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With many participants meeting for the first time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it was uncertain how many strangers would become friends or new memories would be made on this Journey east. For the second year in a row, Friendship Force International was pleased to present a cruise option for our members. And for a second year in a row, members were able to connect with new friends and old, make new memories, and experience the excitement of our mission in action.
For this year’s Festival at Sea, 89 participants from five countries came together for eighteen days crossing the Atlantic. Friendship Force CEO, Jeremi Snook, Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation, Laura Romero, and Board of Directors Chair, Jo Custead, lead the group in both structured and unstructured activities to help build connections with one another while also learning more about the direction of Friendship Force International.
This was the first cruise for Debbie and Wilson Lattey of Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. “We signed up because we liked the idea of spending time with a large group of FF members from many different places, while also visiting countries and ports we hadn’t been to before,” said Debbie. “We also liked the idea that our CEO Jeremi would be present and would be running workshops covering a number of topics to do with FFI. We weren’t disappointed – both the workshops and the social gatherings were great and we got to know most of the 90+ Friendship Force members on board.”
Debbie also commented, “Jeremi and Laura did a wonderful job of keeping us entertained and informed, and it was also great to meet the Chair of the FFI Board, Jo Custead, on the cruise. We also collectively passed on our mission to many of the other passengers on board the ship, as our lanyards made us stand out and we were frequently asked about Friendship Force and what it’s all about.”
Glenn and Gail Wainman of Friendship Force of Victoria and Vancouver Island, Canada, particularly enjoyed meeting members from other clubs on the cruise. They even reconnected with members from FF Adelaide, Australia who hosted them on stopover trip last November.
“We are a very new club in Victoria and are looking for ways to expand and improve. We liked learning how other clubs approach the many facets of what needs to be accomplished within our clubs and organization,” explained Gail.
All in all, it was an amazing experience.
Cruises offer both current and prospective members a unique opportunity to learn more about Friendship Force. For some of our more seasoned members, it allows them to remain connected to the organization they love outside of a more traditional Friendship Force experience of hosting or traveling on a inbound or outbound Journey.
“Of course, I think the best part of the cruise was the food. And along with that was my second favorite part of the cruise – sitting across the table with strangers telling them about Friendship Force,” said Sharon Jackson of FF Fort Worth, Texas. “My roommate and I chose open seating every evening dining room. That way, we always had new people to talk to and spread the Friendship Force message.”
During this year’s Festival at Sea, participants received in-depth information about the 2019 World Conference and how it symbolizes an important shift in the organization. They also heard about the important role technology will be playing as the organization continues to evolve and how this will shape the future. Members might remember most, though, the special activities planned at each of the sessions to bring the group together.
“I also loved getting to know my fellow Friendship Force ambassadors and leaders on this voyage,” said Sharon Jackson. “I found the ‘soul mate’ activity [in which participants had to locate their “perfect match” during the voyage and have dinner with them] and ‘small group’ ideas intriguing. Bring on more of that for the 2019 Festival at Sea!”
Although cruises will not be a core program of FFI, they remain an important offering enjoyed by members of all ages from all over the world. Next year, we will be offering a 15-day cruise throughout South America, and with over 20 from this year’s cruise already signed up, it is shaping up to be another memorable Journey!
See more photos from the cruise on the FFI Facebook page: here, here, and here! More information on our 2019 Festival at Sea to South America will be available on our Journeys page very soon. Be sure you are subscribed to our mailing list so you are the first to hear about that and other traveling and hosting opportunities with Friendship Force!