The Soul Train Cruise gets down and boo­gies in the Caribbean.

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READY TO BOO­GIE, GET FUNKY, AND feel the groove with soul mu­sic roy­alty? Then take “the hippest trip at sea” via the Soul Train Cruise. The 7-day Caribbean voy­age pro­duced by StarVista LIVE on Hol­land Amer­ica Line de­parts from Or­lando, Florida, and of­fers a mix of mu­sic, nostalgia, tele­vi­sion his­tory, and cul­ture. Those aboard MS Nieuw Am­s­ter­dam in 2018 en­joyed rous­ing shows by The O’Jays’ Ed­die Lev­ert, LTD’s Jef­frey Os­borne, Car

Wash sound­track band Rose Royce, Grammy win­ners The Pointer Sis­ters, and more.

Roots of the Cruise

Soul Train was a weekly must-see TV show that started in Chicago, then ex­ploded na­tion­wide when it moved to Hol­ly­wood. Cre­ated, pro­duced, and hosted by the late Don Cor­nelius, the show ran in syndication from 1971 to 2006 and re­mains a beloved sym­bol of not just clas­sic R& B but pop­u­lar mu­sic around the globe. In ad­di­tion to the likes of the Jack­son 5, Aretha Franklin, the Temp­ta­tions, Gla­dys Knight & the Pips, and Marvin Gaye, the ‘ 70s ar­chive of Soul Train shows in­cludes ap­pear­ances by David Bowie and El­ton John. Ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Soul Train’s col­or­fully hip show­case of top-chart­ing acts and funky dance moves is what makes the cruise a dis­tinct joy.

In struc­ture and am­bi­ence, this star-stud­ded voy­age is wel­com­ing to soul mu­sic fans of ev­ery race, re­li­gion, age, abil­ity, and coun­try of ori­gin. On the 2018 sail­ing, we per­son­ally met fel­low cruise guests from Canada, Eng­land, Swe­den, the Caribbean, Ger­many, and all cor­ners of the U. S. “We have peo­ple from all over the world on our cruise,” con­firms cruise host and Soul Train ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Tony Cor­nelius, son of orig­i­na­tor Don Cor­nelius. “From the very be­gin­ning, my fa­ther coined the phrase ‘Love, Peace, & Soul.’ The mean­ing of these three very pow­er­ful words in com­bi­na­tion con­tin­ues to en­cour­age all peo­ple of all di­verse back­grounds to come and ex­pe­ri­ence soul mu­sic.”

Alan Rubens, Ex­ec­u­tive Pro­ducer of the Soul Train Cruise and StarVista LIVE Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent of En­ter­tain­ment, agrees that the in­clu­sive spirit makes the con­cept click. “The Soul Train Cruise brings to­gether fans of great soul mu­sic from the Soul Train era from all cor­ners of the globe and all walks of life to im­merse them­selves in the spirit and the mu­sic of the iconic show,” he says. “They get to spend ev­ery day and night hang­ing with the stars and see­ing in­ti­mate con­certs by the great soul le­gends.”

United by Mu­sic

Nat­u­rally, the con­certs are the big­gest draw. Fans of doo-wop, soul bal­lads, funk jams, pop fare, disco movers, and even gospel can find a show to their taste daily. Head­lin­ers wove mu­si­cal magic nightly in the two-story Main­stage Theater, where we for­got we weren’t in a Broad­way or Ve­gas venue un­til one night of rough seas had per­form­ers cling­ing to their mike stands! In ad­di­tion to the acts men­tioned above, we sa­vored the smooth sounds of the Spin­ners (“It’s A Shame”), Mar­i­lyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. (of the Fifth Di­men­sion), the Whis­pers, Ger­ald Al­ston (lead voice of The Man­hat­tans), and Jef­frey Os­borne, and bopped along to the Trammps (of “Disco In­ferno” fame), Howard Hewett (formerly of ‘80s group Sha­la­mar), Char­lie Wil­son (formerly of funk kings, The Gap Band), and the Mo­town-era New Mir­a­cles — and even a Barry White trib­ute band. Other acts en­ter­tained in the party-hearty pool­side area, where we danced, dipped our feet in the wa­ter, sipped cock­tails, and sang along.

Ev­ery show eas­ily turned into a love-in as au­di­ences re­lived trea­sured mem­o­ries and showed their ap­pre­ci­a­tion for artists, most of whom have been mak­ing mu­sic for more than three decades. That re­ac­tion – and the spirit of fam­ily re­u­nion – makes the cruise as big a draw for head­lin­ers and hosts as for guests.

“Our vis­i­bil­ity and ac­cess to our guests are some of the many rea­sons peo­ple love be­ing

on the cruise,” says Cor­nelius, who per­son­ally greeted and spoke to fans. “Our guests get a chance to not only visit, con­verse, and take pic­tures with me but they get a chance to get up-close and per­sonal with the artists.”

These per­sonal ex­changes are es­sen­tial to the Soul Train Cruise ex­pe­ri­ence. On the 2018 sail­ing, for ex­am­ple, Cor­nelius hosted in­ti­mate Q& A ses­sions with fea­tured per­form­ers that were also streamed on the ship’s closed-cir­cuit ca­ble channels for cabin view­ing. Singer Jef­frey Os­borne, who be­gan his ca­reer as a drum­mer, gath­ered mu­si­cians from the ship’s many bands for a fas­ci­nat­ing drum skills demon­stra­tion, while Caribbean su­per­star Maxi Priest hosted a mixol­ogy class, stir­ring up tasty orig­i­nal cock­tails be­hind the bar of an up­scale lounge. Mar­i­lyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., mar­ried al­most 50 years, an­swered ques­tions about mar­riage and re­la­tion­ships. Warner Mu­sic exec Chuck Gam­ble shared in­side sto­ries about clas­sic Philadel­phia In­ter­na­tional la­bel record­ings made by The O’Jays, MFSB, and Patti La­Belle, while Sir­iusXM per­son­al­ity An­gela Stri­b­ling hosted small, themed chats for at­ten­dees.

Bet­ter Each and Ev­ery Day

When we weren’t clap­ping and snap­ping at the shows, we en­joyed the ship’s lux­u­ri­ous ac­com­mo­da­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties that in­cluded wine tast­ings and art auc­tions, standup com­edy and game shows, and guest tal­ent compe- titions and acous­tic per­for­mances by up-and­com­ing artists. In ad­di­tion to sam­pling all the food sta­tions at the Lido Buf­fet, we en­joyed fine-din­ing op­tions at the ship’s Pin­na­cle Grill and Asian-in­flu­enced Ta­marind Restau­rant. Af­ter hours, we headed to the Crow’s Nest lounge to boo­gie down with a live DJ. Here at the club, as at the many dance classes, guests formed the “Soul Train Line,” a time-hon­ored tra­di­tion where ev­ery­one gets to show­case their best party moves.

For 2019, the Soul Train Cruise boasts a thrilling lineup, with Smokey Robin­son, Gla­dys Knight, George Clin­ton, Stephanie Mills, the Ohio Play­ers, Mor­ris Day & The Time, the Chi-Lites, and Blood­stone. Billy Brown of Ray, Good­man & Brown (“Must Be A Spe­cial Lady”), which evolved from The Mo­ments, is cel­e­brat­ing The Mo­ments’ 40th an­niver­sary aboard the 2019 cruise. This is just one of many spe­cial events guests can look for­ward to, and points to the legacy of Soul Train as a place where both artists and fans cel­e­brate mile­stones. Many guests signed up for 2019 be­fore the 2018 cruise had wrapped.

“The rea­son the Soul Train Cruise is so spe­cial and unique is be­cause, like the long-run­ning TV se­ries, our au­di­ence feels like it’s part of who they are, it feels as if it be­longs to them,” Cor­nelius con­cludes. “It’s unique in the sense that there’s noth­ing on the sea that ex­tends the way.”• legacy of Soul Train in this


Maxi Priest’s pool­side per­for­mance

Billy Davis Jr. and Mar­i­lyn McCoo

Guests at pool­side T-shirt party

Above: Disco Funk Night; Maxi Priest in­ter­view hosted by Tony Cor­nelius and An­gela Stri­b­ling.

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