African-American embraced in a hug on the deck of a cruise ship.

A Rise in Cruise Opportunities for African-American Travelers

A Cruise Specialist Reveals His Recommendations for a Diverse Travel Niche

Stephen Scott is an experienced Chicago-based travel advisor, who provides travel planning for couples, families, and individuals. His expertise is providing unique experiences for vacations within the U.S. around the world, and corporate travel services that support a wide range of customers from recording artists to law offices. After working 5 years for Royal Caribbean International, Stephen has used his knowledge to become a cruise specialist. It’s one of the reasons why we wanted tap into is unique perspective about the changes in cruise industry to attract African-American travelers.

Stephen Scott poses with camel resting in Dubai.
Cruise specialist Stephen Scott in Dubai 

As an African-American traveler I have been increasingly meeting and seeing a larger amount of people like me in far-flung destinations around the world, on different cruise lines and in exotic destinations. I can’t tell you the amount of times where I may have been the only one in First Class, or even on a flight so this makes me feel good. Thankfully times are changing, not because I didn’t feel comfortable but because I want our community to be able to have the same experiences I’m having.

For so long, some of the best destinations were not an option due to various reasons such as economics, upward-mobility of the communities we live in, and other factors like how we are marketed to, and who is marketing to our people that end up having an effect on the vacations we take. The biggest movement in the right direction has been the expanding cruise segment.

Stephen Scott on a boat in Slovenia.
Stephen vacationing in Slovenia

In my previous roles in the cruise industry starting in the late 2000’s, I personally saw a change in how the cruise lines and travel brands showcased diversity. Marketing started to include more people of color on advertising, the onboard entertainment productions have become more diverse in hiring for roles and have taken on plays, music and shows that cover major music genres like hip-hop and pop. All of this is to be more inclusive of other cultures, but they clearly recognize that the buying power of people like me is shifting to higher ticket travel experiences and not simply 3-night and 5-night trips but now 7-night Southern Caribbean vacations to countries like St. Lucia and Barbados. You are now seeing larger groups of us taking Mediterranean cruises, South American shore-excursions from cities like Cartagena, and even expedition cruises to Antarctica and the Northwest Passage.

...they clearly recognize that the buying power of people like me is shifting to higher ticket travel experiences...

Cruising is not simply about the all-you-can-eat buffet anymore. My recommendation is that African-Americans explore new destinations beyond what we expect to afford because we have options now that we did not have before. Travelers, including people of color, have 32 cruise line options that cover different categories, price points, and ports all over the world. There are cruise lines that cater to families, strictly-adults, luxury, unique itineraries, short-getaways and unique shore excursions that will be the highlight of your conversations on social media – and when you’re back at work – for years to come.  

The best way that we can enjoy the quintessential cruise experience is via a group. Cruise lines and Travel Advisors make things so easy to enjoy a girl’s getaway, or a family milestone like a birthday, graduation, a corporate meeting or reunion – you really can ensure that everyone shares in the experience of travel in a fresh new way. Everyone starts at the same place, changes along the way from great experiences and comes back home new people but they experienced it as a unit. That feeling does not always occur with a 5-night stay at a single resort on an island. But it does when you have seen Italy, France, and Spain over a 7-day trip. Or how you can start in Puerto Rico and journey south through the Southern Caribbean islands that are less frequented than the Western Caribbean islands of Jamaica or Nassau as an example.

Family posing in front of a cruise ship
best cruise experiences -  The best  way we can enjoy the quintessential cruise experience is as a family or group.

For African-American travelers, I have a few great cruise recommendations for you to explore. The first is the 2020 Virgin Voyages sailing featuring the Grammy Award winning DJ/Producer Mark Ronson who will perform exclusively at their private beach club in Bimini. Second, would be the Celebrity Edge departures in Europe that feature industry-changing Edge Balcony staterooms, and suites that give you the space, and energy that you never thought you’d get from a cruise stateroom while you travel the world. When it comes to the group or family experience, you cannot go wrong with Royal Caribbean as they continue to win the biggest awards in quality entertainment, dining, and family experiences. The Oasis Class ships that are available in Port Canaveral, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale have what you need onboard plus they are Caribbean-focused which will give you opportunities to learn about historical points that affected both Africa and the United States in the Caribbean. Finally, I have found that the entertainment onboard Norwegian Cruise lines has been the most diverse at sea and has featured some of the best in African-American shows you can get. Plus, some of the casts have been almost all African-American.

My recommendation is that African-Americans explore new destinations beyond what they expect to afford because we have options now we did not have before.

 “When the sun shines, we shine together” is a lyric that Barbados-born superstar Rihanna sings in the song Umbrella. That line brings to me feelings of belonging, shared experiences, and a positive expectation for the future. It’s a feeling that cruisers experience all around the world as we make journeys together and have experiences as sailors going from port to port while seeing the sun rise and set in different destinations and cultures from day to day. That feeling in many ways is unique to cruising and group travel makes it even more special. Let’s share that experience together as an African-American community so that we can shine together in fresh new ways around the world.

Inspired by this article and want to speak with an expert travel agent about how you can plan an unforgettable cruise in the Mediterranean, Caribbean or other far-flung exotic travel destinations? Let one of Vacation’s on-call travel experts match you with an expert cruise specialist, who can customize the dream itinerary that you deserve.

An African-American couple drinking wine on a river cruise
endless cruise lines - Travelers, including people of color, have 32 cruise line options that cover different categories, price points, and ports all around the world.