Radio One did a great job of promoting the gospel music experience throughout the cruise. From the afternoon until about 1 AM each day you could find a gospel artist performing somewhere on the ship. These performances took place in the main theater, the pool deck, small lounges, and even on a loft above the main atrium. It was kind of like bringing all the artists from the Stellar Awards together for a week of concerts. Chances are, if you have a favorite contemporary gospel song, the artist(s) who sings the song was on the ship. There were gospel legends such as the Clark Sisters, Pastor Shirley Caesar, and BeBe & CeCe Winans. There were best sellers such as Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams, Pastor Donnie McClurkin, and Pastor Marvin Sapp. There were many up-and-comers. In addition to performing, the lesser-known artists spent time handing out flyers promoting their projects and selling their product. I enjoyed meeting them and look forward to hearing great things from them in the future. I remember meeting James Fortune under similar circumstances on the One Love Gospel Cruise 2006. Back then, I had never heard any of his music, but these days it is rare that I not hear at least one of his songs within an hour of listening to gospel radio or watching gospel music videos on TV.
Pastor Marvin "Never Would Have Made It" Sapp
Dorinda Clark-Cole of the Clark Sisters
Pastor Wes Morgan
This cruise is obviously not a vacation for the artists. When they were not performing concerts, they were doing things such as hosting events or participating in discussion panels. Some of the personalities such as Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, and CoCo Brother host radio shows. They had to host them from the ship during the week. Passengers were welcome to watch them work. Traci and I caught bits and pieces of these radio shows but we were definitely not going sit through the entire four hours. Despite their busy itineraries, the artists took time to take pictures with their fans. Additionally, there were scheduled meet-and-greet sessions throughout the week but the lines were very long for these events.
As was the case with past One Love Gospel cruises, most of the artists performed to tracks - kind of like karaoke. BeBe Winans kept referring to his tracks as his "invisible band". Although I prefer to hear performances backed by a live band, I cannot deny the extraordinary vocal ability of Yolanda Adams, Trin-i-tee 5:7, Pastor Wess Morgan, BeBe & CeCe Winans, the Clark Sisters, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, and others who all performed to tracks.
Fortunately, we were able to attend two live concerts (band and all) in the Stardust Theater during the week. During ship check-in, we chose which two nights we would attend the live shows in this theater. A blue or green sticker was placed on our cabin keycard to indicate our concert schedule choice. These concerts featured Fred Hammond, Smokey Norful, Marvin Sapp, and Kirk Franklin. Their performances were on another level. They jammed for almost four hours!
CeCe & BeBe Winans
One common thing I heard from several of the gospel artists this year is that they have some upcoming projects that are different from what we are used to experiencing from them. My take-away is that they've got some secular projects in the works. Fred Hammond announced he has an upcoming jazz release. He previewed one of the songs during his concert. He also hosted a jazz showcase one afternoon but Traci and I missed it because we had gone ashore in the Dominican Republic.
In addition to the musical concerts, there were comedy shows. These Christian comedians were hilarious! My favorite this year was, without a doubt, Griff. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.
Video and photography were strictly prohibited during the concerts. Radio One threatened to confiscate these devices if they caught you using them. I could understand prohibiting video but prohibiting photography had me bewildered. My only guess is that these days, many digital cameras also have video capability. Here is a list of performers...
There were two days at sea during this cruise. The mornings and afternoons offered fitness classes, seminars, worship services, line dance instruction, panel discussions, poolside performances, live radio shows, and more. The ship's daily publication (Freestyle Daily) was delivered to our cabin each evening. It listed the schedule for all these activities. Just in case we didn't read the Freestyle Daily, Radio One always made sure everyone knew the activity lineup of the day. Starting at 7 AM each morning and continuing at regular intervals throughout the day, the activities were announced over the ship's PA system. Every morning we awoke to the voice of Winston Chaney reading the schedule of events.
Yolanda Adams Morning Radio Show (Marcus D. Wiley, Yolanda Adams, AV)
Traci and I usually split up during the day and wandered in and out of the events that interested each of us. There were some events that we attended together such as the Marriage Beyond the Vows Seminar and a financial seminar presented by Allstate. Everything I attended was nicely done.
Although Traci and I each generally did our own thing during the sea days, we always had a meeting time for meals. I don't think we missed a meal during the entire cruise:). In fact, I gained 6 pounds. We definitely enjoyed the food! I especially enjoyed the bread and butter pudding dessert topped with caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream - yum! There were many dining venues from which to choose on the Norwegian Dawn. There was the buffet, eight specialty restaurants, the pool deck grill, two main dining rooms, and a 24-hr diner. If these were not enough, there was always room service starting at 5 PM. With the exception of the specialty restaurants, all the meals were already included in the price of the cruise. Traci and I always ate in one of the main dining rooms (The Venetian or Aqua). Sometimes we asked for our desserts to-go if we were running late for a concert.
my favorite dessert - bread & butter pudding in caramel sauce!
One thing that was different this year than the other One Love cruises we've done is that we were not seated with other guests in the main dining room. My guess is that this was probably a Norwegian Cruise Line thing. When Traci and I arrived at the dining room, the hostess would ask how many are in our party. When we replied "two", we were seated at a table for two instead of being seated at a table with other guests. Having a private table on a general cruise might be a welcomed experience but on a themed cruise we prefer to be seated with other passengers since we know we already have common interests - gospel music in the case of the One Love cruise. On past cruises, we've met wonderful people and had great conversations at meal time. In fact, we ran into a couple with whom we dined on our first One Love cruise back in 2006. This year, we attended the main concerts with them and had dinner with them one evening. It was a joy to hang out together.
One of the more memorable dining experiences Traci and I had occurred the night we were seated near a back corner of the Aqua Dining Room. We must have been seated near a V.I.P. door or something. It seemed like every time we looked up, we saw another celebrity or legend walk through the door. During the course of this dinner, we saw Pastor Shirley Caesar, Marvin Sapp, the Clark Sisters, Pastor Donnie McClurkin, Cathy Hughes, Jeff Majors, and others. They were not there for dinner. Each celebrity seemed to be walking with the purpose of quickly getting to their next destination. Therefore, we did not say hello or ask for a photo. It was still a pretty cool surprise for us each time the door opened. Continue...