7-Day Southern Caribbean Cruise October 7 - 14, 2000.

The 809 Posse of Philadelphia navigated into deep waters from San Juan to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Dominica, Martinique and Barbados to bring to the Fascination's 3,000-plus passengers and crew members, as well as the performers themselves, an adventure on land and sea like none they had ever experienced. Unbeknownst to The Fascination's Captain, Angelo Salvemini, another newly-crowned captain was on board the big ship: Jamaica's own Frederick McGregor. Sailing with Mr. McGregor was saxophonist and music maestro, Dean Fraser, who had coordinated a reunion of The 809 Band, each member a renowned and talented musician in his own right. The entire package was a momentous occasion--a match made "on the seas"--culminating in the spirit of One Love. What originated as simply a vacation of friends in August of 1999, evolved into more than the sponsor, The 809 Posse of Philadelphia, ever could have hoped for or imagined. At The 809 Posse sponsored welcome aboard reception, Freddie, Dean and The 809 Band posed for pictures and happily signed autographs for the 60-plus people cruising with The Posse. Invited to dine at the Captain's table on the second night as the ship sailed to Dominica, Messrs. McGregor and Fraser so impressed Italian-born Captain Salvemini that he graciously bestowed courtesies to the Jamaican musicians far beyond the norm. It was impossible to be on the ship and not feel the goodwill and mutual respect shared between all of these fine men. An invitation by Captain Salvemini and his officers for Freddie, Dean and The 809 Band to attend a private tour of the bridge to demonstrate the ship's maneuvering out of the harbor of Martinique resulted in the musicians' official signing of the ship's manifest for all eternity. During the early evening sail to Barbados, the Captain and his wife hosted a private reception for the musicians and the entire group traveling with The 809 Posse. Later in the evening, they hosted an authentic Jamaican dinner just for the musicians, prepared by an ecstatic fellow Jamaican cook, and served in the dining area of the ship's crew. No one could ask for more; and all of this happened before Freddie sang one note!

Off shore, at the Boatyard Beach Club and Restaurant in Bridgetown, Barbados, the Philadelphia group spent a glorious sunny day dancing, eating, drinking and enjoying water sports, prior to the musicians giving a mini preview performance of what was to come on the big ship. The flow of the music drew people in off the streets to join the beach party where they were able to purchase CDs and t-shirts made especially for the occasion. Imagine the surprise of both Bajans and tourists to see who had dropped in for lunch! Performing together for the first time in more than ten years, The 809 Band had not lost its touch. Opening up the Thursday evening poolside performance for the entire ship on the Lido Deck, The 809 Band gave the passengers a rousing warm-up under Martinique's stars. Next, saxophonist Dean Fraser performed only as he does--majestically--bringing everyone to their feet in a respectful hush as he allowed the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley's "Redemption Song" to float across the ocean. By the time Captain Freddie McGregor walked onto the stage, the crowd was begging for more--and he did not disappoint them--he gave it all he had and all they wanted. Trumpet player, Nambo Robinson, blew the passengers and crew away when he hit the notes to Captain Freddie's crooning of "Big Ship Sailing on the Ocean" in such a way as to resemble the blowing of the ship's own horn! Did they need more? He had more! Captain Freddie then humbled us when he acknowledged a group of 600 passengers from Curacao by serenading them in Spanish. When he finished, there was not a "Signature" CD left to sell. The Fascination was rocking on the waters!

In an unprecedented gesture of hospitality and respect, Captain Salvemini, wearing a Freddie McGregor t-shirt and shorts, honored The 809 Posse's request and granted permission for his entire crew of 920 waiters, cabin stewards, cooks, bartenders and officers to attend the concert by this gracious superstar. Again, Captain Freddie demonstrated what truly makes him an international star. When he saw the crewmembers on the Lido Deck, many of them fellow West Indians, he immediately went into a melody of Dennis Brown, roots and dance hall lyrics. The crowd erupted! Captain Freddie ended his two-hour performance by inviting the Carnival Cruise Lines staff on stage to join him in singing Bob Marley's, "One Love". Indeed, that was the feeling for the night. "Big Ship Sailing on the Ocean" was a big, big success. Friday night's private farewell performance in the Puttin' on the Ritz lounge for The 809 Posse of Philadelphia group ended a first-time experience for the passengers and musicians that by their own admission, will not be forgotten. Jamaicans and reggae music lovers all over the world can take pride in claiming Freddie McGregor, Dean Fraser and The 809 Band as first-class ambassadors of the music and the culture. They were all true professionals and handled themselves with great dignity. Next on the horizon is "Big Ship Sailing on the Ocean II" on Carnival Cruise Lines' Triumph sailing for seven days from Miami, Florida to the Western Caribbean on Saturday, September 22, 2001.

Text & photos: Terry N. Austin, 809 Posse Productions.

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