TILTmag Review of HOLY SHIP!
Holy Ship! What just happened? And better yet, why haven’t we been doing this before? While most events leave you glowing in the highlights while trying to ignore any drawbacks, Holy Ship! delivered on all major fronts plus provided a few surprises that Holy Shippers appreciated. No doubt that we’ll be talking about Holy Ship! for months and place it on the top shelf of all time favorite festivals. But what was that X factor on the ship? If you were there, you felt something very different and so special about this trip. Production and sound were face melting, just how bass heads need it. Accommodations were handled with the experience and professionalism that exist within the cruise line industry and not common to electronic music festivals. An artist lineup and party schedule that was wickedly conceived, organized and executed. The epic Bahamas with her gorgeous beaches and a private island to rage with only 2,500 of your new friends. Sounds pretty sick already right? Well, it was even better than how it draws up on paper and I have a theory why.
Holy Shippers are wonderful human beings. There are only 2,500 electronic music lovers allowed the privilege to sail on the maiden voyage. This brought out the truly dedicated, well off, and civilized. They aren’t the people who start problems and miss the show. Pacing yourself was the only way to go, and Holy Shippers displayed that wisdom during daily the 18 hour dancing marathons. Random acts of kindness were everywhere too. I saw a guy bum a smoke, then happily hand over a drink ticket as to say Thank You. Smiles where exchanged, drinks raised, and the trip mantra proclaimed “Holy Ship!” Another time a lady orders a beer but only has a more valuable cocktail ticket. The bartender doesn’t get it. They want a beer ticket for a beer. She tries to explain the price difference is in the ships’ favor but still no dice. Just when the whole thing is about to go too far a guy next to her floats a beer ticket, smiles and proclaims ”Holy Ship!” If you dropped something, another shipmate picked it up for you. Smiles and high fives exchanged in the hallways and random chants erupting everywhere “Ho-ly Ship! Ho-ly Ship! Ho-ly Ship!” I recall several bottles of champagne being popped and shared on the pool deck too. It was euphoric. You really did feel like we were all in this together and that we’re all going to have a great time all the way.
The Holy Ship! staff are awesome. They were always available to help us out and clarify how things get done on the ship especially for the first time cruisers. They weren’t there to curb any fun but to facilitate it. I heard nothing but compliments and gratitude expressed to them. The Cloud 9 representatives were around for any booking issues that may have come up. The production company was on point. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the sick amounts of sub woofers being craned right onto the pool deck. They installed a Plexiglass floor over one of the swimming pools for more dance floor space. It helps that they’re pros at doing this as the equipment stays onboard and gets used for the Jam Cruise. The sound was incredible.
Most of the artists stepped it up for the fans too. Sure they killed their sets and put on great shows (I’m sure others will review detailed set lists) but what made Holy Ship! so different was that most of the artists were very available for pictures, autographs, or small talk. And you didn’t need to do much to encounter someone at any given time on the ship. This was not just seeing your favorite artist from afar or waiting in line forever to sneak a picture or something. This was you and them living on the same ship. Before we even sailed Diplo bought some food from the food truck on the pier and chats up a few guys. Rusko hung out and danced with the audience during other artists’ sets, posed for pictures, ate with us at the buffet, and even gave haircuts on the pool deck.
I saw Rusko, Steve Aoki, Dillon Francis, A-Trak, Fatboy Slim and Skrillex walking around and chilling with the fans and being super gracious, posing for pictures and hearing our praise. When one artist was spinning a set, some of the other artists would join on stage hyping the crowd, spin a quick track, or just be there for support. At one point, the main stage lost power during Laidback Luke’s set. We did notice someone broke a ships’ light fixture on the deck and maybe that shorted something out. Luke starts tracing his equipment, frantically trying to get it back up and the other guys jump in. Diplo, Steve Aoki, and Skrillex to the rescue,- keeping the crowd into it and helping Luke out. They got it done quick and the party continued. Artist led conga lines happened on the pool deck and beach party. You got the impression that they were truly enjoying this cruise ship concept just as much as we were and that energy is contagious.
We didn’t make it into Port Lucaya because the ship ran the bow (front) aground on a sandbar. Yea, you read that right. This huge ship was stuck on a sandy reef. The ship could not pull itself off under its own thrust. Tug boats were hooked up to the aft (rear) of the ship to keep the Poesia from being further pushed onto the sandbar. The main azipods (propellers) were being used in reverse to keep a steady pull and we waited for high tide to re float the ship. No music schedule changed for us, and it certainly was no fault of Holy Ship! Instead of docking in port we used tenders (smaller boats) to shuttle Holy Shippers onto the beach. This meant you had less time on shore and the tender situation frustrated some with long lines as this was plan B after all. Many of us decided to just stay on the ship since the music was starting sooner than later and we weren’t on this thing to shop in town anyway. For our inconvenience the Captain gifted each one of us two premium drink tickets. Done and done. I do recall tequila shots on the pool deck that night.
The private island show on Half Moon Cay was incredible and maybe the highest point of jubilation for the trip. We tendered into this private beach area designed for accommodating tourists. The cruise line gave us towels as we got off the ship and beach chairs were available to whoever wanted one at no charge. They have this big pirate ship prop the size of a two story building. The DJs set up on top while the space below was a bar staffed by MSC Cruise line. The sound system coming correct, I was able to catch Diplo and Fatboy Slims’ sets while enjoying a beverage in waist high water. A BBQ lunch was available too and some people opted to rent sailboats and inflatable tubes. A helicopter did several fly bys to video the madness. Look for that pretty soon. The crowd was great and the mood electric. People danced, cheered, and enjoyed a cocktail in paradise. I only wish I showed up earlier to enjoy more of my day there. You could almost call it a spring break feel, yet without any of the amateurs, if you know what I mean. The clear waters, white sand, warm sun, sick tracks,-and my super fun shipmates made that beach dance party truly magical.
I would say Holy Ship! was a huge success. Many people exchanging information for other festivals coming up and of course in the hopes for a Holy Ship! 2013. I didn’t hear of any bad incidents and never really saw anyone in a bad mood. Everything just works. Bathrooms were usually perfectly clean but can get a little busy during the main shows. You might find lines when it got busy but no way near normal festival lines formed for port-a-potties. You can always take a 2 minute walk to your room to change clothes, rinse off the sweat or squeeze in a quick nap if you needed one. Bar service can also bog down during the main shows but that’s not unusual anywhere. Drink tickets did help speed up the transaction process and you can find a less busy bar somewhere else. There’s always plenty of inclusive food 24 hrs so you can keep your energy levels up. The access to artists was unprecedented and they usually bounce over to the other parties too. The sound systems were as sick as they get. Holy Shippers are first class and with such a small number of people, things remain fun and not overwhelming. We’re not talking about 60,000 people on many acres of land trying to push through each other. This is only 2,500 friends on a beautiful ship that rivals Las Vegas hotels. Being on the stunning beaches of the Bahamas is an experience onto its own. It’s a vacation destination with your favorite music. I think all of these things together lower peoples’ stress and keep them in a great mood. All of us paid a lot of money to have a good time and we weren’t going to let something dumb ruin it. No way this doesn’t sell out fast next year, if there is a next year.
Bravo Holy Ship! And thank you for a wonderful experience.
-Alex & Bob Garcia