Firstly, a brief look at 2019’s Shiprocked festival…
Shiprocked 2020: Not your normal family vacation
Even if year after year I see more and more families and their little ones on Shiprocked, I definitely think it should not be a Family vacation. With a start on Bourbon street in New Orleans this year, where you can literally drink on the street 24/7 and a pre-Mardi Gras parade on Friday, more than 3000 party animals took control of NOLA until the ship set sail… I’ll let you imagine how it turned out!
After waiting a few hours from the night before, or still drinking for some of us, Shiprockers were reunited for the 2020 edition of “Shiprocked” on deck for around 4pm. After a few words from Alan Koenig (aka The Captain and mastermind behind Shiprocked), the family photo and the introduction of SKULLY the video was launched telling us where 2021 sailing will be next year. After 2 very chilly years, we found out we will be moving again next year and leaving from Miami, stopping in Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas Amber Cove in Dominican Republic.
The crowd, out of control after this announcement, saw HALESTORM the headliner this year, jump on the stage and give us their first performance while we were sailing away. For a certain survivor (a Shiprocker after their 1st year) like Clint Lowery of SEVENDUST who has been on Shiprocked 9 times already, this year was a bit special because he launched his first solo album the day before boarding, playing for the first time as a solo artist on the first night. Also, on this night were two amazing groups, OF MICE & MEN and BLACKSTONE CHERRY. With energy the guys revisited their old and new stuff on the main stage for OF MICE & MEN and in the Theater for BLACK STONE CHERRY. Asking Alexandria, who just finished a very long tour with SHINEDOWN and PAPA ROACH, gave us their 28th show in 29 days on the deck closing out the night as the last performance.. Even if the guys were tired, they didn’t let it show.
OF MICE AND MEN
BLACK STONE CHERRY
For the real party goers, the first night ended on the Casino stage doing karaoke with a live band or going into the Disco to show your best gold costume or skin paint. I have to say that certain people take the themes nights as a challenge to wear the best costumes with as little material as possible. Just one of the reasons to enjoy this vacation as a couple or with a group of friends.
Every day at sea for the early birds and healthy ones, we had yoga class. For the “less healthy” ones on Sunday morning you could also go to Bloodys & Bingo hosted by ‘We are Band Nerds.’ Your choice, no judgement here! For the ones who didn’t party the night away, and were already up, the ‘Meets & Greets’… your favourite bands were ready to meet you and take photos in different rooms on the boat the whole afternoon. A few bands played at night like RA and AEGES but you have to remember it was ‘Superbowl Sunday’ and a big part of the crowd were watching it on the main stage screen. It was only around 10pm BEARTOOTH threw a big party in the theater packed to the rafters. After playing in many festivals last summer and being on the road with bands like A Day To Remember, I Prevail, and Motionless In White, their fan-club grew tremendously in the last year.
Sadly, playing almost at the same time as BEARTOOTH and HELLYEAH, the Aft Lounge played host to British band, SHVPES. I had to miss the end of BEARTOOTH to catch SHVPES and I am really happy I did. Even if the room was half empty due to the bigger named bands playing on other stages, it didn’t faze them. Jumping around, grabbing people’s phones for selfies or videos, the young band gave us a very good show. Unfortunately I had to miss the end of their performance to run across the whole ship to be on time for the first appearance of HELLYEAH on this cruise. Chad Gray, the lead singer, showed us how in shape he was by bouncing around, jumping in the crowd and giving the fans the show they were expecting. To end nice and softly on this night, you had many options. Maria Brink from IN THIS MOMENT surprised everybody by doing some cover songs in the theater. Dimmed red light, surrounded by hundreds of candles and only voice and piano, she played what she called “Mother Maria’s Midnight Mass”. If it wasn’t your thing, you could also go in the Aft Lounge and watch the movie “Heavy Metal” from 1981 or go show off your ‘Superbowl Jersey’ in the Disco Club where Chad Nicefield from Wilson DJ’d for the Sports Theme Party. After a couple of drinks, you could also go ruin a classic or two at the Karaoke in the casino. I headed to my room for a couple of hours of sleep in preparation of our 1st stop the next day.
Monday was the first warm and sunny day of the cruise, lucky enough we had the whole morning to walk off the ship and enjoy the sun, the view and the waters of Key West, Florida. Because the stop was short, most ‘Shiprockers’ hit the streets and enjoyed another drink and key lime pie on a patio not too far from the port. Others went for a walk by the water or got in some shopping. By 2pm, everyone was back on the ship, sun still shining, was perfect timing to sail away towards Cozumel with the first Stowaways show of the cruise. If you’ve never heard about the famous Shiprocked Stowaways performance, it’s a 2-hour long music jam session with more than 30 artists challenging each other and revisiting some of our most beloved classics. Mixing the best musicians from different bands and different music styles, it’s a must to see.
ICE NINE KILLS
Following this amazing performance, we had the opportunity to enjoy the sun a little bit more and watch CANE HILL on the main deck or find some shade in the theater for the excellent, ICE NINE KILLS. If you weren’t a fan before, after their first performance you became one. Their newest album is inspired by the best horror movies, the whole show is also based around that theme. Accessories, costumes and masks, each band member was dressed as a famous main horror movie character. Good music with an excellent performance, it was totally worth missing the sunset.
At this point of the day, people who hadn’t started drinking yet, started getting thirsty. Heading to the Drunk Spelling Bee contest hosted by Randy Weitzel and Carly Smithson. Even if some contestants regretted it later, it was pretty funny to watch. Later on, bands like OF MICE & MEN, BLACK STONE CHERRY, ASKING ALEXANDRIA and IN THIS MOMENT played their second and last performance of the trip. Support headliner this year, ALTER BRIDGE were warmly welcomed on the Deck stage at 11pm. In my opinion, it was a great show but a little bit lacking compared to the energy boost we got in the afternoon with the ‘Stowaways’ and especially after BLACK STONE CHERRY and ASKING ALEXANDRIA who were literally jumping everywhere and playing with the crowd.
If any of these bands couldn’t please you or you needed a little break and were not too drunk from the Drunk Spelling Bee, there was a Black Jack Tournament in the casino at the same time. If after all that, you still had a little bit of energy, the karaoke night and DJ LippyRage were ready to keep you up all night.
For most Shiprockers, Tuesday meant Beach Party!! Our second and last stop of the cruise in Cozumel, Mexico, was a perfect weather day with almost everybody walking off the ship to enjoy the sun. Performances by HYRO THE HERO and JOYOUS WOLF on a private beach, with a buffet, an open bar, beach games with BEARTOOTH and in the comfort of your bathing suit, it was hard not to have fun. Most Shiprockers took part in this unforgettable party,but some others preferred to relax and explore the island and do some tourist attractions. The theme night was ‘Tacky Tourist’ which worked perfectly with our racoon suntans or sunburns after a hot and long day. After getting back on the boat and a quick shower, back on the deck for the second Stowaways show. Jamming and revisiting ‘The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Prince, NIN, Tom Petty and Linkin Park, we also had a more serious moment during the cover of “Limelight” by ‘Rush’ in memory of their drummer Neil Peart who passed this year.
After this rollercoaster of emotions, BADFLOWER, played their first performance of the cruise in a very packed Theater. I had the opportunity to see BADFLOWER live a couple of time in the last year and I have to admit it was their best performance to date. Energy was full on, working the whole stage and having funny interactions with the crowd. The band definitely knows how to please their fans. The rest of the night was most bands last performance before showing up at the last live karaoke night in the casino. After a long and hot day in Mexico with a lot of alcohol, Tuesday night was probably the night the kids should have went to bed early.
Wednesday was the last day of Shiprocked 2020 and also another day at sea. You know how it works, the healthier ones with some energy left started the day at the yoga class. The others, started their last day with sleeping in, fighting one more time in the merch line and Meets & Greets with ASKING ALEXANDRIA, Of MICE & MEN, HYRO THE HERO and SHVPES. Because there were no shows on any stages, we had the option to catch our breath or play Beers & Bingo with Goodbye June or another Flip Cup Tournament with BADFLOWER.
JOYOUS WOLF was the first show of the day on the Deck. Even if you are not a fan of this band, you have to see them live once. As usual, Nick Reese, the lead singer, entertained the whole crowd with his outfits, his dance moves, his crazy energy and surprising interaction with the crowd. Following this energy boost, BLACK STONE CHERRY hosted a game of Messy Twister in the Sports Court.
Arejay Hale was hosting the Cancer Sucks auction in the Aft Lounge. I don’t know if everybody there really wanted to buy something or were mostly curious to see Arejay host, with his comedic persona, and his funny faces and comments, but the results either way were still incredible. First, it beat an attendance record for a Cancer Sucks auction, and also in most money raised. Arejay and his crazy positive attitude helped to raise $130,000 in an hour! The whole band were beside Arejay for this unforgettable moment. HALESTORM left the room all together to get ready for their last performance on the deck.
Pretty similar to the first one 4 days ago, the band still surprised us with a few covers on the piano by Lzzy, and Arejay who invited John Fred Young from BLACK STONE CHERRY for a drum challenge. Playing together on the same drum set and even changing positions around without missing a beat, two of the best drummers on the boat (in my opinion!) impressed the crowd with their talent. The rest of the cruise was closed out by the performances of HELLYEAH in a full capacity Theater and Aeges in the Aft Lounge.
To enjoy the last few hours with the Shiprocked family, Newbs and Survivors took to the casino or the Disco Club showing their Voodoo Gras costumes, the last theme night of the 2020 sailing, and having a drink with their favourite artists. Even if the wake up call was around 7 am the next morning (the next few hours at this point), the Casino and the Disco were packed and not too many people were sober. Sleeping would be for the next couple of days.
Shiprocked 2020 would have definitely not be the same without HALESTORM. Even if some of the Shiprockers had a doubt about how HALESTORM could compete with the previous sailings, they easily proved them wrong. Walking around the ship and never hid in their rooms. They took selfies and signed everything people asked and even hid surprises in people’s luggage when they were in the hallways. Some new bands like SHVPES or DED also proved that they are ready for the big stage.
In 5 days, we had the chance to hang out, eat at the buffet, drink on the beach, play games and more with some of our favorite bands. I had seen a lot of things which aren’t really PG, but I also saw a group of strangers sharing a common passion, exchanging numbers, even if they are not living in the same country, but being there for each other. ‘Shiprocked’ is not a family vacation, ‘Shiprocked’ is a family, plain and simple.
For more information visit www.shiprocked.com