For decades, annual homecoming celebrations have been the event designated for alumni to reconnect. However, one event is reconnecting colleges off the shore far beyond university hallways. 

The HBCU Cruise is one of the first events of its kind that encourages the reconnection of alumni and current students from a fresh approach. Instead of linking up at their respective schools, more than 200 students and alumni of historically Black colleges and universities will set sail for a four-day western Caribbean cruise. 

With event host CDK On The Mic keeping everyone’s spirits high, the HBCU Cruise will sail off in March 2024. Planning for the events was a journey in itself. However, CDK believes the cruise is a launchpad for future events that will change the way Black Gen Z college students see the world.

Reconnecting At Sea

cruise ship at sea
Photo credit: Matthew Barra

An alumni of North Carolina A&T University, CDK learned how to drive the energy of events from his time hosting parties in college. He’d also participated in church performances as a child; molding him into the perfect event spokesperson. 

“I bring the energy, the vibes, the big smiles and the presence of we’re happy and we’re having a great time,” CDK said.

For years, he’d manifested new ways of streamlining connections between HBCU students around the country. However, when it came to spring break travel, he noticed Miami had become overcrowded. With so many college students and alumni in Miami, CDK decided it was time to head out to sea. 

Preparation for the HBCU Cruise began in 2020 but the pandemic halted all upcoming plans for CDK and his team. Now, the venture is scheduled to set sail on March 11 with more than 200 HBCU alumni and current students looking to turn up and reconnect at sea.

“It’s so many events that we are doing to ensure attendees are entertained from the time they get on the boat until the time they leave,” he said.

With event curation being CDK’s specialty, the cruise has a plethora of high-energy, thrilling events in addition to the accommodations provided by Carnival. Professional and personal networking is encouraged throughout the cruise, with an HBCU Link Up networking mixer to kick off the festivities. Afterward, guests have an unlimited number of options for entertainment including a foam and tiki party, karaoke night, trap n’ paint sessions, basketball tournaments, and more. CDK said the cruise-style experiences bring guests closer together so that travel-based networking is without folks being scattered across the city. 

“It’s a better way to keep everybody in one area and give them a new experience,” he said.

A New Generation Of Travel

HBCU Cruise
Photo credit: Yaroslav Shuraev

The upcoming HBCU Cruise is the catalyst for a new generation of Black travelers. Millennials are inevitably getting older. Gen Z travelers are slowly becoming influential consumers with different needs and desires when it comes to what they want while traveling. While cruising may be new for many young travelers, CDK says the new experience is worth it. 

“It’s different, for people to be so young for us to do something like this,” he said. 

CDK also hopes the cruise will create a bridge between young alumni and current students when it comes to accessing opportunities. He said the pandemic made it hard for many HBCU graduates to find jobs and internships after school. He believes the cruise can be a connection point for alumni across the country to meet current students who could be assets to their companies. 

“It’s important to narrow that gap between young alum and current students. I think that’s the most important piece… networking to get current students more help in that post-graduation transition,” he said. 

Although the cruise is happening in March, CDK says more HBCU tours are on the way in the future. The organization plans on doing more cruises as well as events that encourage Black Gen Z students and alumni to seek community and connection through travel.