3 Ways The Cruise Industry Could Better Serve Black Women

November 30, 2018  |  

Close-up of thoughtful woman smiling at beach

Source: Portra / Getty

Cruises are hands-down one of my favorite types of vacations. You basically get to disconnect, relax, and luxuriate on a floating hotel that takes you from one gorgeous locale to another. But sometimes I must admit that the experience feels a bit lacking in certain areas –specifically, the way cruise lines cater to Black female passengers. Having just returned from an 11-day cruise, I noticed three big things major cruise lines could start implementing right now to improve the experience for Black women.

More Black Women In Guest Services
When something goes wrong on a cruise, the first thing you do is contact Guest Services. Depending on the clerk you get, that could make or break your day. On my honeymoon, I noticed more than a few Black women walk away from the Guest Services desk agitated at the level of service they had received, often getting unclear answers to some of their concerns as a customer. I even experienced the frustration myself.

As a Black woman, I’ve found that I get better service in this area from other Black women. They seem to handle my concerns as a passenger with a bit more attention and care. I was pleasantly surprised to see more Black women on the Cruise Director staff, helping to organize evening entertainment and daily activities. It made it a little easier to try new things and to feel seen by the employees. Often times when we ran into an issue with ticketed events it was those Black women who helped us most efficiently.

One evening we were told by two members of the door staff that we had to wait in the standby line for one show we wanted to see on a whim. We hadn’t booked tickets, so we didn’t mind waiting. However, when the Black women processing attendants looked up the capacity they were quickly able to determine that there was more than enough room for us and everyone else in standby. This was a failing in customer service that they were quickly able to correct. This level of customer service was swift, courteous, and results oriented. It kept things moving. And it’s that type of assistance that is needed at the Guest Services desk when Black women step up to get help.

More Hair And Beauty Products For Us
I brought a bunch of makeup on my honeymoon, mostly for lips and eyes, but the one thing that somehow didn’t make it onto the boat was any trace of BB cream or foundation. I don’t wear either very often, so it’s easy to see how I could have forgotten it. I wasn’t terribly worried about the oversight, though, because I knew that the duty-free shop onboard carried foundation and concealer so I sashayed down to the ship’s beauty store to find a shade that was perfect for me.

The only problem was that the ship didn’t have a shade dark enough for me. The darkest shade available in the store was a shade too light for me at my normal complexion which, as a fair complected woman, is saying a lot. There was no way the color would hold up after I browned up after soaking in some of that good Carribean sun for days on end. If cruise lines want to better serve the Black women who book rooms on their ships, they need to expand the range of makeup that we can use. Otherwise, they’re not serving a huge chunk of their clientele.

That extends to the hair care available for Black women on cruises. When you see a Black woman on a cruise ship, rest assured that she has packed a mini pop-up salon in her luggage. Unless she’s wearing braids, she has packed every hair tool, accessory, structural underpinning, oil, cream, custard, gel, lotion, elastic, and wrap she could possibly anticipate needing over the course of her vacation. This is because we don’t trust that the spa will have what we need for our hair care. A quick glance at offerings in the hair salon on any cruise line and the stylists performing those services does not engender a great deal of confidence that the staff can effectively style anything curlier than a 3B texture. This might easily be remedied by cruise lines hiring stylists trained in working with tighter curl patterns. Better yet, they might also consider hiring some women who can braid hair for a short stint.

More Recreation Geared For Us
Cruising as a Black woman can sometimes make you feel a little isolated. Most of your fellow travelers don’t look like you, and it’s not always easy to introduce yourself to new people. Not only that, but a lot of the offered activities are created for a general audience with just a sprinkling of specialty gatherings for designated categories of cruisers.

There are events for LGBTQ cruisers, veterans. and even knitters. Why not one for Black women? A girlfriends meet & greet brunch could be a great way for Black women to link up in a friendly environment over drinks, good food, and music. Failing that, a wellness/pampering seminar could be a luxurious excuse to get the girls together.

Overall, the lack of these things wouldn’t keep me off of a cruise, but it could definitely amp up the entire experience. One thing we know about the consumer market is that Black women set spending trends. If the cruise industry really wants to find it’s next biggest untapped or overlooked market, then it needs to check in with Black women.

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