Not everyone is turned off by chef Paula Deen's recently publicized admission that she has used racial slurs.
Despite a backlash that involved her being fired from the Food Network, getting ditched by Smithfield Foods Inc. and potentially blacklisted by other one-time sponsors, interest in Deen's annual Paula Deen Cruise has been so great that its organizer has added an extra departure for 2014.
A representative for the cruise organizer, Alice Travel, backed Deen in an interview with the FOX411 blog. "It’s always an amazing time with Paula, her family and fans. If she goes –- we go," said the rep.
The Huffington Post reached out to Alice Travel representative Julie Goodman Cook, who revealed that about 500 people attend each cruise. "We are expecting that number to increase," she said. (Deen's first cruise with Alice Travel set sail in 2010. Prior to this, she used different agencies.)
Next year's cruises with Deen include an eight-day voyage beginning Jan. 18 on Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Cruises' newest ship. A summertime cruise -- recently added by Alice Travel to accomodate increased demand -- will take place on a Royal Caribbean vessel, either Oasis or Allure of the Seas.
Deen is not associated with any cruise line, Goodman Cook noted. Alice Travel books rooms in a section of the ship, and Deen's events are inaccessible to other cruise patrons.
Goodman Cook said previous Deen cruises have attracted a diverse bunch. "We have a group of gay people who go," she said. "There are people in their 90s that go. ... Black, white. I mean everything. Everyone enjoys it." A number of families have already signed up for the summer cruise, Goodman Cook said. In 2010, Paula Deen Cruises hosted a boy through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Past onboard activities include cooking demos led by Deen and her family, photo sessions, pajama parties, cocktail parties and barbecues. Deen also participates in a summer camp-style event aptly called the "Deen family Olympics," which involves G-rated activities like balloon-popping and stringing yarn through teammates' shirts.
Last year, the cruise price started at $1,440 per person for an inside cabin, based on double occupancy.
Goodman Cook said that she had not spoken to Deen since the scandal, but had been in contact with Deen's bodyguard and assistant. They relayed that Deen hopes her Wednesday appearance on the "Today" show will help assuage some of the damage to her reputation.
"Everyone is just keeping a positive outlook on the future," said Goodman Cook. "There will be better understanding about how things were taken out of context."
The Paula Deen Cruise, though, doesn't have a perfect track record itself. In January, Deen's assistant, Brandon Branch, posted questionable Tweets about a trip that set sail Jan. 27. "This is a floating nursing home!!!!" Branch wrote.
By Rachel Tepper, Huffington Post
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