So, before I ever stated writing for Festival Family or the other various music blogs, I always came home from every show and wrote a review for myself. I kept the documents in with the folder containing the pictures and videos. Upon this article’s inception when I got off the boat, I considered posting it on Facebook at some point, like I do with everything else, but I never completed it. I honestly never got through the Sail Away Party. I became completely overwhelmed/consumed with the aftermath of Jam Cruise, or what I came to call…”The Ripple Effect.”
However, now I got this Tiny Rager blog thing right? A platform to spread the good word of love through music! Well, that is exactly what Jam Cruise does and I think I can safely say that the Jam Cruise fire is burning in all of us right now since the killer line up was just announced. So, let’s just say I’ve pulled something from the archives and I hope it inspires you to take the ride 🙂
Jam Cruise: Two tiny words, one GIANT musical adventure. I do not know where to begin. It’s been almost a month since I left the boat and the power of that ship is still radiating through me full blast. It is impossible to slow down from the experience due to the pictures, emails, invitations, phone calls, forum postings, reviews, Iclips, Itunes, friend requests, soundboards, meetups, all the new relationships and everything else that I am calling “The RIPPLE EFFECT” of Jam Cruise. However, before I can explain The Ripple Effect, I have to explain everything else….if it is possible to put these feelings into words.
How do you describe a life changing experiences that leaves you with overpowering feelings of community, happiness and just plain positiveness. How do you describe knowing there is a place on earth you can go, for at least a week, where it doesn’t matter what you do, who you are, what you look like, where you live….where, for that week, you are a rockstar, a princess, a king, a queen, an animal, a beautiful spirit and are recognized as such. A place that embraces the quirky in life 110%, embraces you into a community that just wants you to SHINE your brightest in anyway you feel fit, all while dancing to the greatest live soundtrack in the world. Like a good friend said: “It is like trying to describe a unicorn to people who only see a white horse.” Two words…Jam Cruise. It almost feels impossible to describe but I am going to try.
Arrival to Ship: Fort Lauderdale, FL.:
Within minutes of being dropped off by my cousin, I was just standing on the landing, jaw gapping open, just inhaling this GIANT vessel I was about to board. The MSC Poesia, meaning Poem of the Sea, was about to take me on the ride of my LIFE. I had never left the country, I had never had a passport, and I had never been on a cruise. If this boat could talk, I would LOVE to hear what it would have to say. Sure as hell would be a better review then any of us could possibly write.
After checking my bags, which I would suggest not doing as it was optional & I didn’t know this, I connected with my friends Ab and Hillary from Virginia, the lovely souls who had been trying to get me on the boat for the past 7 years and the only two folks I knew before boarding the ship. Just seeing their smiling faces brought me home to JMU in my mind and I knew I was in good hands if anything were to arise over the course of the week.
The embarkation line was a spectacle to behold all on its own. Hearing the horror stories of a 7 hour long wait from the year prior, I was nervous, or rather, anxious, to find out how long it would take me to get on that boat. I wanted to get this party started immediately!!! But, you didn’t have to be on the boat for the party to start. This first time cruiser just couldn’t stop smiling for all the colors, glitter, funky hats, sparkly glasses, feathery boas, and fancy costumes that were already surrounding me. Hula Hoops, tie-dye, gowns, noodles, blowup animals, etc. I immediately knew I was not prepared in terms of costumes but that is why I took notes for next year 🙂
I marveled at all the cruisers in all their excited glory, patiently, yet ECSTATICALLY, waiting to board the boat that would take them into their own world of creativity and expression. If I thought I was excited, I could only imagine how the Repeat Offenders, the name given to cruisers who have been on the boat more than once, were feeling to see their world come to life again. The hugs, kisses and greetings of old Jam Cruise family members, otherwise known as JamFam or Jamily, spotting each other for the first time; it was that palpable energy that had my cheeks burning from smiling within minutes of being in line.. Wondering who from this beautiful line of smiles would I be calling family by the time I left the boat 6 days later.
There were three lines to go through in order to get on the boat. The first line was just to get into the processing center. The second line had us scanning our bodies and bags and filling out medical information before we boarded the boat. The final line had us creating our ship accounts and getting our room keys. After what felt like an eternity due to my enthusiasm, but really took a little over 1 hour, I was on the boat. Dear Lord…if I knew then what I know now.
EXPLORING THE BOAT!!
Upon entering the boat, I tagged along with my friends. I didn’t want to leave their side just yet for fear I might not see them again for hours as I had no idea how this boat worked!! Repeat Offenders get first choice for room selection during pre-booking. In this case, my friend had been on all 8 cruises so he had picked a room that was situated right behind the Big Jumbo Screen on the 15th floor by the Pool deck, the main venue on the ship. Their room had lovely red tones with a queen bed and big balcony. And can I just mention the art work, beautiful art in every room.
After watching them unpack for a while, I decided to venture out on my own and explore the ship to find my room. Certain elevators only go to certain floors so it was a fun maze of hallways and stumbling upon different restaurants and venues before I found my room on the 5th floor. I entered into the Singles Program, made for those cruisers who come alone, so I shared my room with three other women in the program. And no, The Singles Program does not mean “without a significant other.” It is amazing how fast people’s mind jump to that conclusion. I am single though hahahaha! So, I guess it applied either way!
Upon entering the room, I find out that I am the last one to find it. There were lovely notes from each roommate introducing themselves and expressing their excitement to meet at one point. Just another example of the kind hearted spirits that take this trip.
Each bed had a gift bag containing Kind Suds Soap, Jam Cruise paraphernalia such as schedules, a slap bracelet, post cards, koozies, and more. There were food items like Pop Chips and granola bars. And my favorite item in the bag, besides the bag itself, the gorgeous Jam Cruise Luggage Tag, when attached to a lanyard, was a wonderful way to hold your drink tickets and room key. These are the only two things you REALLY need while wandering around the ship. Everything else is just a bonus!
Our room had a 2-foot round window with four beds, two of which folded into the walls above the other two. Being that I am only 5 feet ZERO, this room suited me just fine. One of the roommates decided to stay with her boyfriend leaving us with more closet space and bathroom time 🙂 Seriously, I only used this room to sleep about 6 hours a day and shower. Other than that, I was rarely ever in that space.
I do want to mention the JC TV. This was great. Not only did certain channels play all things Jam Cruise, once the music started, the TV would loop certain sets so that you could fall sleep to the sounds of the wonderful performances you experienced just a few hours earlier. I had to be careful getting ready for my day because I would catch myself sitting down and watching the performances again on tv instead of going out to catch the ones about to start.
After I unpacked, I headed right back out to find my way to the pool deck, but not before being blown away by the door decorations. Apparently, every year there is a door decorating contest. To call what some of these people do decorating is a gross understatement. There were interactive doors where you could take one and leave one, be it something physical or a lovely quote of inspiration. There were posters to color, The Garden of Groove (my personal favorite), pool noodles to borrow and return at your leisure, musical instruments made of cardboard and Christmas lights, a door covered in cut out food pictures. The imagination on this ship was endless in this department. I can’t even imagine what I am going to do next year, but I am most certainly going to decorate my door next year!!
Forum Table – Day #1: Generosity…
When I got to the pool deck, I went to the bar located at the back of the ship where it seemed everyone was gathering. It was at this point, the true generosity of the boat became evident. A guy with a hole punch and lanyards was standing by the table punching holes in people room keys and giving out the lanyards. I overheard him say, “We tried to think of what people might need and we thought this was perfect.” It just warms your heart.
There was a table set up by a forum member who had created nametags for each member with their forum name. This, to me, was excellent. Knowing that I was going to be all over that forum by the time I got home, this was the group I needed to know. Luckily, this was also the most hardcore group on the boat and the group I bonded with immediately. The days following, these tables were constantly strewn with glow rings, crazy guitar lighters, stickers, beads, or other party paraphernalia. When you go to a regular festival, people are just trying to make a buck. On this boat, everything is brought on with the intention of being shared, given away, and/or traded.
Aslan Deacon, who must get honorable mention, was handing out the FUN GUIDE she creates every year. This magic little book, for which you will have to board the ship to check out in all its glory, is worth its weight in gold specifically because she dedicates a few pages to show each level of the ship with a picture of the forum members linked to their respective room numbers. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled that book out to put a name with the face, find a room or use it for the many other options it offers in terms of convenience! Might I add that in the middle of it all Stanton Moore, Robert Walter and Skerik were standing 5 feet away from me just chatting and sipping on their drinks! I was dying of sensory overload……………
And that is where I stopped typing back in February…If I truly sat and thought about this adventure, I wonder if I could write down day by day my every move. Some parts are that clear in my head; it is that ingrained. But what happens on the boat, stays on the boat. I considered adding my review on the music back in Jamuary also but that was impossible. So, if you are interested in the musical review, please take a look at my boy AB Garrod’s review on Jambase.
My devotion for this boat lies far beyond the music it brought to my ears, the new friendships it has brought to my life, the insanity that made up those 7 days. I was in a very bad place mentally and emotionally before boarding that boat. I booked Jam Cruise 8 a week after one of the hardest times in my life had begun. I had one year to get my crap together and get on the boat. There were few who thought Jam Cruise was my last hope at finding my smile again. If this boat full of glorious music and overwhelming love couldn’t do it, nothing could.
Jam Cruise FLAT OUT restored my faith in people, in happiness, in KINDNESS. That can’t be expressed enough…the generosity and kindness in the people who frequent this wonderful world. The best way I can describe the sensation that boat gave me is by liking it to The Grinch. You know that box around his heart they show as his heart gets bigger and it just EXPLODES the box wide open? Yeah, it’s like that. Overwhelmingly powerful love. The Love Boat. Once you walk into that embrace, it NEVER lets you go and it only becomes more powerful with ever day that passes. Take the ride, it will be the greatest decision of your life! I know it was for me!