holiday, but with entertainment, cuisine and events culturally relevant to them.

Festival at Sea: Cruising with an African American Twist charters a full cruise ship annually, aboard Seven Seas Voyager it will be hosting a smaller group of 70.

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“The existing cruises were fine but, culturally speaking, I thought I could offer something that would enrich African Americans and that they would truly enjoy. And that’s how Festival at Sea: Cruising with an African American Twist came about,” explains Patricia Nicholson Yarbrough.

Yarbrough founded Blue World Travel, a travel agency targeting African Americans in the 1980s, and then expanded that into the cruise industry in the 1990s to offer cruises tailored around African-American culture and entertainment.

“I came up with the idea through personal experience and that of friends, family and clients on-board cruises,” she told The Telegraph. “They weren’t participating to the fullest, there were things they weren’t enjoying.”

Friends of Festival at Sea hosts smaller groups of African American passengers who want to cruise abroad together.

For example, Yarbrough says African-American cruise passengers would go to the clubs on-board and dance to R&B for a couple of songs, but then when country and western would play they’d be sitting for an hour, waiting for the music to which they wanted to dance.

“Or else there would be [the card game] bridge on board but a lot of our people prefer to play Bid whist,” she adds.

Festival at Sea has grown from its first group of 250 passengers in 1992 to a sold out annual full-ship charter with a waiting list several hundred-people long. And its expanded beyond just one annual full-ship charter to several spin off cruises.

Seven Seas Voyager’s Cape Town cruise in 2020 (fresh from a major refit) is one such event. “We want to welcome people, not just from America, but from the UK and around the world, to come and enjoy…and celebrate their culture,” she says.

African Formal night is a highlight of each sailing for Festival at Sea.

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Friends of Festival at Sea was launched in 1998, 10 years after launching Festival at Sea, which focuses on the Caribbean, for African Americans who wanted to explore the world together.

“I join the sailings and we have developed, over the years, a committee of volunteers who come on board and assist with activities ranging from Gospel brunches to African head wrap demonstrations and an African attire formal evening,” says Yarbrough.

Asked about her favourite Friends of Festival at Sea cruises, Yarbrough told The Telegraph that one of the most poignant was a cruise to the coast of West Africa.

“There was the time we cruised into Dakar… here we were, cruising back to where a lot of slaves left on ships, while being waited on hand and foot,” she said. “It was an amazing experience to thank our ancestors and say: “We have come back, we have come home, but look how we have come home”.

Seven Seas Voyager will cruise to Cape Town, and cruise roundtrip in South Africa, during 2020.

Seven Seas Voyager will depart Lisbon on November 14th, 2020 bound for Cape Town. The 24-night cruise calls in Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, Gambia; Abidjan, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana; Lomé, Togo; São Tomé; Walvis Bay, Namibia; and of course Cape Town, South Africa.

Voyager will then cruise two roundtrip Cape Town itineraries of 14 days, focusing on South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique, before departing Cape Town for Buenos Aires in January, 2021.

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