This time a month ago I was still recovering from the nausea brought on by a Cohiba cigar and the amount of money my fiancé paid to have her hair braided. We had just spent a day in Nassau and we were back on the Carnival Destiny, still giddy to be on our third Rock Boat with so much more music to be heard and fun to be had.
It’s been a month since we set sail from Miami, poised to spend a week full of concerts, cold drinks and late night buffets. What nauseates me now is the thought of having to wait eleven more months to experience The Rock Boat all over again. To steal a quote from my friend Jill, “From the outside looking in you cannot understand it. From the inside looking out you cannot explain it.” That being said, I will take a stab at trying to explain what The Rock Boat means to me and why it’s one of the greatest vacations you’ll barely remember.
First of all, it’s not just a cruise. Yes, it takes place on a cruise ship. Yes, you set sail and there are ports of call. This, however, is almost secondary to what is, in essence, a 5 day music festival. I think most Rock Boaters would agree that even if the ship never left port, it would still one of the best experiences ever. There is the rush of seeing your favorite band or performer live for the umpteenth time. There is the thrill of discovering an artist you’ve never heard before and fall in love with their music. There are the heart opening moments of hearing the stories behind the lyrics and getting a glimpse at the real lives of people whose voices come out of your speakers at home. And that’s just the music part.
For me, the greatest part of The Rock Boat is getting to share and celebrate that experience with literally hundreds of friends and acquaintances. The first day on The Boat is like a family reunion, seeing faces you haven’t seen in a while, most of them since the previous year’s Boat. Each passing day is filled with encounters that can last an hour or last a lifetime. Strangers become neighbors and moments become bonds. There is a sense of belonging and a feeling of camaraderie that unifies all passengers into one small, floating nation of music worshiping crazies.
There is also, of course, the booze. Now, I don’t want to paint the picture of all Rock Boaters as being a gang of individuals on hiatus from AA, but I think that description definitely puts the image within the neighborhood of reality. On TRB VIII, which sailed in January 2008, Rock Boaters broke – or shall I correctly say shattered? – Carnival’s single-day record for alcohol sales. Perhaps the best way to describe it is insane. Personally, it takes me about 2 months to have my liver recuperate from The Boat. This happens to coincide almost perfectly with St. Patty’s Day, but that’s neither here nor there.
I honestly believe the only way to truly understand and appreciate The Rock Boat is to experience it firsthand, and I can tell you without an equivocation it is a first rate experience. From the Sixthman staff (Sixthman puts on TRB every year), to the Carnival crew, to the many smiling and joyous faces you will see everywhere you turn, The Rock Boat truly is an incredible experience. So as I sit here staring at my calendar in not-so-patient anticipation for next year’s Boat, I hope you consider making your face one of the many joyous ones I will see onboard.